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Hiroshima Bay is that portion of the Inland Sea of Japan associated with the city of Hiroshima. Iwakuni is located on the western side of the bay in a relatively flat, open area while Kure is embedded in a region of mountains and mountainous islands with almost complete protection from all directions.

The city of Hiroshima is located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea. Hiroshima, the City of International Peace and Culture, was originally a reedy delta, but it began to develop as a city after the construction of the Hiroshima Castle and surrounding houses at the end of 16th century.

The city is said to have originated in Tensho 17 (1589 A.D.) during the Azuchi Momoyama Period when Terumoto Mori began building a castle at the mouth of the Ota River. On April 15, 1589, Terumoto appointed Naritoki Ninomiya and Motokiyo Hoita magistrates in charge of construction and ordered them to begin the foundation work with all possible speed. The next year the castle town was laid out, the moat dug, and the castle buildings themselves were under construction. Castle construction proceeded even though during that year Terumoto was on duty protecting Kyoto, while Hideyoshi Toyotomi was attacking Odawara Castle. Terumoto moved into the castle in 1593 when construction was nearly complete. It was clearly constructed in a great hurry.

Earth and sand, washed down by the Ota River, accumulated in the bay over a long period of time and formed a number of flat islands. At that time people began to occupy these islands and called the area "Gokaura" or "Gokasho" or "Gokason" (Five Villages). Some say that the name of Hiroshima came from the fact that the castle was built on the largest of the islands. (Hiro means large; shima means island.) Hiroshima Castle is also called "Rijo" (the Castle of the Carp). This is because "Koi" in Koi-ura, the whole area where the castle was located, is a homonym of carp in Japanese.

With the completion of the castle, as retainers moved in from Yoshida, merchants and artisans were recruited from many places. Thus, a new castle town, befitting a great feudal lord, was born. Rivers running through the town were utilized for water transport, connecting the town with the Seto Inland Sea.

During the Edo Period, the expansion of arable land through land reclamation and a burgeoning population generated vigorous commerce. Eventually, Hiroshima became a major urban center, following Edo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Kanazawa. By 1864, the Tokugawa government no longer held power as in the past, and rapid changes in the world were bringing about the breakdown of feudalism. Hiroshima became a military base for the Tokugawa government with the possibility of becoming a dangerous battle field. By 1866 the powerlessness of the Tokugawa government was revealed to the whole country, and the political situation took a sudden turn from restoring power to the Tokugawa government to the establishment of imperial rule.

In 1868, the new Meiji government was formed. With the inauguration of the new government, the system of the administration of local municipalities was also changed. In July, 1871, the feudal clan system was abolished and the Hiroshima fief became Hiroshima Prefecture. The castle town of Hiroshima began the process of rebirth as one of the most important cities of Japan. In Meiji 22 (1889), the municipal system was implemented, and Hiroshima developed into a modern city with a dual military and academic character.

Japan, which had been victorious in the early stages of the war, lost the battle of Guadalcanal in 1943. Afterwards, the military situation grew steadily worse, and it appeared that the mainland of Japan would be turned into a battlefield. The army hurriedly prepared for a decisive battle on the mainland. With these preparations Hiroshima was to take on a new role. Japan was divided into two parts; the First General Headquarters was placed in Tokyo, and the Second General Headquarters (under the command of Marshal Shunroku Hata) in Hiroshima, where the headquarters of the Chugoku District Governor-General (led by Isei Otsuka), the highest administrative body commissioned by the central government, was also established.

By 1945 Hiroshima had a civilian population of almost 300,000 and was an important military center, containing about 43,000 soldiers. Occasional bombs, which did no great damage, had fallen on Hiroshima. Many nearby cities in turn were destroyed, but Hiroshima itself remained largely unscathed. There were almost daily observation planes flying over the city, but none of them dropped bombs. The citizens wondered why they alone had remained undisturbed for such a long time.

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Page last modified: 14-01-2018 18:41:27 ZULU