-Japan in the Modern Age and Hiroshima as a Military City-

Japan started its modernization when Emperor Meiji acceded to the throne and a new era started in 1868. Opening up to the world and facing international society, the Meiji government decided to centralize its administrative powers on the emperor. The Meiji government abolished the feudal system and established prefectures, and actively encouraged the introduction of advanced Western industries and technologies, as well as the establishment of an army.

These national measures helped Japan come closer to the modern Western countries. However, Japan sought for economic interests in Asian countries as a measure of strengthening its national power against Western countries. Japan interfered in the politics of those underdeveloped Asian countries, and as a result of competing hegemony against the western powers, the military conflicts took place and Japan went on to a number of wars, involving Asian countries as battlefields.

At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, which was the first big war, the Imperial Headquarters, the supreme command office under direct control of the emperor, was established in Hiroshima and functioned as a temporary key base with a railway and a harbor. Through the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, Hiroshima's role as a military city has strengthened by the expansion of military facilities in the center of the city, and a great number of soldiers left for the Asian front.

-Militarism and Aggression on Asia-

After the Showa era started, the military gained increasing control over the political decisions of the Cabinet. Japan's domination of Asian countries went wild, and its establishment of Manchukuo in northeast of China under the control of the Japanese army was internationally condemned.

Having withdrawn from the League of Nations, Japan entered into an alliance with German and Italian fascism. Through the Second Sino-Japanese War started in 1937 and the Pacific War started in 1941, Japan invaded Asian-Pacific area one after another. When World War II broke out in 1939 by Germany, Japan explained its participation of this war both in and out of Japan as ‘the whole Asian countries united together to free Asia from European control and to bring prosperity into the whole of Asia.’However, what Japan actually did was commit atrocities against Asian countries and drafted Korean citizens and imposed forced labor on them.

Italy surrendered in 1943 as did Germany and Japan in 1945. World War II was finally over. It resulted in a tragedy with 49 countries participated, 110 million soldiers mobilized, 27 million soldiers died, and 25 million civilians died.

-Wartime Hiroshima-

In the summer of 1945, Japan was on the brink of defeat. Kure city, which is near Hiroshima, was air-raided in June 1945, as well as other cities all over Japan.

As protection from air-raids, wooden houses were demolished and primary school children were urged to evacuate to rural areas. Also, students in junior and junior high schools and girl's schools were mobilized for labor services at military factories and for the demolition of houses.

People had fire drills in preparation for the outbreak of major conflagration. They were also trained to fight the allied forces with bamboo spears in case of the land attack. People were forced to live without daily necessities and sufficient food. Even if they thought "Japan is going to lose," they could not say so. They were not allowed to express their opinions freely and those who expressed anti-war or anti-national views were condemned as being "hikokumin" which means "non-national".

The 5th division of the army was in the center of Hiroshima city and the Army Marine Headquarters was centered in Ujina port. The second General Army Headquarters which generalized the army organization in Western Japan was established before the end of the war in case of U. S. forces invading. Hiroshima had so far avoided any major air-raids for some reason. People did not know that Hiroshima was listed by the U. S. A. as the first target city of dreadful new weapon.

Japan and Hiroshima Chronology: 1894-1945

1984 Jun.Completion of Sanyo Railway connecting Hiroshima and Tokyo.
Jul.Outbreak of Sino-Japanese War.
Aug.Ujina-Hiroshima Station Military railway line completed.
Sep.Emperor Meiji moves Imperial Headquarters to Hiroshima.
Oct.Extraordinary session of Imperial Diet convened in Hiroshima.
1904Feb.Russo-Japanese War breaks out.
1910Aug.Korean-Japanese Annexation Treaty signed.
1914Jul.World War I begins.
1915Aug.Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall built. (later Industrial Promotion Hall, current A-bomb Dome)
1918Aug.Rice Riot” breaks out all over Japan.
1921Nov.Washington Disarmament Conference held.
1925Apr. Promulgation of Maintenance of the Public Order Act
MayPromulgation of Universal Suffrage Act
1931Sep.The Manchurian Incident
1933Mar.Japan leaves the League of Nations.
1937Jul.Second Sino-Japanese War breaks out.Main-force unit of 5th division of the army dispatched from Ujina Harbor for active service in China in August.
1938Apr.Promulgation of the National Mobilization Act
1939Sep.World War II breaks out.
1941Mar.the Neutrality Pact between Japan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signed.
Dec.Pacific War begins. The Yamato, a battleship built at Kure Navy Shipyard.
1942May Even bells of temples collected by the Metal Collecting Order.
1943Feb.Japanese forces withdraw from Guadalcanal.
Mar.Adoption of the conscription system in Korea
Sep.Unconditional surrender of Italy.
1944MayStudent Mobilization Headquarters established in Hiroshima Prefecture.1500 of Korean drafted workers mobilized to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Hiroshima Shipyard.
Jun. evacuation plan of elementary school students in Cabinet meeting.
1945Mar.Massive air-raid takes place in Tokyo. 120,000 people die or are wounded.
MayUnconditional surrender of Germany.
Jul.The U. S. A. successfully tests nuclear device at Alamogordo testing grounds in New Mexico. Kure is air-raided.
Aug.A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima City.Fukuyama City is air-raided.A-bomb dropped on Nagasaki City.Unconditional surrender of Japan. End of World War II.