Hiroshima Insight

Air-raid shelters

Construction of air-raid shelters spread in 1944

During the war, people would temporarily evacuate to air-raid shelters in the event of an emergency.

In Japan, the construction of air-raid shelters began around 1941. A booklet published by the government in 1942 shows how to construct an “evacuation site” in homes and shops by, for example, digging a hole under the floor of a house or surrounding part of a room with store shelving.

The construction of air-raid shelters spread widely across Japan in 1944. It was proposed that such shelters should be made every five meters along busy streets where buses and trains run, and every ten meters along other bus routes. Several types of shelters were created. One was the “underground type” in which a hole was dug into the ground and the hole was then covered with boards and earth. Another was the “cave type” in which a cave was made in the side of a mountain. These shelters were constructed by families, neighborhoods, and communities.

In fact, many air-raid shelters from the war still exist today. According to a study conducted in 2009 by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, there are 9,850 dugouts, including air-raid shelters, under Japanese soil, with 891 of these in Hiroshima Prefecture.