Hiroshima (1949)/ Seeking Aid and Creating Peace through Law
Shinzo Hamai was the first elected mayor of Hiroshima. Known as one of the ‘best known and most effective spokesmen in the world’ and a ‘strong political leader’, Hamai was able to bring Hiroshima above the rule that ‘relatively little was accomplished in postwar Japanese cities’ (BLACKFORD, 2007, p.142).
‘A young man in his thirties, he was a bundle of energy and an inspiration to those around him.’ (Blackford, 2007, p.139)
The prospects for Hiroshima’s future seemed bleak. Four years after the bombing of Hiroshima, even after many petitions, the Japanese Diet still hadn’t provided assistance for the war-devastated city. In 1949, as a strong political leader, he debated and fought, not for another petition, but, rather, for a new law to be passed by the Japanese diet: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law.
The Hiroshima City Council consulted Tadashi Teramitsu on actions they should take to move forward with the reconstruction of Hiroshima:
“A petition may make you feel better, but it’s ineffective. The only way forward is to create a law which incorporates the intentions of Hiroshima citizens and binds the hands of the government.”
– Tadashi Teramitsu
To some extent, it can be said that Teramitsu’s conception of the reconstruction of Hiroshima as a ‘peace memorial city’ is due to Hiroshima’s need to be recognised by the Japanese Diet for funding to reconstruct their city. If it had not been for the central government’s passivity in the reconstruction of Hiroshima, the Hiroshima City Council would not have sough Teramitsu’s aid.
Tadashi Teramitsu knew that a special law for local autonomies could be drafted. He understood the challenges that faced the passing of the law such as the approval of GHQ and so the provisions accordingly. The contents of law managed to catch the GHQ’s attention and approval.
“The law will not only enable Hiroshima to recover from the war damage, but it will promote the idea of ‘lasting peace,’ on which all human beings have fixed their minds. The central government will cooperate fully in the ‘creation’ of a city of peace, and the citizens of Hiroshima will also exert themselves to that end.”
– Tadashi Teramitsu
It was because of the combined effort of Hamai’s initiative and Teramitsu’s expertise that allowed such a law to be passed for Hiroshima, which enabled proficient funding of 920 million yen for five years (starting from 1950) from the central government. This subsidy was to be used on peace memorial facilities and land readjustment. Thus, Hiroshima was able to accomplish much more than the other war-devastated Japanese cities in terms of scale and unique city fabric. Hiroshima’s urban planning moved away from the uniform reconstruction plans of many other cities in Japan that based their plans on statutory plans of road networks from the pre-war period.
BLACKFORD, M. G. (ed.) (2007) Southern Japan during American Occupation. In Pathways to the Present: U.S. Development and Its Consequences in the Pacific. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.
FUKUSHIMA, Y. (1995) Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law. History of Hiroshima: 1945-1995. [Online] Article 1 (3). Available from: http://www.hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/?p=27431. [Accessed 26th December 2014].