Restoration of the urban forests of Tokyo and Hiroshima following World War II

Cheng, Sheauchi; McBride, Joe R

Cheng, Sheauchi ; USDA, Forest Serv, Pacific SW Res Stn, POB 245, Berkeley, CA 94701 USA

5 (4) : 155-168 2006

The urban forests of Tokyo and Hiroshima were devastated by American bombing during World War II. Approximately 160 km(2) of Tokyo were burned by more than 100 fire bombings, while an area of 12 km(2) was leveled and burned by one atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Tokyo's street tree population was reduced from 105,000 to approximately 42,000 by the end of the war. In the years immediately following the war, the street tree population dropped to 35,000 in Tokyo due to a combination of further tree mortality and the cutting of trees for fire wood. No estimates of pre-war street tree populations are available for Hiroshima. Examination of pre- and post-atomic bombing photographs of Hiroshima suggests an even higher percentage of the trees in the city were destroyed. Post-war reconstruction of the urban forests of each city developed along different pathways. Plans for the redevelopment of Tokyo were rejected by the general public who wanted a return to pre-war conditions. Few streets were widened to accommodate traffic and allow for new street tree planting. Plans for new parks were shelved or only partially achieved. Some streets were replanted by private citizens. Initial survival rates of replanting were low. Trees in Tokyo's municipal tree nurseries, which had not been converted to vegetable gardens during the war, were often larger than the optimal size for transplanting, but were used as no other trees were available. A more concerted effort to reconstruct the urban forest came following the 1959 decision to site the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Many streets were widened and planted with trees. New tree-lined boulevards were also created. In contrast, Hiroshima sponsored an international competition for the design of a Peace Park and a major tree-lined boulevard. Several wide streets were built with space for street trees. Major plans were also drawn to create greenways along the rivers and to build additional parks. Trees were initially donated by local farmers and nearby towns for planting the parks and the boulevard since municipal tree nurseries had been converted to vegetable gardens during the war. Survival rates were very low due to the rubble content of the soil and difficulties in watering the transplanted trees. Strong support from the mayors of Hiroshima contributed to the success of urban forest reconstruction in Hiroshima. The historical significance of the destruction caused by the first atomic bomb to be dropped on an urban area also contributed to Hiroshima citizens' will to reconstruct both the city and its urban forest. Species and location of trees determined the survival of trees after war in both cities. Species with strong resprouting ability and thick bark survived the bombing and fire. In Tokyo trees located in open areas avoided the fire, while in Hiroshima trees standing behind tall concrete buildings were shielded from radiation and the heat wave. In addition to the difficulties faced during the city-wide replanning process, constraints of urban forest recovery included severe financial restriction, short supply of proper large-sized trees for planting and lack of labor for planting and post-planting tree care. Hiroshima used public participation and community involvement to restore the urban greenery successfully and, until today, has maintained a program to conserve the trees that survived the atomic bomb. (c) 2006 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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March 9, 2007 in Academics | Permalink


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I enjoyed reading this article concerning the devastation of war is disheartening. I have read that roughly 81% of conflicts have happened in what scentists call "biodiverse hotspots" apart from the depletion of our natural resources these wars jepordize those depended on these ecosystems for survivial. The question is how do we stop such horrific devastation and survival of mankind and earths natural beauty we humans are depended upon? In a perfect world simply saying STOP can't you see you are destroying yourself and your childrens future and our world WE ALL depend on for survial...would work.

Posted by: Tracey | Apr 28, 2009 9:03:17 AM

There is sooo much that people do not even realize...

Posted by: nicole | Apr 30, 2009 5:36:24 AM

Of all the articles listed, this one and the one about tree rings were definitely the best...they were also the only ones I understood.

Posted by: Keith Womack | Jun 14, 2009 12:54:36 PM

The A-bomb dealt greater damage to Hirosima, by destroying trees too, because living trees help maintain the radiological background. It was a wise decidion to replant trees so fast.

Posted by: Deividas Strioga | Oct 11, 2009 1:46:21 AM

What an unfortunate result of war; when we are capable of destroying so much of the worlds' precious resources.

Posted by: Janelle | Nov 4, 2009 3:16:15 PM

It's so easy to forget the devastation that occurs with regard to flora and fauna after war. Thanks for opening our eyes to the impact such activity has on our fragile environment.

Posted by: Laury Zap | Nov 26, 2009 7:59:04 AM

Trees are something most people take for granted. I wish more people understood how important trees really are. Can you imagine a world were there were no trees? That is a world I dont ever want to see. Trees belong on earth just as much if not more than we do.

Posted by: amysmiles | Nov 30, 2009 9:55:30 AM

What a beautiful post-war story.

Posted by: Ruth A. Nicolosi | Feb 4, 2010 7:49:11 AM

We need all trees for the future. Wood produces air.

Posted by: Pat Lang | Feb 7, 2010 8:26:44 AM

We always need more trees planted everyday, but even as we plant everyday, we still fall behind on what is used for paper products, so remember 'Save a tree, Recycle !!'

Posted by: Jonathan Els | Mar 8, 2010 9:17:22 AM

War has many effects that most do not stop to ponder.

Posted by: missy | Mar 10, 2010 12:05:47 AM

We can't get along without trees

Posted by: Jacki | Aug 28, 2010 5:31:23 AM

Interesting article; thanks.

Posted by: Melissa | Dec 2, 2010 11:15:45 AM

Japan will be needing to start replanting trees again after all the recent weather related distruction.

Posted by: christy1638 | Mar 14, 2011 9:12:09 AM

awesome idea, who knows if in the future theres another nuclear accident and the trees can help to avoid a several damage.... and the planet needs reforestation, and this is an excelent idea

Posted by: Fire Detection | Mar 19, 2011 12:42:11 PM

I wonder what effect radiation had on the surviving trees.

It's always so awe-inspiring how trees have such stories to tell if they could talk.

Posted by: Kwadwo | May 25, 2011 3:38:30 PM

Reading this article made me think about my own town & how trees help heal the Earth from man made pollutions. Where I live, there is an industrial zone in one area of town. Thankfully the government mandated a 'green zone' between it and the rest of town years ago. Now, I walk my dog there daily. It is a beautiful lush park that serves the community. In town, our air is clean & residents do not notice the factories that live close by.

Posted by: Adam | Sep 25, 2011 12:43:36 PM

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