Mapping Japanese City Spaces: Hiroshima, Kure, and Iwakuni
Hiroshima! Metropole of the region called Chugoku, biggest urban area west of Kobe on the main island! Hiroshima has long occupied its position among Japan’s Top Ten. It was a castle town in the 16th century even before the Tokugawa regime, the second most populous city not controlled by the Shogunate (after Kanazawa) in the Edo period, and a major industrial city in the 20th century. It endured a nuclear bombing, one of the most infamous destructions of a city in human history, but by the late 1950s the population had already recovered.
Along the bay to the east and west are two other cities not part of Greater Hiroshima, but which are very close and have had some interplay with Hiroshima.
To the east is Kure. Historically, there was no such place and the area was very sparsely populated, with the small village of Washo existing where the city center is now. Washo began to grow explosively in the 1890s as a seaport with a very military character, as the rapidly modernizing Imperial Navy sought bases from which to operate. This development culminated in the 1901 merger of Washo and surrounding towns to create the new city of Kure. Kure very quickly became a major national city, by 1940 almost as populous as Hiroshima itself. It was a great arsenal city of the Empire, where the infamous battleship Yamato was built in secret. With the greatly diminished role of the navy postwar, it never recovered its significance, but remained a major city into the 60s.
To the west in Yamaguchi Prefecture is Iwakuni, a minor castle town that took off in the 1930s as a local industrial city.
You can click on any map to enlarge it.
In 1960, urban Hiroshima was still shaped around the Ota river delta, with a very low density for a major city at the time.
Kure, still a major urban area despite the diminished role of the navy, had a distinct scattered form with multiple harbors. Iwakuni was one of the lowest-density urban places in Japan, dominated by big raft of artificial land for a military airbase.
Hiroshima Metro Area 455,598 9th
Kure Metro Area 186,017 21st
Iwakuni Metro Area 50,150 90th
Takehara Micro Area 16,057
Otake Micro Area 12,725
Hiroshima City 406,991 10th
89.3% of metro area
Through the 1960s, Hiroshima City increased in density as it expanded, something very atypical for cities in the 60s. New suburbs quickly emerged north of the city, especially upriver.
Kure also grew without sprawl, increasing in density as separate urban districts merged together. North of Iwakuni, the town of Otake underwent explosive urban growth and the expansion of artificial coastline, turning into a continuous industrial zone with Iwakuni.
Hiroshima Metro Area 690,377 9th + 51.5%
Kure Metro Area 216,178 24th + 16.2% – 3 ranks
Iwakuni Metro Area 59,902 90th + 19.4%
Otake Micro Area 33,479 + 163.1%
Takehara Micro Area 14,001 – 12.8%
Hiroshima City 503,539 13th + 23.7% – 3 ranks
72.9% of metro area – 16.4% of metro area
Urban Hiroshima underwent major changes in the 1970s. The suburbs upriver from the city grew dramatically, before being annexed into the city proper, which then divided into wards in 1980. Greater Hiroshima still retained a sort of “delta” shape, only far larger now.
Kure was now in outright decline, with some new inland suburban development but loss in the city center and a rapid loss of rank. Iwakuni also stalled and dropped in rank.
Hiroshima Metro Area 935,304 9th + 35.5%
Kure Metro Area 204,759 40th – 5.3% – 16 ranks
Iwakuni Metro Area 60,950 101st + 1.7% – 11 ranks
Otake Micro Area 36,257 + 8.3%
Takehara Micro Area 16,700 + 19.3%
Hiroshima City 740,899 12th + 47.1% + 1 rank
79.2% of metro area + 6.3% of metro area
Hiroshima’s inland suburban wards continued to expand markedly, as the city center lowered in density slightly. The suburbs also expanded significantly to the west, with an elongated coastal belt emerging and the city of Otake joining the employment area.
Kure continued its precipitous decline, but Iwakuni recovered a strong growth rate.
Hiroshima Metro Area 1,143,983 8th + 22.3% + 1 rank
Kure Metro Area 196,342 56th – 4.1% – 16 ranks
Iwakuni Metro Area 70,709 98th + 16.0% + 3 ranks
Takehara 9,631 – 42.3%
Hiroshima City 948,634 10th + 28.0% + 2 ranks
82.9% of metro area + 3.7% of metro area
Greater Hiroshima’s growth slowed down significantly in the 1990s, though smaller suburban developments continued to emerge inland.
Urban Kure’s population decline accelerated, but its rank decline actually slowed down since by now many regional cities were stagnating as well. Iwakuni continued its gradual growth.
Hiroshima Metro Area 1,216,547 8th + 6.3%
Kure Metro Area 181,202 61st – 7.7% – 5 ranks
Iwakuni Metro Area 73,803 96th + 4.4% + 2 ranks
Takehara 8,395 – 12.8%
Hiroshima City 987,542 10th + 4.1%
81.2% of metro area – 1.7% of metro area
In the early 2000s, a nationwide series of mergers changed the boundaries of many local municipalities. As a result, Hiroshima City has been losing its suburbs! The quickly growing inland city of Higashihiroshima has become independent and taken small Takehara with it. Meanwhile, Hiroshima’s westernmost suburb of Otake has been “stolen” by Iwakuni. At the same time, this is not actual population decline. The city continues to slowly grow and increase in density, and may very well “retake” its fractious suburbs as it continues to grow in influence.
Though still a major shipbuilding city, Kure continues to decline in urban population even faster- greatly diminished in status and even down in population from the 1960 figures.
Hiroshima Metro Area 1,177,199 9th – 3.2% – 1 rank
Kure Metro Area 163,680 65th – 9.7% – 4 ranks
Iwakuni Metro Area 94,937 89th + 28.6% + 7 ranks
Higashihiroshima Micro Area 53,791 [split from Hiroshima]
Hiroshima City 1,012,198 11th + 2.5% – 1 rank
86.0% of metro area + 4.8% of metro area
If there’s any city or region of Japan you’d like to see, just ask me in the comments! Really, I do requests!
National land numerical information (densely inhabited district data)
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
1960: A16-60_34_DID.shp, A16-60_35_DID.shp
1965: A16-65_34_DID.shp, A16-65_35_DID.shp
1970: A16-70_34_DID.shp, A16-70_35_DID.shp
1975: A16-75_34_DID.shp, A16-75_35_DID.shp
1980: A16-80_34_DID.shp, A16-80_35_DID.shp
1985: A16-85_34_DID.shp, A16-85_35_DID.shp
1990: A16-90_34_DID.shp, A16-90_35_DID.shp
1995: A16-95_34_DID.shp, A16-95_35_DID.shp
2000: A16-00_34_DID.shp, A16-00_35_DID.shp
2005: A16-05_34_DID.shp, A16-05_35_DID.shp
2010: A16-10_34_DID.shp, A16-10_35_DID.shp
Processed and edited in ArcGIS Explorer
Microsoft Bing Maps used as basemap