We’re not going to make you wait for it: Yes, it is safe for people to live in Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Completely safe. In fact, it was basically safe to move into either of those cities within a matter of weeks after their respective bombings. This should in no way detract from the tragedy, as the people of these cities continued to suffer long after the radiation disappeared. But why exactly did the cities become safe so quickly?
The detonation location has a lot to do with what came afterwards. The bombs exploded around 500m (around 1650 feet) above their cities, their radiation largely being carried away by the mushroom clouds. What goes up, must come down, but it was spread over a wide area. Additionally, the half life of the radiation was quite short.
The damage to the people of these cities, beyond the initial and massive force of the blast, can be attributed to the initial radioactive intensity. It was insanely intense for a relatively brief time, but long enough to plant the seeds for cancer, birth defects, organ failure, and other horrors that unfolded with time.
Hiroshima lost over 75,000 people due to initial bomb devastation, ensuing radioactivity related deaths, and displacement. However, Hiroshima today has roughly tripled in population since the days of those horrors. The predominant architectural style in the city shows how strong growth was in the 1960s through 1980s. Mazda’s headquarters are here, and they have been a major driver of economic growth. If Hiroshima/Nagasaki were not perfectly safe for people to live in today, large companies like Mazda would not be locating there.
There were many fears that the intense radioactivity would preclude inhabitation. Greatly overstated fears have now given way to scientific reality. The firestorms were fierce, but flowers literally soon rose from the ashes. More concretely, radioactivity testing by the US military a month after the bomb showed negligible lingering effects.
Today, Hiroshima is the largest city for hours in any direction. Besides the peace memorial, Miyajima is also a must-see. Incidentally, there’s a great nightlife and food scene as well. Check out our night tour if you’ve got the time!
Nagasaki After the Bombing
On August 9th, 1945, just three days after the Hiroshima bombing, an atomic bomb was detonated in Nagasaki. 40,000 people died immediately. Another roughly 30,000 died from aftereffects. However, as was the case with Hiroshima, the radioactivity did not linger. Just like Hiroshima, Nagasaki is perfectly safe for people to live in today.
Not only is Nagasaki safe, but it is a lovely city as well. The city had a notable foreign (largely Dutch) influence from the early 1600s onwards. Architectural treasures such as the bridge pictured above still dot the city.
As a wartime shipbuilding port, Nagasaki was a natural target for American wartime strategists. The mountains largely surrounding the city served as a containment buffer, limited extensive radioactive spread. But for the same reasons (detonation at elevation, winds, half lives), the long term radiation effects on the environment were minimal.
Hiroshima/Nagasaki is Definitely Safe for People to Live in Today
The horror of World War II are undeniable, but more than 75 years have now passed since the bombings. We must never forget the atrocities and immense loss of life. Yet time moves on, and we know these cities to be safe to live in today. Each is a lovely place to visit as well (read our blog on visiting Hiroshima), so do try and make some time for them.