As promised here's a view of the history of Hirohashi
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While human presence in the national territory is ascertained since prehistorical times, the archeological finds denote only a nomadical presence and no permanent human settlements are confirmed.
Since the 16th century, during the turbulent Sengoku period, japanese merchants from Niigata, on the north-western coast of Japan, started using Hirohashi Bay as a trading post with Jurchen tribes in Manchuria.
The first official mention regarding the trade settlement was in a document dating October 24 1535, this date is now celebrated in Hirohashi as Foundation Day.
Lot of documents regarding Hirohashi exists after the begin of Sakoku (Japan Self-exclusion Policy) in 1638: the Japanese trading community, counting 2000 people in 1641, was authorized by the Tokugawa Shogunate to trade with the Manchu Heartland of the Qing Empire.
Since early 18th century illegal trade with russians explorers is reported in the so called "Kita wa Chūgoku ichiba kara no hōkoku" (Reports from the Chinese market in the north): an archive of documents about tha trading history of the settlement.
This model, courtesy of the Hirohashi State History Museum, show a reconstruction of the early japanese trade settlement.
Since the Trading Post of Hirohashi was formally part of the Quing Empire in 1860, with the Convention of Peking it was ceded to Tzarist Russia as part of Outer Manchuria.
Due to russian occupation and the contemporary opening of Japan under emperor Meiji the settlement of Hirohashi, now inhabited by more than 8.000 japanese people, lost his trading importance and for more than forty years was only a little japanese speaking borough south of Vladivostok.
On this photo, dating 1889 the russian military barracks in the right dominate the hill while the wooden japanese house in the left are what remains of the trading post.
After the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 Hirohashi was annexed as a metropolitan prefecture, and not simply as colony, to the Japanese Empire, during the Taisho and early Showa eras Hirohashi become an important trade settlement for Russia and Machuria and become known as "Manshū no kita no tobira" (Northern Gateway for Manchuria).
Population grew exponentially after massive immigration: mostly made of young japanese seeking opportunity but also white russian escaping the revolution and cheap manchurian workers.
Although trade between Manchuria and mainland Japan was the main activity in the town many light industries began to spread.
This photo, dating 1927, show the now demolished prefectural government building and his sorrounding.
In August 9, 1945, during the last days of World War Two the city was encircled by soviet forces but, since Stalin urged for rushing into Korea, Hirohashi was ignored and not sieged by the Red Army. In August 21, right after the surrender of the Japanese Empire a small force of US marines landed in Hirohashi: being the city part of japanese homeland territory, occupation was up to american forces. Soviet Army threatened invasion but after a month of tension Stalin ordered to withdraw, under the pressures of US President Truman.
Encircled by the three communist nations of USSR, China and North Korea Hirohashi was rapidly called the "West Berlin of the East." In 1948 US military Administration agreed to hold a referendum, although by a narrow majority the voters asked for Independence from Japan, However, in order to facilitate the formation of the state apparatus, the United States continued the military administration of the city-state for 10 more years.
In this photo, dating 1956, you can see the city during the period of american occupation.
Since some japanese returned on mainland Japan the population become more equally divided between ethnic japanese, manchujin (japanese speeking manchurians) and a growing korean community. The 60s and the 70s were marked by fierce inter-ethnic tensions and clashes, autoritarian governements and the strong presence of american military forces to ease the constant threat of a chinese or north korean invasion.
In the late 70s, under the enlightened presidency of Takemoto Tatsuya, a series of reforms increased the level of democracy of the state and laid the foundations for economic development and the modern manufacturing sector. During those years, moreover, the tensions between the various ethnic communities dropped and a common Hirohashite identity began to develop.
During the 80s Hirohashi began to become the so called "Northern Hong Kong", becoming a door to the Popular Republic of China which had become an attractive market after Deng Xiao Ping reforms.
During those years the booming economy of the city attracted many illegal immigrants from China as well as koreans and japanese. In the 90s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, The Government of Hirohashi promoted the "New Homeland" policy that encouraged the immigration of siberian ethnic minorities by offering them a special status recognition and legal protection after decades of forced russification. Many siberians from the Russian Far East came to the city, as well as ainu from Japan, and during those years Hirohashi strengthened its ties with Siberia, both cultural and economical, investing in oil and gas assets.
And finally a mosaic of the booming Hirohashi of the late 80s, when the "Siberian Tiger" along with the other four asian tigers (S.Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) became a fast growing exporting economy.
And after this history digest in the next entry we will be back in our times with a new part of this CJ