Preservation of Hiroshima’s A-bomb remains becoming more difficult

by Naoya Fujisawa

Kyodo

The preservation of structures damaged in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, as relics has become more difficult with the passage of time, with more than 10 percent of them pulled down over the past 17 years.

“It was a shame but I had no other choice,” Shinichiro Kirihara, 50, owner of a container materials factory said, recalling his decision last summer to tear down a brick building that was registered with the city office as atomic-bomb remains, on the premises of the plant.

The building, where barrels were made, stood just 2.5 km from the hypocenter of the bombing. The roof was blown off when the bomb was dropped, but the walls continued to stand.

The remains served as a symbol of reconstruction for the plant, which resumed operating within three months of the bombing.

In 1993 officials in the city office, in a move to step up the preservation of atomic-bomb relics, made a list of buildings within 5 km of the hypocenter that had withstood the bombing. For privately owned buildings, the municipal government financed 75 percent of expenses for preservation work under a ceiling of ¥30 million per structure.

There were 98 registered sites in fiscal 1996, including city-owned structures such as the symbolic A-Bomb Dome, which has been subject to large-scale earthquake-proofing work.

The brick building within the compound of Kirihara’s container materials plant and another registered structure were torn down in fiscal 2012 and as of last month the number of buildings on the list was down to 86.

The factory was used to produce mainly paper and plastic bags, but as demand for cardboard boxes has increased recently, it needed a warehouse to keep those produced by a newly purchased processing machine. The brick building, which stood across the plant compound, prevented the warehouse from being erected.

“I know it’s important to retain remains of the atomic bombing but I have to keep my workers on the payroll,” Kirihara said. He has retained a section of the brick wall as a reminder of the bombing.

Buildings that withstood the atomic bombing are important for keeping alive memories of the damage for future generations as they are “living witnesses,” said Yoshifumi Ishida, head of the section for the promotion of international peace at the city office.

But Ishida is aware that old buildings are not user-friendly while at the same time their maintenance is costly.

“We want them to remain as they are but we may be asking too much,” he said.