HIROSHIMA – Residents of the city of Hiroshima are divided over whether traditional food culture can coexist with the distinctive local peace monument, the Atomic Bomb Dome.
At issue is the planned relocation of a floating oyster restaurant on the Motoyasu River to the vicinity of the A-Bomb Dome, which survived the atomic bomb dropped on the city on Aug. 6, 1945, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Of the two restaurants offering oysters, a local specialty, on the river, Kanawa is moored about 600 meters downstream from the dome. It plans to move to the foot of the Motoyasu Bridge, which leads to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Due to concerns about damage to the restaurant by typhoons and other natural disasters, the central government, as the administrator of the river, called for the eatery to move to an area of the river where the current is much weaker.
After talks between various parties, including the restaurant operator and the city government, a municipal council that promotes Hiroshima as a city of waterways approved the relocation plan in November. The central government also issued a permit for the new site.
However, the plan has met with opposition from citizens concerned that a busy restaurant is not suitable for a place dedicated to peace.
“The Atomic Bomb Dome is a place for prayer. Its value as a UNESCO World Heritage site would be undermined,” said one person, who declined to be named.
In addition, the Japan ICOMOS National Committee, the local arm of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a UNESCO advisory organization, expressed its concerns about the restaurant’s move to Mayor Kazumi Matsui in January. The committee said the site is in an area associated with peace and the souls of the dead.
The city said that floating oyster restaurants have been part of the culture of Hiroshima since the Tokugawa shogunate. In addition, the relocation plan poses no legal or procedural problems, it said.
“We have explained (the relocation plan) to the administrator of the cenotaph for A-bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park and hibakusha groups. We will continue to provide all necessary information,” a city official said.
At a recent news conference, Matsui said restaurants currently operating near the bridge pose no problems.
Floating restaurants are an integral part of Hiroshima culture, said Jiro Miho, president of Kanawa, the oyster restaurant operator. “We have also long done our share in campaigning for peace.”