National

Debate heats up over fate of old Nagasaki buildings

Kyodo

Nagasaki residents, who on Monday will mark the 59th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, increasingly face the question of which old buildings associated with the blast should be kept and which should be demolished for the sake of urban development.

The city has just pulled down the former Shinkozen elementary school in the Kozen district. The school was used as the key first-aid station in the aftermath of the bombing.

Located about 3 km south of the blast center, the school was used for six years as a temporary medical center for atomic bomb survivors and as a hospital affiliated with the Nagasaki Medical University (a predecessor of the Nagasaki University School of Medicine), which was destroyed in the bombing.

After that, the building was used as Sakuramachi elementary school through 2003. The city decided to demolish it and build a new library on the plot.

It would have been technically possible to preserve part of the structure, but the city decided to tear the entire building down.

A citizens’ group that campaigned for the school’s preservation continued to protest outside the school gate until just before it was demolished.

“Survivors of the atomic bomb will one day disappear. So the city should preserve ‘witnesses’ that can communicate to future generations what happened in the bombing,” a member of the group said.

The city classifies structures and sites that survived the atomic bombing into four categories in terms of historical significance.

The school was ranked in the second group from the top, and the city has decided to preserve some other buildings ranked in the same category.

One is the former site of the Nagasaki prefectural air defense headquarters, from which the first telegram on the atomic bombing was sent.

The site housed a radio center operated by Domei Tsushin, Japan’s official news agency at the time, which was split into Kyodo News and Jiji Press after World War II.

The site also housed an air-raid shelter from which the governor and other officials directed aid operations to rescue survivors.

“The site offers precious historic materials for the generations who do not know the misery of the war,” Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito said.

The site is expected to open to the public around next fall.

Location appears to play a role in deciding the fate of such buildings. The Shinkozen school was located in the center of a residential area in the middle of Nagasaki, and the air defense headquarters is situated within the site of the Nagasaki museum of history and culture, currently under construction.

Katsuya Kinaga, a professor at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science, campaigned for the preservation of the elementary school. He said the city should take in a wide range of opinions from residents.

“We must all think about the significance of the sites and structures that survived the bombing,” he said.

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