Number of Peace Memorial Museum visitors in fiscal 2020 likely to fall to 300,000-level for first time in 61 years due to COVID-19

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

The number of visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in the city’s Naka Ward, is estimated to fall to around 300,000 for fiscal 2020, which ends March 31, 2021. The decline resulted from Japan’s avoidance of travel and temporary closure of the museum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the visitor number marks the 300,000-level, it will be the first time in 61 years, since fiscal 1959, the fifth year after the museum’s open. Compared to the record-high of 1,758,746 visitors recorded in fiscal 2019, the 2020 total would be a decline of around 80 percent. Although the museum now accepts visitors on a limited basis, the number has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The museum closed temporarily twice in fiscal 2020, from February 29 to May 31 and from December 14 last year to February 7 this year, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The museum has opened its doors again, but it has limited the number of visitors for its regular exhibits to no more than 200 people each 30-minute period.

According to the museum, the cumulative number of visitors in fiscal 2020 was 294,341 as of the end of February. This month, for the period until March 14, 11,388 visitors came to the museum, the first time since December of last year that the number exceeded 10,000. However, the visitor number still has not increased as much as it did last autumn, which is deemed to have been the result of the national government’s “Go to Travel” campaign to support the tourism industry.

As for monthly visitors during fiscal 2020, November marked the highest number, at 85,199, but that was merely 40 percent of the number recorded for the same month of the previous year. The second highest number was 66,339, recorded in October, followed by 40,427 in August. The number of international visitors was 10,162 cumulatively as of the end of February 2021. That was a 98 percent decrease from the number in the same period in fiscal 2019 (522,781).

After the museum opened in 1955, the number of visitors reached 400,000 for the first time in fiscal 1960. Since then, that number has consistently been at least 400,000. For the period between fiscal 1979 and 2019, visitor number has continued to surpass 1.0 million for 41 years in a row. Since fiscal 2016, when Barack Obama visited the museum as the first sitting U.S. president to do so, that annual number has exceeded 1.5 million.

A museum official said, “We would like as many people as possible to further their understanding about the actual destruction from the atomic bombings despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While asking visitors to cooperate in measures to prevent coronavirus infection, such as mask wearing, temperature checks, and hand disinfection, we would like to share the museum information broadly by also utilizing online opportunities.”

(Originally published on March 20, 2021)