Survey finds 65% of owners, managers are anxious about preserving Hiroshima’s “A-bombed buildings”

by Aya Kano and Masanori Wada, Staff Writers

The Chugoku Shimbun has carried out a survey on the preservation and use of 65 privately-owned buildings that survived the atomic bombing. Responses were received from the owners or managers of all of these buildings, which are registered by the City of Hiroshima. Concerning the preservation of the buildings in the future, 65 percent of the respondents expressed anxiety, citing possible damage from natural disasters and/or the costs of maintenance. The survey reveals a pressing need to implement measures to pass down these “silent witnesses” to the A-bomb tragedy to future generations.

Within a five-kilometer radius of the hypocenter, there are 65 privately-owned buildings that survived the bombing and are registered as “A-bombed buildings” by the city government. Of these, 55 are religious facilities such as temples and shrines, and 10 are owned by private businesses.

Owners or managers of 42 facilities said they are anxious about preserving these buildings in the future. They cited such reasons as “the heavy burden of maintenance costs” and “concerns over possible damage caused by natural disasters such as typhoons.” Responses from some temples indicated that they have no one to take over the running of these sites. Some temples have already been closed.

On the other hand, 22 facilities said they have already carried out reinforcement work and so have no current concerns. One private company would not say whether it was anxious about the building or not, explaining that it does not disclose how the facility is used.

To a question about whether they intend to preserve their buildings into the future, 56 facilities, or close to 90 percent, mostly temples and shrines, answered that they plan to maintain them permanently. Three mentioned the possibility that the buildings will be demolished. They are the Hiroshima Andersen building in Naka Ward, a former electrical substation owned by Chugoku Haiden (now the Chugoku Electric Power Company) in Minami Ward, and Kannonji Temple in Higashi Ward. Some of the reasons cited were: “There is concern over the building’s quake resistance, and major improvement work is necessary” and “There is no suitable use for the building because it does not attract tourists.” Responses from another two facilities indicated that their buildings will be maintained for the next five to 10 years, but there are no plans beyond that. Four facilities did not provide an answer to this question, saying they were “undecided.”

The City of Hiroshima began registering such buildings in 1993. Currently, a total of 85 buildings are on the list, including 20 owned by the national, prefectural, or municipal government. In 1996, 98 were on the list, but the number has been gradually declining. The city has implemented a program to subsidize preservation work, in which private entities can receive three quarters of the cost within the limit of 30 million yen. So far 218 million yen in total has been given to support preservation work on 19 buildings.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui indicated that this program will be reviewed before next year, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing. “To clearly convey the messages of these buildings, there should be a variety of flexible support measures,” Mr. Matsui said.

(Originally published on July 26, 2014)