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Hiroshima Pref. mulls preserving large atomic bomb-era buildings after demolition plans

The former Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot complex, for which the Hiroshima Prefectural Government plans to carry out aseismic reinforcement, is seen in the city of Hiroshima's Minami Ward on Oct. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Ikeda)

HIROSHIMA -- The Hiroshima Prefectural Government revealed May 19 that it will consider preserving buildings that make up the former Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot -- some of the largest existing structures to survive the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States -- after carrying out aseismic reinforcement work on three buildings it owns.

    The Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot was built in 1913 and was a production base for Imperial Japanese Army uniforms and shoes. Its four buildings are located 2.7 kilometers southeast of the A-bomb hypocenter, and it was used as a temporary first-aid facility shortly after the bombing.

    Although the prefectural government had previously expressed its intention to preserve one building and demolish the two others it owns, it changed course following calls from hibakusha groups and others for the preservation of all three.

    The updated plan was revealed during a Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly general affairs committee session. A prefectural study in 2017 estimated that construction work to make the building earthquake-resistant would cost 8.4 billion yen (about $77 million). While the prefecture announced its intention to preserve just one building in 2019, a reevaluation in 2020 found that expenses could be curtailed, and experts also asserted that the former clothing depot was as valuable as important cultural properties designated by the national government.

    The four buildings that make up the former Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot are seen in an L-shape in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter above Minami Ward, Hiroshima, on May 17, 2021. (Mainichi/Kenji Ikai)

    The prefectural government is set to launch an evaluation program to get the clothing depot selected as a national important cultural property, and has decided that "it's inappropriate to discuss demolition at this stage." The buildings it owns are at risk of collapse, so the prefecture decided to go ahead with aseismic reinforcement of all three.

    Prefectural authorities estimate that 580 million yen (about $5.3 million) per building will be required for work to proof them against powerful earthquakes measuring 6 to 7 on Japan's 7-level seismic intensity scale, opening the way for visitors to walk around inside. The prefecture has also consulted with the Agency for Cultural Affairs on the qualifications for important cultural properties, and agency officials apparently deemed the construction work "appropriate." Attendees at the prefectural assembly committee session called on the prefecture to urge the central government to preserve the fourth, state-owned building.

    (Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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