Comment: Silent witness to history

by Tomomitsu Miyazaki, Chief Editorial Writer

On a fine sunny day, I take a walk up to the Asahiyama Shrine near my house before breakfast. When I reach the grounds of the shrine after climbing about 200 stone steps, a magnificent view suddenly opens before me. From the shrine grounds, I can look down on central Hiroshima City. But still, even from this vantage point, it is difficult to imagine the sufferings and tribulations the people of Hiroshima experienced 74 years ago.

In one corner of the grounds stands a board that explains the damage inflicted upon the shrine by the atomic bomb. It says, “The hall of worship was destroyed by the huge blast of the atomic bomb. However, the sanctuary behind the hall was not damaged.”

This board enables me to think about what happened here three kilometers from the A-bomb’s hypocenter on August 6, 1945. After reading this explanation, I felt as though my perception of the view of the sanctuary had somehow changed.

In the central part of the city, there are several structures that also survived the atomic bomb. One is the long-established Fukuya Hatchobori Main Store. This month, the department store began exhibiting outer wall tiles exposed to the flash of light emitted by the bomb. These tiles were later used to investigate the radiation dose from the blast, and are historical records of the atomic bombing. Another, Hiroshima Andersen, recently attached an A-bombed outer wall from its original A-bombed building to its new facility; currently under construction.

As the number of A-bomb survivors become fewer and fewer, some in the private sector are making an effort to preserve remnants of the atomic bombing at their cost. These are two examples. How about the City of Hiroshima and Hiroshima Prefecture? What efforts do they have underway?

Presently, there is a plan to build a new hub for peace research by partially preserving and utilizing Hiroshima University’s former faculty of science building No. 1. The A-bombed building is owned by the City of Hiroshima. It has been also decided that Hiroshima University’s Center for Peace and Hiroshima City University’s Hiroshima Peace Institute will be relocated.

It has not yet been determined how to utilize the Former Army Clothing Depot, most of which is owned by Hiroshima Prefecture. Last year, a plan to construct a building that could serve as a pillar for listening to A-bomb testimonies on the Depot grounds was suggested, but after weighing the heavy financial burden the prefecture would have to bear, the prefectural assembly rejected the plan. The Former Army Clothing Depot is the biggest A-bombed building in Hiroshima City. How to utilize it, along with determining a schedule for that utilization, needs to be determined as soon as possible, and with the full consent of the residents of Hiroshima Prefecture.

As I was descending the shrine’s store steps, I came to the conclusion that it is the responsibility of those living now, to make these so-called silent witnesses tell their story.

(Originally published on October 5, 2019)