Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will reopen in June after three-month closure—Limits to be placed on visitor numbers to avoid overcrowding

(by Hajime Niiyama and Junji Akechi, Staff Writers)

On May 8, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui announced the city’s intention to reopen the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (in the city’s Naka Ward), which is now closed on a temporary basis due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The museum’s reopen is expected on June 1, the date the Japanese national government is projected to lift its declaration of a state of emergency. To avoid overcrowding caused by large crowds, the museum will introduce a new limitation on visitor numbers. If the plan to reopen is realized, the museum will open to the public for the first time in about three months, since the initiation of its temporary shutdown on February 29.

Following the city’s novel coronavirus response headquarters meeting held at the Hiroshima city office, Mr. Matsui explained the timing for the museum’s reopen. “We believe the point at which the state of emergency declaration is lifted nationwide represents one target for the reopen.” For now, the city plans to reopen the museum on June 1, because the national government is expected to lift its state-of-emergency declaration on that date. If the government extends the state-of-emergency period in the event of an increase in coronavirus case numbers, the museum reopen would also be pushed back.

In the same announcement, Mr. Matsui shared the museum’s new policy of strengthening measures to prevent spread of the virus after the reopen. According to the city government, new machines for distributing numbered tickets will be installed in the museum to limit the number of hourly visitors, and the practice of social distancing will be enforced. The specific number of visitors allowed to enter will be examined and finalized by the city government in the near future.

If the current status of the virus’ spread is maintained, the Hiroshima Prefecture government plans, on May 11, to rescind its previous request to close facilities such as art museums. As the Hiroshima City decided that the Peace Memorial Museum would be closed temporarily until May 17, it will extend the museum closure period independent of the other facilities. Referring to the fact that many visitors to the museum come from outside Hiroshima, Mr. Matsui said, “We have to be careful about reopening, because we need to prepare measures to secure citizen safety,” requesting understanding of the city’s extension of the closure period.

The Peace Memorial Museum’s temporary closure began on February 29, in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The city initially announced that the shutdown would last until March 15 but has extended the closure period in different stages. The museum’s close has had several impacts. For example, it is unable to host domestic and international tourists or schoolchildren on school excursions. Moreover, numerous testimonies recounting A-bombing experiences and tours by peace volunteers have been postponed or cancelled.

Hiroshima City also expressed its intention to reopen a portion of its municipal facilities, including the Asa Zoological Park in Asakita Ward and the Hiroshima Botanical Garden in Saeki Ward, on May 18. Such facilities are now temporarily closed until May 17. A full list of the specific facilities to be reopened will be announced around May 13.

(Originally published on May 9, 2020)