Hiroshima Prefecture adopts policy to postpone demolition of former Army Clothing Depot in keeping with prefectural assembly’s request

by Koji Higuchi, Staff Writer

On January 31, Hidehiko Yuzaki, governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, decided to postpone implementation of safety measures for the A-bombed former Army Clothing Depot buildings in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward. The Hiroshima prefectural government originally planned to demolish two buildings and preserve the exterior appearance of another building, with the aim of initiating the plan in fiscal 2020. However, the governor reached the decision in response to a request made by a prefectural assembly faction that supports the Yuzaki administration, which calls for further discussion of the matter. As a result, the prefectural government has decided to not include in the initial fiscal 2020 budget the costs required for the demolition and exterior preservation work.

The original plan that the Hiroshima prefectural government drafted last December indicated that, among the three buildings owned by the prefecture, the exterior appearance of building No. 1, which is closest to the A-bomb hypocenter, would be preserved and buildings No. 2 and No. 3 would be demolished and removed. The prefectural government had intended to complete the exterior preservation work by the end of fiscal 2021 and the demolition and removal work by the end of fiscal 2022, but both projects have now been postponed. Discussions to decide on the fate of the buildings, a point of contention following release of the original plan, will be carried over until fiscal 2020 or thereafter.

Mr. Yuzaki had a closed meeting on January 31 at the governor’s office with Takashi Nakamoto, chair of the prefectural assembly (64 members). About the original plan, Mr. Nakamoto conveyed his feeling that it was too early to decide the direction of the plan. His view was shared by the assembly’s three factions: the LDP’s parliamentary group (33 members), the assembly’s largest faction to which Mr. Nakamoto belongs, the Democratic party’s prefectural administration group (14 members), and the Komeito group (six members).

Behind the three factions’ views were the results of public comments solicited by the prefectural government showing 60% of respondents opposed to the original plan, as well as demonstrations by citizens and A-bomb survivors groups against demolition of the buildings. Even among members of the LDP’s parliamentary group, which had clearly stated its support for the original plan, were growing calls not to rush the final decision, eventually leading to Mr. Nakamoto’s request for delay.

Mr. Yuzaki briefly explained his position in an interview with the press after the assembly meeting. “I have heard the views held by the three factions, and I’ll consider how to deal with the matter based on those views.” Nonetheless, he decided to change course and delay the implementation of demolition and exterior preservation work. As the 107-year old A-bombed buildings have deteriorated considerably, the prefectural government will coordinate a plan that includes in the initial fiscal 2020 budget costs for reinforcement of the building’s exterior west-side wall, which stands adjacent to a municipal roadway. Reinforcement of the wall is a cost that was included in the original plan.


Former Army Clothing Depot
The former Army Clothing Depot, completed in 1913, was used to manufacture uniforms and footwear for the former Imperial Japanese Army and is among the city of Hiroshima’s largest A-bombed buildings. It is located 2.7 km southeast of the hypocenter. At one time, it consisted of 13 buildings, but now only four, in an L-shaped configuration, remain. In December 2019, the Hiroshima prefectural government, which owns three buildings, No. 1–No. 3, released its original plan for safety measures. The plans considered the deteriorated condition of the aged buildings and called for demolition of the two buildings and preservation of the exterior of the other building, warning that the buildings’ collapse in the event of an earthquake could lead to injuries among passersby and nearby residents. As for building No. 4, the national government is presently considering several options, including demolition, as owner of the building.

(Originally published on February 1, 2020)