Japan government announces seismic reinforcement of former Clothing Depot building as A-bomb survivors, citizens welcome preservation of all depot buildings

by Yo Kono, Staff Writer

On May 19, the Chugoku Finance Bureau announced it would enhance seismic reinforcement of one building owned by the national government among the four former Army Clothing Depot buildings, located in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward and among the largest A-bombed architectural structures in existence. Along with the three other buildings, owned by the Hiroshima Prefectural government, the announcement suggested that all four depot buildings are to be preserved. Welcoming the news were A-bomb survivors and civic groups that have worked to safeguard the buildings. The focus now will be directed at measures for how to best utilize the structures.

The finance bureau will call for bids sometime in July to begin the design work to implement seismic reinforcement for the national government’s building No. 4. The bureau is planning to enter into a contract with the successful bidder by early August and complete the design work by the end of the current fiscal year. The timing of the start of construction work and the estimated cost for the project have yet to be revealed.

Against the backdrop of the Hiroshima Prefectural government’s decision in May 2021 to seismically reinforce buildings No. 1–3 to protect against earthquakes, the finance bureau conducted a survey of the durability of building No. 4 during fiscal 2021. The survey found that the building had a low risk of collapse but that it might not withstand an earthquake of a 6–7 on the Japanese seismic scale and, as a result, the bureau decided to undertake a minimum level of seismic reinforcement.

In December 2019, at the time the prefectural government drafted a proposal for safety measures for the depot buildings, which included demolition of two buildings and preservation of the other’s exterior surface, the finance bureau was also considering the option of demolishing building No. 4. At the press conference this day, May 19, Norio Nagai, director of the property administration department of the finance bureau, said, “We made this decision based on our consideration of the changing situation and calls from A-bomb survivors.” Opinions from people in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima thus helped pave the way for preservation of all of the depot’s buildings.

Iwao Nakanishi, 92, an A-bomb survivor living in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, who experienced the atomic bombing at the depot and serves as chair of a citizens group calling for preservation of all former Army Clothing Depot buildings, expressed his joy at the decision. “It is important to preserve the A-bombed buildings amid a situation in which A-bombing experiences are fading with the passage of time. I hope the buildings prove useful in achieving the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons.” Chieko Kiriake, 92, an A-bomb survivor and resident of Hiroshima’s Asaminami Ward who lived near the depot at the time of the bombing, was moved by the announcement. “I had wanted all of the depot buildings to be preserved based on the resolve to never wage war again. The wish of A-bomb survivors has come to pass.”

The prefectural government has discussed measures to utilize the depot with an advisory board and is expected to identify the direction for how the buildings are to be utilized by the end of fiscal 2022. Based on that determination, the finance bureau will discuss with the Hiroshima City and Prefectural governments about how building No. 4 can be used. Mayu Seto, 30, a resident of Kure City and a member of a citizens group working on a campaign to protect and utilize Hiroshima’s former Army’s Clothing Depot, expressed her hope that “the governments can incorporate into their measures opinions from people who care deeply about the Clothing Depot.”


Former Army Clothing Depot
The former Army Clothing Depot was a facility once used to manufacture military uniforms and footwear for the former Imperial Japanese Army. The facility buildings, located 2.7 kilometers southeast of the hypocenter, were completed in 1913. After the atomic bomb was dropped, the buildings were used as temporary relief stations for A-bomb survivors. The depot originally consisted of 13 buildings, but only four, situated in an L-shaped configuration, remained after World War II. They were used as warehouses for private corporations and as a student dormitory for Hiroshima University. Hiroshima Prefecture owns buildings No. 1–3, while building No. 4 is in the possession of Japan’s national government. The Hiroshima City government registered the structures as A-bombed buildings in 1994, and since around 1995, the buildings have not been used. Now more than 100 years old, the structures show significant deterioration.

(Originally published on May 20, 2022)