Director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to step down at the end of March

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Koichiro Maeda, 64, director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, will step down when his term of office expires at the end of March. The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Mr. Maeda about his seven years as director, a post he took up in 2006, including future challenges facing the museum.

Mr. Maeda is from Kagoshima Prefecture. When he assumed the role of director, it was the first time in 27 years that a non-A-bomb survivor had held this position. Comparing himself with his predecessors, who had woven their own experiences into their work and spoken out about the tragedy of the atomic bombing, Mr. Maeda was at a loss in the early days, wondering if he was truly entitled to fill the position.

However, his past experience as the first director of the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, also located in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, provided encouragement. While engaged in collecting and conveying written accounts of the atomic bombing during his three years and eight months at the hall, the pain of the A-bomb survivors and the family members of the victims was seared into his mind. He became determined to “stand beside those who experienced the atomic bombing and speak on their behalf.”

At Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Mr. Maeda served as guide to a number of important figures who have influenced the course of nuclear disarmament, including Nancy Pelosi, then U.S. Speaker of the House, and Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense in Israel. “When an atomic bomb is used, the consequences are tragic,” Mr. Maeda said. “Hiroshima’s mission is to convey this fact as it is. I’d like to believe that everyone who has visited the museum has felt the horror of the atomic bombing.”

He now feels great concern when it comes to the inexorable aging of the A-bomb survivors. “The role of the museum will naturally grow in significance,” he said. “We need the means to fully communicate the threat of nuclear weapons to generations who have no experience of war.”

Mr. Maeda also made efforts to create a plan for new exhibits in anticipation of remodeling work that will begin at the museum in fiscal 2013. He has devised ways of displaying the artifacts. One idea involves adding photographs of the owners to their possessions, hoping that visitors will imagine the feelings of the A-bomb survivors and their family members that are imbued in each artifact.

After his retirement, Mr. Maeda would like to take part in volunteer activities to promote the sound development of young people, among other pursuits. “If asked, I’d like to continue contributing to peace efforts, too,” he said, indicating his desire to maintain the spirit of the A-bombed city in the next phase of his life.


Koichiro Maeda
Mr. Maeda was born in 1948 in the city of Kagoshima. After completing his graduate degree in economics at Hiroshima University, he became a public servant for the City of Hiroshima in 1974. He formerly served as chief of the business division of the planning committee office for the National Athletic Meet and deputy director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. He took up his current post in 2006. Mr. Maeda lives in Asakita Ward, Hiroshima.

(Originally published on March 27, 2013)