Second-generation A-bomb survivor to be new director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

The City of Hiroshima has announced personnel changes that will take effect on April 1. A total of 3,137 employees, down by 309 from last year, will move to new positions. To help boost the rate of employment among welfare recipients, the new post of department director in charge of promoting employment will be created within the Economic Affairs and Tourism Bureau. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare will dispatch an official to take up the position. Kenji Shiga, secretary general of the personnel committee, will become the 12th director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Mr. Shiga will be the first second-generation A-bomb survivor to assume the position.

Mr. Shiga will replace Koichiro Maeda, the current director of the museum, whose term of office concludes at the end of March. In a press conference, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui referred to Mr. Shiga’s experience serving in fiscal 2012 as director general of the city’s Health and Welfare Bureau, charged with implementing relief measures for A-bomb survivors. Mr. Matsui commented, “I hope Mr. Shiga will strengthen the ability of the museum to convey the reality of the atomic bombing.”

Fifteen heads of city bureaus, almost half, will take up new positions, with nine receiving promotions. Toru Oikawa, current deputy director general of the Finance Bureau, will assume the position of director general of the Citizens Affairs Bureau, which oversees peace-related efforts. 

Kenji Shiga becomes Peace Memorial Museum’s 12th director

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

When Kenji Shiga was a young boy, his grandmother showered him with love. His grandmother was an A-bomb survivor and had terrible scars, from the burns she suffered, on her back and chest. “This is what the atomic bomb is about,” he thought to himself. Through these scars, the atomic bombing made a deep impression in the boy’s heart. “I want young people to take a serious look at the materials held by the museum and carry on the memory of that fateful event,” Mr. Shiga said. “I’m now pondering what I can do toward that end.”

The director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum guides notable guests from home and abroad on tours of the museum, and in this sense serves as “the face of Hiroshima.” When this year’s personnel changes take effect, Mr. Shiga will become the museum’s 12th director. In addition to his grandmother, his mother, now 84, experienced the atomic bombing while on a street in Minami Ward, about three kilometers from the hypocenter. Mr. Shiga will be the first second-generation A-bomb survivor to assume the post.

“I have been given a big assignment,” said Mr. Shiga. Though no conclusive plans have yet been made, he has already begun to look for ways to take advantage of his professional background. One idea stems from his experience as head of the administration department at Hiroshima City University. “One of the missions of the museum is research and study,” he said. “I want to get students involved through channels of systematic cooperation with universities.”

With the A-bomb survivors inexorably aging, Mr. Shiga is determined to help increase the opportunities for young people to see the materials held by the museum.

When he was assigned to the information systems division of the city government, Mr. Shiga worked on improving the city’s information technology environment and the computer training of municipal employees. “I am thinking of sharing information with peace museums and research institutions inside and outside Japan,” Mr. Shiga said. Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima, also hopes that the new museum director will enhance Hiroshima’s ability to convey its message, saying, “Mr. Shiga is well versed in information technology.”

Among other interests, Mr. Shiga enjoys visiting museums and has been enrolled in a distance-learning program, since last year, to become certified as a curator. “I will take on the responsibility of the museum’s materials very seriously,” he said. Mr. Shiga lives with his wife in Nishi Ward, Hiroshima, and has two grown daughters.

(Originally published on March 28, 2013)