From argument of existence or demolition to permanent preservation---preservation activities and construction

Two types of ideas were prevalent about what should be done about the A-bomb Dome: One was that the dome should be preserved as a commemorative structure. The other idea had it that the building was dangerous and also led to the memory of the A-bombing tragedy so it should be demolished. Despite the fact that money had been received from the government for dangerous building treatment as a war damage restoration activity, it was decided to preserve the building as a memorial, and the Hiroshima Prefecture returned the money to the government.

In 1948, the city of Hiroshima started construction to preserve certain buildings as A-bomb Memorials. And, on August 6, 1949, a group led by the architect Kenzo Tange took first place at the Peace Memorial Park design competition. Their design included an idea whereby, in addition to peace memorial facilities, there would be a large arch-shaped Peace Memorial Cenotaph in the center of Peace Memorial Park. The design included the idea that through the arch the old Industrial Promotion Hall would be visible, ensuring that the building and the park were one.

The debate about whether to preserve the building or demolish appeared around 1947 or 1948. The reconstruction of the city of Hiroshima began in earnest around 1951 or 1952, with the downtown area being the first area to be worked on. As more and more A-bombed buildings disappeared, the debate about preservation of these kinds of structures grew, drawing considerable attention. As this debate raged others followed, such as how to think about the atomic bombing, how to convey the tragedy of the A-bomb experience and that of the families of victims and how to think about the world situation surrounded by nuclear weapons.

Starting in 1960, the voice of pro-preservation group gradually became stronger through the initiation of such preservation movements as the "Hiroshima Paper Crane Club." The peak of the debate was reached between 1964 and 1965. In December 1964, 11 organizations, including the Hiroshima-ken Gensuikin and the Hiroshima-ken Gensuikyo, issued a joint proposal calling for the preservation of the building, emphasizing to the city that the "A-bomb Dome is a memorial tower of the Nuclear Age that stands at the fork in the road between the extinction and the prosperity of the human race."

In addition, in April 1965, Hideki Yukawa, Kenzo Tange, Tadayasu Iwazawa, Yasuo Kondo and four others submitted a request for preservation to the Chairman of the Hiroshima City Council. Therefore, the mayor at that time, Shinzo Hamai, budgeted one million yen for a survey regarding the reinforcement of the A-bomb Dome in the fiscal 1965 budget toward preservation of the structure. On July 28, 1965, Hiroshima University's architectural department in the engineering school, headed by Professor Shigeo Sato, was requested to carry out the survey and on November 15, the group issued an intermediate report.

On July 11, 1966, amidst this kind of activity, the Hiroshima City Council passed a resolution for the preservation of the A-bomb Dome, leading finally to earnest activities toward preservation. On November 1, 1966, a donation drive was begun, and after reaching the goal of 40 million yen, the drive was halted on March 14, 1967. Although the drive had been stopped, money kept coming in, and by July 31, 1967, a total of 66,197,816 yen in donations had been collected from both abroad and Japan, a generous amount of goodwill from more than 1.3 million people.

On April 10, 1967, construction for the preservation of the A-bomb Dome commenced. All the walls were sealed and reinforced with a strong reinforcing material applied to the interior of the brick. A scaffolding made of iron was put up at the building's major locations and reinforcement construction to support the walls of the structure was carried out. Through the strong cooperative system made up of three groups: Hiroshima City, the A-bomb Dome Preservation Technology Committee and construction companies, the reconstruction was completed in slightly more than three months. On August 5, 1967, a ceremony marking the completion of the reinforcement construction took place. This history has been inscribed on a preservation memorial erected to the north of the Dome. Construction on the structure was paid for entirely through donations, and the money that exceeded the donation target was used for park maintenance fees in the triangular part of the peace park area, which surrounds the A-bomb Dome and covers 12,500 square meters.

Twenty years later, from July 1987 to March 1988, investigations into the condition of the structure and various tests were carried out, and as a result, it was decided to carry out repair for long-term preservation on the spots where deterioration of the main structural components was significant. The purpose of this work was not to strengthen the structure itself. On February 1, 1989, then-mayor Takeshi Araki announced that the A-bomb Dome was not merely a relic from the atomic bombing but a common symbol of peace for all humanity. He announced that the city would pay 100 million yen of the reparation fees, which was half that necessary. For the rest, the city would call on peace-loving people worldwide to donate money for the preservation of the building. During the period from May 1, 1989 to December 25, 1989, the donation drive attracted 370 million yen from people in Japan and from other parts of the world, an amount that far exceeded expectations. The funds continued pouring in and by March 31, 1990, total donations had reached 395,025,026 yen. It was determined that any money collected above and beyond the original target of one million yen would be saved as preservation construction funds for the purpose of passing the A-bomb Dome to future generations.

The second construction for preservation purposes was begun on October 31, 1989. At that time, the repair of markedly damaged concrete around windows and entrances, the repainting of metal materials, the repair of brick joints, and the injection of resin in the cracks of the brick areas all took place. Moreover, in order to halt the natural deterioration of the building's surface, a transparent water-resistant lacquer was sprayed on the entire building. The reconstruction work was completed on March 31, 1990.

In the future as well, we will strive to preserve in perpetuity the A-bomb Dome as a "symbol of peace" as proof of the horror of the damage wrought by nuclear weapons. We must pass it down to following generations.