People Behind the Hiroshima Reconstruction Plan Part II: The Role of the Individual – Kenzo Tange and the City’s Residents
The special regional and national committees created by the government weren’t the only ones rowing the boat to realize Hiroshima Peace Memorial City. Building a functional Hiroshima that also symbolizes peace was a personal aspiration for the individuals that lived in Hiroshima, as well as Kenzo Tange (architect of the Peace Memorial City Plan).
Residents of Hiroshima who moved back in since the A-bomb was dropped contributed in making the city livable for their community. By August 1946, 187 000 residents have settled in Hiroshima (Kato, 1946). The condition was harsh; amenities such as electricity and telephone lines were still mostly broken, very few public transportations were running, there was a food shortage, and all the buildings erected were temporary. Schools were hit hard because many of the institutional buildings got destroyed by the bomb, so students and teachers had to move to abandoned buildings in the outskirts to resume their studies (Kato, 1946). The government wasn’t able to allocate enough funds for everything, so regular citizens stepped up. Alumni and current students of those schools worked together, repairing buildings to create a conducive learning environment and residents created their own gardening plot to farm food for themselves (Kato, 1946). Civilians also voiced out their suggestions to the Hiroshima Reconstruction Planning team, numbering up to 30 submissions. Kora Tomiko, a citizen, proposed in February 1946 that Hiroshima should just be built on a completely new site. The president of Asahi at that time, Kuwubara Ichio, suggested to leave the ruins within the 2km radius around the epicenter of the explosion and build the new city around that barren ellipse (Ishimaru, 2003). Apart from their time and effort, citizens were also encouraged to contribute fiscally through the Peace Memorial Construction Law, enacted in 1949. Two significant contributions the citizens made are funding the preservation work on Genbaku dome in 1967, 1990, and 2001, and the Hiroshima Municipal Baseball stadium opened in 1957 (Mizumoto, 2015).
Kenzo Tange’s Letter to Mayor Hiyama with sketch of his Memorial Peace Park Concept.
While the citizens of Hiroshima contributed faithfully in the smaller scale, Kenzo Tange’s commitment to the commission he received from the War Damage Reconstruction Institution was able to influence the city’s reconstruction process on a higher level. Tange, who spent his high school years in Hiroshima, wrote a total of 22 letters to Mayor Hamai of Hiroshima. Through these letters Tange would discuss his design and practical matters on how to achieve his plan, moreover he would express his own beliefs and vision for Hiroshima to become a “mecca” for peace. In a letter written in September 1950 to Mayor Hamai, Tange expressed his concern as the Korean War broke out and felt even more convicted that it is necessary for Hiroshima to become a symbol that can inspire peace among countries (Mizukawa, 2009). Tange was also noted to have used his personal connections to appeal to government bodies so the Peace Memorial Plan could get more funds.
“Professor Tange was desperate to secure the budget through his acquaintances in the government. I suspect that his sense of guilt compelled him to commit to the reconstruction effort, as he did not exercise resistance against the military during the war.” (Otani, 2009.)”
According to Sachio Otani (Tange’s collaborator in Peace Memorial City project) in a Chugoku Shimbun interview, the reason for Tange’s persistence in making this project happen was personal. This emotional bond with Hiroshima seems to be the driving force for those who made private contributions, and overall the citizens of Hiroshima do want the city to have a bright future. However, although some were very cooperative in helping out with the Peace Memorial City plan, not everybody agreed that this plan was the best especially for lower-middle class people. The reason being many illegal structures built by citizens in areas planned for new Peace Memorial facilities would need to be torn down. There is also no guarantee for people who don’t own any land to be compensated by the government (Mizumoto, 2015). From the documentation of Hiroshima’s reconstruction process, those individuals who disagreed with the Peace Memorial City plan were not reported as much as those who were supportive.