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).

Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium on its day of completion, July 1957

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.

­­­­­Kato, Sinchi. 1946. “Hiroshima is Being Rebuilt as a City Symbolizing Peace”. Nippon Times, August 17, 1946.
Mizukawa, Kyosuke. Interview with Sachio Otani. ‘Architect says Kenzo Tange designed Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with “sense of remorse”’. Chugoku Shimbun, July 22, 2009. Accessed December 26, 2020. http://www.hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/?p=19847
Mizukawa, Kyosuke. 2009. “Contents of letters written by Peace Park designer Kenzo Tange disclosed”. News. Chugoku Shombun, January 16, 2009. http://www.hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/?p=13996
Mizumoto, Kazumi, 2015. “A Short History of the Reconstruction of Hiroshima: Based on the Hiroshima Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Research Project Report”. In Hiroshima’s Path to Reconstruction, edited by Hiroshima for Global Peace Plan Joint Project Executive Committee, 7-24. Hiroshima: Hiroshima Prefecture and the City of Hiroshima, March 2015.
Norioki Ishimaru, Ming Li, Mitugu Okagawa. 2002. “Research on the Plan of Reconstruction Hiroshima – A study on the activities of the architect Kenzo Tange in Hiroshima Part 1”. P. 340.
Image
Sasaki, Yuichiro. The completed stadium. Photograph. Hiroshima: n/a. Website, http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/virtual/VirtualMuseum_e/exhibit_e/exh1207_e/exh120710_e.html, accessed December 30 2020.

2020-2021

3 Comments on “People Behind the Hiroshima Reconstruction Plan Part II: The Role of the Individual – Kenzo Tange and the City’s Residents

  1. The mobilisation of general public’s resources to help with the reconstruction is an interesting section of the larger narrative. I’m wondering if there is any documentation of this process, such as photos and company reports. Grouping this part of the story together with Tange’s personal bonding and design efforts under the name of ‘the role of individual’ becomes very provocative. This could potentially start a discussion on the power of individual in the similar reconstruction scenarios after major disasters.

  2. The various responding from different groups of citizens about the Reconstruction Plan is interesting, which inspire me to think about the different stance of citizens. For example, will common people(workers, students, housewives…) suggest more about rebuilding a livable environment and service infrastructure in priority, which assist them to restart the new life in Hiroshima? Or will the elites(presidents of the company, architects, stakeholders…) tend to suggest focusing on building a memorial city for peace, which highlights the city identity of Hiroshima in the world? It would be interesting to see more responses from citizens and consider these suggestions from different perspectives. Besides, I would like to know more about the details of the Reconstruction Plan, like how the government rebuilt the city into an international emblem of peace, but simultaneously guaranteed livable conditions for citizens. (PS. Would like to see more photos or maps related to the Reconstruction Plan in the blogs which could help illustrate the ideas more clearly.)

  3. Upon studying Beijing myself, I find it very heartwarming as I was reading this blog post given how citizens started making huge contribution in towards rebuilding Hiroshima themselves, while in contrast with Beijing everything was determined by the Central Government. It would be interesting if citizens proposal could seen more as a mean to draw a comparison on both the architects perceptions and views towards how to rebuild Hiroshima and its citizens. Perhaps between the stakeholders differences in approaches and priorities towards Hiroshima could be seen. What is also interesting is how they define their goal as to redeveloping Hiroshima that can “symbolize peace” but such concept is rather vague and abstract, what constitutes a city that can embody “peace” ? What is their definition ?

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