After 100 Years, The Atomic Bomb Dome Building's Role As Important As Ever

After 100 years, the Atomic Bomb Dome building's role as important as everThe iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, symbol of devastation caused by the 1945 atomic bombing of this city, will mark its 100th anniversary on April 5.
Now a World Heritage site, the building was erected in 1915.

With the number of people who survived the bombing ever decreasing, the building's role in conveying the “inhumanity of nuclear weapons” to future generations is as important as ever.

“So much pity, pity ... in the postwar years I have felt so much sorrow for my colleagues,” said Kimie Mihara, now 89.

About 30 people, including her colleagues, died in the building when the blast ripped its brick walls apart. Mihara was spared because she was late for work that day.

During the war, Mihara worked in the ministry of internal affairs’ civil-engineering branch office for the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. Her office was located in the building, then called the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.

When the atomic bomb detonated at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, Mihara was waiting for a streetcar at Hiroshima Station, about two kilometers away from her office.

The bomb exploded in a blinding flash of light. The building, which was located only about 160 meters from ground zero, was gutted by the explosion. Only the famous skeletal remains were left standing.

Mihara was bedridden for about three months due to radiation exposure, but she returned to the building at the end of the year and found the ruined structure.

Before the blast, the three-story, brick building had been a popular sightseeing spot as its geometric design reflected beautifully on the surface of the nearby Motoyasugawa river.

After the blast, Mihara was guilt-ridden and plagued by the thought that “All of them died, but I survived." For a long time she was unable to approach the building as she was tormented by thoughts of her colleagues suffering.

Her agony eased gradually with the passage of time, and when the structure was listed as a World Heritage site in 1996 she began to feel that the building was reliably conveying the catastrophe of nuclear weapons not just to Japanese but also to foreign visitors.

“All of the atomic-bomb survivors will eventually die, but the building will remain. I hope that it will continue to convey the awfulness of nuclear weapons quietly (to future generations),” she said.

The building was completed on April 5, 1915, as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition. It was renamed the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall in 1933. During the war, the inside walls of the building were decorated with drawings of soldiers. After the blast, only the iron frame of the dome-shaped roof and parts of the outer walls remained.

Shinzo Hamai, who became Hiroshima mayor in 1947, wrote, “The relics of this building remained like a ghost that symbolized the catastrophe of that day.”

As years passed by, the building deteriorated. Some people insisted that it should be demolished as it was a reminder of enmity and war. However, others asserted that it should be preserved as a symbolic warning to future generations.

A diary left by a girl who survived the bombing, but was exposed to radiation and died from leukemia in April 1960 played a decisive role.

She had written, “Only the distressing Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall will continue to show to the world forever how awful the atomic bombing is.”

The diary prompted citizens to support the preservation of the building. As a result, the Hiroshima municipal assembly adopted a resolution for "eternal preservation" in 1966.

When the building was proposed for registration as a World Heritage site in the 1990s, the Japanese government wrote in its recommendation, “It is a peace memorial for humankind that continues to emphasize the importance of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons and permanent peace in the world.”