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Hiroshima for Global Peace

II Illegal Construction on the Riverbanks and the Creation of the Riverbank Greenbelts

1 From the Park and Green Area Plan in the Original Reconstruction Plan to the Riverbank Greenbelt Plan

The plans for parks and green areas in the postwar reconstruction have already been explored in Chapter 3, so they will not be covered in detail here except to note that Chuo Park was initially planned as a large park in the Moto-machi district. However, as massive housing construction projects continued in this area, its function as a residential area and as a park area came into conflict. As detailed in Chapter 3, with the enactment of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law in 1949, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Plan was established, and new plans for parks and green areas were drawn up in 1952. The riverbank greenbelts were proposed in the original reconstruction plan but not were initially finalized. When the detailed plan for land readjustment was made, the large-scale plan for riverbank greenbelts became concrete: 13.14 hectares of greenbelts in the East and 8.18 hectares of greenbelts in the West. Land for the greenbelts in the East was to be acquired by Hiroshima City in the Eastern Reconstruction Land Readjustment Area; and land for greenbelts in the West was to be acquired by Hiroshima Prefecture in the Western Reconstruction Land Readjustment Area. The plan for the riverbank greenbelts were indicated in Figure 5-2.

2 The Reconstruction Plan: Land Readjustment and Development of Riverbank Greenbelts

Before the war, the riverbanks of the city of Hiroshima were largely private land―used for warehouses and transportation facilities in certain locations. There were also restaurants, inns, as well as houses; and they were not just any houses, but somewhat high class residences. Of course, there were some alleys between these buildings, and stone steps called kawadzu and gangi which could be used to get to the river to swim, fish, dig for shellfish, etc. People were not able to see the river from a road and were only able to see it from building windows or when crossing bridges. Though people called Hiroshima a riverfront city, the citizens were not able to enjoy the river in their daily lives at many places.

Plans were made for these riverbanks to be made into greenbelts after the war, and they were re-plotted under the land readjustment, with land ownership being transferred from the original land to other locations. Once the transfers were complete, the riverbanks were to be public land, and greenbelts were to be created there. However, some refused to move to new locations, and others came in to squat on the land of those who had been evicted; so, the situation never quite reached a point where greenbelts could be created. Legally, once land rights are lost, staying on said land is classified as illegal occupation (Photo5-3).

In order to finish the process of land readjustment and the land ownership transfers, the government could not allow the continued residence on lands that the land owners refused to transfer ownership of. In January 1966, forced demolition of these illegal structures began. Whether it was “finishing the postwar reconstruction” or the “uphill task of cleaning up the postwar pus,” the demolitions started in the southern end of the riverbank in Matoba 2-chome near Hiroshima Station. At first, police officers were also involved in the building demolitions, but as the employees of the city government were mobilized, the process gradually expanded to became a city-wide effort (Photo 5-4).

In this way the development of the riverbank greenbelts began at last. The banks were reinforced, trees were planted along the embankments, pathways for walking, jogging and cycling were developed, and the riverbanks took on a completely new look. Later on, “city beautiful policy” was promoted under Mayor Takeshi Araki, and numerous sculptures were placed along the riverbank greenbelts. Later on, open cafes were built along the riverbanks for people to enjoy food and drink and became popular. One of the positive outcomes of developing riverbank greenbelts is the Gangi Taxis, which use the river as a means for transportation, or simply as the focus of enjoyment. While the riverbank greenbelts will continue to be used in many other positive ways, we must remember their postwar history and how the process of their redevelopment incurred large costs and required residents to make sacrifices.


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