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Hiroshima for Global Peace

IV The Road Towards the Redevelopment of Moto-machi District

1 The Final Problem of Postwar Reconstruction

When land readjustment in the city of Hiroshima had made progress in the districts heavily damaged and burned (and the development of the city came to take a concrete form), a new issue related to the reconstruction planning was raised concerning Moto-machi, which, despite its important location in the city center, had been left out of the reconstruction experienced by the rest of the city.

Starting around 1963, the City of Hiroshima sought the enactment of a special law to provide homes for the survivors of the atomic bombing in the Moto-machi district by connecting it with the Atomic Bomb Survivors Support Law. Meanwhile, the prefectural government sought to implement a residential area improvement project based on the Residential Areas Improvement Act rather than using special legislation. At the same time, the city and prefectural governments continued discussions, and in September 1967, they tried to overcome this issue by requesting that the Ministry of Construction 1) implement a residential area improvement project and 2) coordinate the basic policy for redevelopment. At a December 1967 regular session of the city council, Mayor Setsuo Yamada made the following announcement: “I want to be free from the previous concepts of the city and want the implementation of the redevelopment of the Moto-machi district conducted under the framework of a residential area improvement project. I would like to hold talks with the prefecture and come up with concrete plans by next February.” This announcement shows that the city had a strong intention to redevelop the area towards the end of 1967.

Meanwhile, the Hiroshima City Moto-machi District Federation of Housing Promotion Associations (Hiroshima-shi Moto-machi Chiku Jutaku Kensetsu Sokushin Domei Rengokai) was formed by Aioi Street residents, and its members lobbied at the municipal and prefectural governments and the Ministry of Construction and repeated petitions. In September of 1966, they requested key officials to visit the district, invited them to a local gathering and lodged petitions. From these activities, they drew answers from the officers in charge (from the Ministry of Construction) regarding the possibility of applying the Residential Areas Improvement Act to the area’s reconstruction (Photo 5-7).

2 Redevelopment Planning and Its Details

There were three major problems and issues. The first was how to handle and redevelop the public housing district created soon after the war. These public houses were aging and significantly overcrowded, partly because the residents had expanded their houses on their own.

The second was deciding what to do with the people who lived on Aioi Street and ran shops there for a living. The structures were not provided by the government but were built illegally. The third issue was how to develop Chuo Park and the riverbank greenbelts. This was an important element of urban development in Hiroshima; and the 1946 decision to create a park there was no longer just a plan but was finally becoming a reality.

With regard to the first issue (formulation of the redevelopment plan), in May 1968, the prefectural and municipal governments jointly established the Moto-machi District Redevelopment Promotion Council (Moto-machi Chiku Saikaihatsu Sokushin Kyogikai) to discuss the matter. Along the establishment of the council, the Masato Otaka Architect & Associates firm was commissioned to design the master plans for the Moto-machi and the Chojuen districts. The site plan (of the redevelopment plan) for Moto-machi and Chojuen (Figure 5-6) was made in May 1968, and the master plan for the Chojuen district was formulated in March 1969. Thus, on March 18, those two districts were designated as areas to be developed under the Residential Areas Improvement Act, entitled the “Moto-machi District, Hiroshima City.”

Under Masao Otaka’s master plan, the high-rise apartment buildings were laid out in a zigzag style along a north-south axis and in a circular style around the public area as a whole. (Photo 5-8). Additionally, artificial corridors were added principally to separate people from vehicles and to link stores, an elementary school and other facilities in an integrated manner. The ground floors of the buildings were built in an open piloti style, without residential units, but with staircases and elevators. There were gardens on connected rooftops, a unique architectural decision at the time. In his design, Masato Otaka applied some of the five principles of modern architecture proposed by Le Corbusier, including use of the piloti style and rooftop gardens. A total of 2,954 housing units (accommodating a population of 9,500) were planned to be built on the 7.54 hectares of land provided for the Moto-machi district’s residential redevelopment, which meant that the population density would be 1,260 people per hectare. The high-rise apartment buildings were densely built and connected, with a 241% floor to area ratio, and ranged from 14 to 20 stories (partially eight stories and 12 stories).

Under the residential area improvement project, 650 housing units were planned to be built in the Chojuen district. In addition to these, 486 units were built by the prefectural government, 220 units built by the Japan Housing Corporation for rent, and 204 units by the Hiroshima Prefectural Housing Corporation for sale (a total of 1,560 units). The Chojuen district, too, would end up with a high population density; and the buildings followed the style of those in the Moto-machi district, as the site was a narrow strip of land that lay north and south along the Ota River. A 17-meter wide greenbelt along the riverbank was created, despite the fact that a wide space could not be procured. Additionally, in consideration of the urban landscape, the buildings were laid out so that the skyline stood out from a distance.

Another unique characteristic of the buildings is that they were built with large, skeletal, pure steel Rahmen structures. The floor plans show that the structure of the buildings was typically made up of 9.9 x 9.9-meter square units, each consisting of two stories with two housing units on each floor. This means there were four housing units in each two-story unit. The main residential buildings [between 14 and 20 stories (13 and 15 in Chojuen)] were built and arranged so that they were shorter in the south and taller in the north. In the Moto-machi district, a mall was organized in the middle of the rows of residential buildings that faced one other.

There were basically two types of standard housing units: those on corridor floors and those on non-corridor floors. The housing units on the corridor floors were 2DK’s (two rooms and a dining kitchen) and those on the non-corridor floors were 3K’s (three rooms and a kitchen). The corridor floors and non-corridor floors alternated (“skip-floor pattern”). The elevator stopped only on corridor floors, but staircases connected the housing units on the non-corridor floors to the corridor floors. There were also sections for 1K units (consisting of one room and a kitchen) for single residents. These units all faced corridors, so in these sections, elevators stopped on all floors. The high-rise apartment buildings in Moto-machi and Chojuen were quite conspicuous and spectacular buildings in Hiroshima at the time. The mall in the center, the rooftop gardens, and the piloti style came to fruition as planned and became unique spaces.

In total, the 2,951 families who lived in 2,600 housing units were to be relocated from the target redevelopment area. Some families wanted to move out to other areas, and 2,609 families requested to move into the improved residences. Some of these families were expected to split up into smaller households, so the total number was expected to increase by 261.

Of those families, 1,065 households had previously lived in the slum along the riverbank, in the clusters of illegally-built houses. While some wanted to move to other areas, 981 families requested to move into the improved residences. There were some households that wanted to split into smaller households, so this number increased by 84. The relocation of the residents was a step-by-step process. Old buildings were gradually removed, and new buildings were built on-site. As people moved into the new buildings, their former houses were demolished. As a result, areas cleared of old houses gradually expanded. Construction started right away in the Chojuen district, as there were no houses to demolish. Many of those who moved into the “improved residences” in Chojuen used to live on the riverbank. As for the housing units that were not improved residences, tenants were chosen by lottery from among the qualified families, which were not limited to those who lived in the target area. In this way, the redevelopment project gradually progressed.

On October 11, 1978, the ceremony commemorating the completion of the Moto-machi district redevelopment project was held. On this occasion, a monument was unveiled and a memorial tree was planted to celebrate the completion of the project. The monument placed here explained that the redevelopment project was to put an end to the postwar era in Hiroshima, quoting what people had said: “The postwar period in Hiroshima will not be over until this district is renovated.”

The site of the former Aioi Street has been significantly transformed into the Moto-machi riverbank greenbelt. Those who lived on Aioi Street moved to various locations of their choice, but many moved to the improved residences in Chojuen, since the riverbank was under the jurisdiction of the prefectural government and the housing was developed by the prefectural government. At that time, the problem of whether or not the residents could adjust to their new lives was repeatedly brought up. The slum was eventually cleared, but was the strong riverbank community bonds able to continue in the new high-rise complexes? Until then, they rarely locked their doors during the day; and anyone who walked by could see inside their homes through their doorways. People were very close to their neighbors, sharing, borrowing and lending items to each other in their daily lives. They now live behind steel doors, which cannot be left open, and need to be locked from time to time. This certainly had a big impact on their communities. It is true that there were extenuating circumstances behind the changes that happened to Aioi Street; but these changes put an end to a society, one that was an antithesis to modern society.

Since that time, the biggest change in the Moto-machi district has been the renovation of the once (relatively) uniform housing units into several different types. As part of the Moto-machi redevelopment project, the City of Hiroshima has been planning the renovation of certain housing units since the 2005 fiscal year: turning two 2DK units into one 3DK units, three 3K units into two 3DK units, and two 1K units into one 2LDK units. The prefectural government also started its residence improvement plan in 1979 by combining two housing units for single people into larger units on the corridor floors. The initial plan provided housing units that anticipated the new standard designs of the time; however, it would not have been able to meet the changing needs of occupants. Different types and sizes of housing units are now required to accommodate the needs of different families. It is necessary to create appropriate means for people to move and better utilize the high-rise apartment buildings of Moto-machi and Chojuen. This is not due to a fault in the original plan but because people’s needs have changed over the years. These are challenges that those concerned today must address.

(Norioki Ishimaru)


8. Hiroshima Toshi Seikatsu Kenkyukai (Ed.). Hiroshima Hibaku Yonju Nenshi: Toshi no Fukko (Reconstruction of HIROSHIMA, Pictorial History of Forty Years since Atomic Bombing). Division of Culture, Planning and Coordination Bureau, City of Hiroshima, 1985.

9. Moto-machi Chiku Saikaihatsu Sokushin Kyogikai (Ed.). Moto-machi Chiku Saikaihatsu Jigyo Kinenshi (The Moto-machi District Redevelopment Project Commemorative Publication). Hiroshima Prefecture and the City of Hiroshima, 1979.

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