Balance struck between giving fans and family a place of remembrance and letting life return to normal in Kyoto neighborhood.

This summer will mark four years since the arson attack on Kyoto Animation Studio #1. The largest mass murder in modern Japanese history, the attack resulted in the deaths of 36 employees of the anime studio and injuries to an additional 32. Now, the studio says it’s ready to move forward with plans to build a memorial for them.

The global outpouring of sympathy following the attack was immediate and immense. But while everyone agrees that what took place was an undeniable tragedy, there’s been debate over the best way to honor and remember the victims. Less than a week after the attack, Kyoto Animation president Hideaki Hatta expressed his desire to create a memorial at the site, a sentiment echoed by some of the victims’ surviving family members. However, while Kyoto Animation’s works have won acclaim around the globe, Studio #1 wasn’t located in a glittering skyscraper or cosmopolitan city center, but in an almost completely residential part of Kyoto City’s Fushimi Ward.

The pale-yellow building seen above in Google Streetview is Kyoto Animation Studio #1, shown prior to the attack. Spin the camera around, and you’ll see that pretty much every other building in the vicinity is a single-family home, including the ones directly across the street from the studio. There’s not even a vending machine to be seen, which is one of the surest signs that you’re in a part of Japan where there aren’t a lot of outside visitors coming in. Because of that, some local residents have expressed concerns that building an on-site memorial will regularly draw fans to the area, disrupting the lifestyles of those who have lived in the neighborhood for years and become accustomed its peace and quiet.

Now, after years of discussion and consideration, a lawyer representing a group composed of Kyoto Animation and families of the victims has issued a written statement that not one, but two memorials will be installed, with only one accessible to the public.

While an exact location is yet to be decided on, the publicly accessible monument is most likely to be erected in Uji, Kyoto City’s neighbor to the southeast and the town where Kyoto Animation’s headquarters office is located. The planning committee would like it to be erected in a park or other public space, where it can serve to “preserve the memories of what happened, the lives of those who passed away and were injured, and the prayers and support offered by people from around the world.” The design and materials to be used are also not yet set, but the committee has said that it wishes to avoid dark, somber colors and other elements that could suppress the existing aesthetics of the eventual site. Construction and installation costs will be paid for using funds that were donated to Kyoto Animation following the attack, in keeping with the studio’s promise not to use any of the money for business purposes.

The statement says that Kyoto Animation is also planning to create a monument at the site where the attack took place. This monument, though, will be within the grounds of the company’s business facilities, and so not accessible to the general public.

All things considered, this is probably the best possible balance. Compared to some other countries, Japan has very permissive zoning laws, as evidenced by the fact that an animation studio was built just steps from people’s houses in the first place. At the same time, being mindful of other people’s comfort is a major part of Japanese culture, and especially so in Kyoto. In building two memorials, Kyoto Animation can both honor and remember the victims at the exact place where they spent their days together prior to the tragedy, and at the same time give the rest of the world a place to remember them too.

The committee hopes to have the public memorial installed by July 18 of 2024, which will be five years from the date of the attack.

Sources: KBS Kyoto, Jiji, NHK News Web
Top image: Wikipedia/MikeHattsu
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