The surviving victims of the Kyoto Animation studio arson attack, as well as the friends and families of those who lost their lives, will never forget the tragic series of events that took place on July 18. The same goes for many of the anime studio’s fans, both in Japan and around the world.
But as heartbreaking as the largest mass murder in modern Japanese history is, life does, ultimately, go on. This week, Kyoto Animation is closing the official account it set up to accept charitable donations (all of which will be used to help the victims and their families, not to prop up the business itself). The vast majority of employees who were injured in the fire have returned to work, and in a significant turning of the page, the burned-out studio’s interior has begun being gutted, in preparation for the complete demolition of the building.
The question now becomes what to do with the plot of land once the building has been cleared away. Asking Kyoto Animation staff to keep showing up for work at the same place where so many of their coworkers lost their lives could cause intense psychological trauma, so building a new studio on the same spot is likely out of the question. Roughly a week after the arson, Kyoto Animation CEO Hideaki Hatta said “If it is possible, I would like to turn the site into a park, and erect a monument,” but the neighborhood itself is now saying it doesn’t want that.
The chonaikai (neighborhood association) of the section of Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward’s Momoyama-cho neighborhood where Kyoto Animation’s arson-struck studio is located has submitted a written request to the company specifically asking that the site not be used for any sort of memorial. The association expressed its concerns that a memorial would continually attract large numbers of mourning fans. “If large numbers of people are continually visiting the site, it will destroy the peaceful lifestyle [of local residents],” the request says.
While the lack of a memorial would leave those saddened by the tragedy without a designated place to pay their respects, it’s important to keep in mind that despite being the workplace for a team of world-class animation artists, Momoyama-cho is primarily a quiet, residential neighborhood. A look around Google Street View (which still contains images from prior to the fire), shows ordinary houses right across the street from the studio, and it’s understandable that the people who live there would have a hard time getting back to anything resembling a normal life if a monument or memorial park were to be built.
▼ The yellow-brick Kyoto Animation Fushimi studio, prior to the arson attack
The neighborhood association’s request comes after a meeting earlier this month, attended by representatives of 23 households in the community, in which all participants said they do not want a memorial being built. The message to Kyoto Animation also asks that the association be included in discussions regarding the site’s eventual use, and that Kyoto Animation announce what it intends to do with the land by the end of the building’s demolition, which is projected to finish in April of next year. Meanwhile, Kyoto Animation, following its receipt of the neighborhood association’s request, has said that it is hoping to make a decision that can satisfy all parties following consultation with bereaved families, the local community, and other involved parties.