Memories of Hiroshima

Japan Storytelling

The model is at human scale.

Already, the atmosphere gets heavier with the first images parade: I do like all those people came here to feel the story by myself, and often in silence.

It begins with a reproduction of an aerial view that then makes us go back in time, and we’re now before the impact. To be moved on the ruins of a city, we must find the image of what it was before, flourishing …

Then, 8:15: “a huge flash of magnesium that seems to come out of a giant camera.” Then death falls from the sky: the explosion occurs about six hundred meters above the ground. The shock wave shakes the bomber violently. A sound of crumpled metal.

We quickly understand that the cataclysm took place at a frightening speed, and then we see on the following images what technicians have called the “fusion globe,” and that the Japanese call the “Sun of the Death”. Like an immense red hot iron in an anthill, the incandescent mass of five hundred meters in diameter carbonizes instantly with its two million degrees all that is alive in its perimeter. From the gigantic fireball, the surrounding air receives a “shock of movement »: everything is blown by this tornado.

The houses are compressed inwards, the windows and doors torn off, all that is friable, the brick, the tiles, the wood, even the concrete, are reduced to dust. The earth is like scalped, and Hiroshima is literally destroyed by the bomb.

The cities also have a corpse that is eloquent about the circumstances of their deaths. But among all those whom war is responsible of, Hiroshima’s ruins say nothing, except a map on a zero scale, and the notion of absolute nothing.

On the next aerial view, it only looks like a huge stain.


“My God, what have we done? “

The surprise of the crew is all the more understandable since they did not know the mission they were coming to accomplish. Only three of its members were in the secret: the pilot Tibbets, a naval officer who had participated in the manufacture of the machine, and the bomber, Major Thomas Ferebee, the man-who-pressed-on-the button. As for the others, they only knew that they were coming to carry out a bombing of a particular nature for which they had been provided with very thick black glasses.

With their city, sixty thousand inhabitants have been removed from the world of the living. In the weeks that followed, after tricking with death, sixty thousand others failed to trick with their wounds. In the aftermath of the bomb, the “hibakusha” (“exposed to the bomb”), were not among the living, nor among the dead. The effects of atomic radiation extended over the months that followed.

One bomb, one button, and one hundred and twenty thousand human lives.


Then I go to the next room.

I look at the collections that show the expansion of the city, and how it became a stronghold of the Japanese army during the Second World War. A few photographs from there, I leave for the United States: we follow the elaboration of the weapon which transformed the humanity…

Then, I discover little by little the traces of a life that we guess recent, but who nevertheless has no age. Everything is worse than destroyed: everything is off. A big shiny stone that could be a piece of rock. If I take a closer look, it is a glass vase whose walls are suddenly welded under the blast. Laminated kitchen utensils, tricycles convulsed under the cataclysm, each wheel now looks like a chrysanthemum, all in iron wire … a burned watch whose hands are locked at 8:15… Among all these scraps where we barely recognize the hand of the man, my eyes stop on the picture of a human shadow, projected forever on the burnt ground, by the effect of the impact…

The ravages of the bomb that have so deeply upset and captured the consciousness and the imagination, this myth that has been so often machiavellously exploited recounts in all these objects of the infamous city. The singularity of the nuclear massacre seems to isolate a rage of destruction in all these miniature remains, and preserved here, in this place dedicated to honor the memory of the victims of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima.

Leaving the Peace Memorial Museum, we look differently at the spirit of this martyred city, which was able to rebuild the lost landscape. Through the horror and absurd chaos that bathed the visit, we come to guess this strong desire to live that required the reconstruction of Hiroshima. This place of remembrance refers to everyone’s awareness of human madness, and sends a message of hope to never start again.

Under the Cetonaph of Peace, in the middle of all these cherry blossoms, here almost ironic symbols of the resurrection and renewal, are written the names of the victims of the bomb A. At the foot of the arc rests the lesson of the past, and a call to further humanize the present in an epitaph engraved on a commemorative stele: « 安らかに眠って下さい 過ちは 繰返しませぬから ».

“Sleep in peace: the mistake will not be repeated”

A few miles away, two joined hands carry a shy flame. Since August 1st, 1964, the fire of memory crackles for future generations and reminds them that an atomic Shoah is still possible. Illuminating the consciences and the reason that the war has assassinated, the Flame of Peace will not stop burning until the last of the atomic weapons has disappeared from the planet.

It is further, in perfect alignment, that the true face of the atomic bomb remains silent, on the other side of the Ota River. The Dome of Genbaku poses concrete images, black, almost sick on facts that we all know. Yet distant facts, only in the textbooks of history, almost virtual.

The structure is chilling. The only true relic of the explosion, the dome of the A bomb disturbs our common sense for a simple reason: its deformed frame, its melted metal beams, twisted, crushed, are silent witnesses of its unnatural destruction. It is neither related to time nor to wear. Like any historic place with a strong history, it’s hard to be indifferent to such a place.

Farther on the triangle of land, the Peace Memorial Park still transcribes in a different way how peace is a precious good: we look at the garlands of origami cranes, brought by the Japanese schoolchildren. Their thousand colors recall the memory of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who fell ill ten years after the bomb, and died of leukemia. Thinking that she would be healed if she could fold a thousand paper cranes, her classmates continued the work after her death, to continue to honor her wish for courage and healing.

Far from the madness of men, the contrast is so strong between the images of devastation and the beauty of the present city. Between the trees that still bear traces of burns, Hiroshima now exudes a strange joy of gravity. The “City of Peace” has marked the history of its seal, and today resonates as a unique, overwhelming, impressive place.

People continued to live … and then to dance.

The same evening, it is in a nightclub that we see this contrast getting even more intense. In Hiroshima, people laugh, party …

We almost wonder why war is trying so hard since life is indestructible.