COMMEMORATION IN TOKYO

Nuclear hell revisited

by Christine Cibert

Two years ago, Michel Pomarede, a French journalist working for France Culture, a French national radio station, visited Japan for the first time. He came with the aim of making a mammoth, 17-hour program about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, to accompany the 60th-anniversary commem- orations scheduled to be broadcast during the first week of August 2005.

Never before had such a lengthy radio program been aired on the subject.

This radio program is currently being made available online at franceculture.com and coincides with “Hiroshima, le souffle de l’explosion,” a series of events taking place at l’Institut Francais in Tokyo’s Iidabashi district.

These events include the screening of 14 movies and documentaries, round-table discussions and also the showing of two significant collections of photographs.

“Hiroshima Collection” features black-and-white images of objects from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum taken by Hiromi Tsuchida.

As placid as death itself, and as mute and clinical as evidence from the scene of a crime, these are simple acknowledgments of how things were after the catastrophe. They leave the viewer dumbfounded and mesmerized. As Tsuchida puts it: “We are a part of Hiroshima and Hiroshima is a part of us.”

Also on view is “Nagasaki Journey,” a photo-documentary by Yosuke Yamahata (1917-66).

On Aug. 9, 1945, age 28, Yamahata, who was then affiliated with the Imperial Japanese Army’s press department and stationed in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, was ordered to go to Nagasaki to photograph the aftermath of the atomic bombing that morning.

Yamahata arrived there at daybreak on Aug. 10, together with the artist Eiji Yamada and the writer Jun Higashi. They walked around the devastated city and by about 3 p.m., Yamahata had taken about 119 photos. He developed and printed the photos the same day.

“Nagasaki Journey” is the most extensive photographic record of the bomb’s immediate aftermath. It was published in all of Japan’s major newspapers on Aug. 21 and 25, 1945, before being censored for several years.

Christine Cibert is a journalist and art curator who has lived in Japan for more than 10 years and has met around 50 hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors), historians, movie directors, photographers and writers connected to the atomic bombings. She was the translator and coordinator for “Hiroshima, le souffle de l’explosion,” which runs through Aug. 31 at l’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo, 15 Ichigaya-Funagawara-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. To get there, go to Iidabashi Station on the Namboku Line. For the full program, and further details, visit www.institut.jp