HIGASHIMATSUYAMA, SAITAMA PREF. – A famous series of large panels depicting the horrors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be exhibited in the United States next year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attacks.
“We hope the exhibition will stir awareness of the importance of handing down memories of the atomic bombing among people in the United States,” said Yukinori Okamura, curator of the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, located in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture.
The panels were created by Iri and Toshi Maruki, 1995 Nobel Peace Prize nominees.
The husband-and-wife team created 15 panels, each standing 1.8 meters by 7.2 meters, over the course of 32 years starting in 1950. The Maruki Gallery will display six of them at a museum run by American University in Washington from June 13 to Aug. 14 next year.
“The world was hit by the nuclear threat nearly 70 years ago, and it still remains, or rather expands further, in the face of a nuclear-weapons drive and dependence on nuclear power generation,” Okamura said. “It would be significant if we could share experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki across borders and racial lines.”
The organizers are also planning to exhibit the panels elsewhere in the U.S. through around December next year, and if possible, to bring atomic bomb survivors to give talks, said Takayuki Kodera, chief director of the Maruki Gallery.
“Aging atomic bomb survivors have a strong hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons while they are still alive, and we want to create a tidal wave for fulfilling their wish by taking the opportunity of the 70th anniversary,” Kodera said.
Iri Maruki, a Hiroshima native, arrived in the city from Tokyo three days after the atomic bombing and Toshi followed him several days later. Their experiences eventually led them to create the panels.
While the panels have been displayed all over the world, including in China, several European countries, South Africa, the former Soviet Union and in the United States, the exhibition next year will be the first in the U.S. capital.
“I expect U.S. lawmakers, and of course President Barack Obama, to see the Marukis’ paintings,” Kodera said.
The event was decided on after Peter Kuznick, a history professor and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, visited the gallery in May to see the panels. He has taken students to Hiroshima and Nagasaki every summer for the past 20 years.
In an email interview, Kuznick said the atomic bombings “unleashed a nuclear arms race that still threatens the annihilation of all life on the planet.”
“It is absolutely essential that Americans, citizens of the only nation to have ever dropped atomic bombs on another country, confront this history with honesty and sensitivity,” he said.
While some Americans will object to an exhibit that complicates and even challenges the perception that World War II was a “good war,” Kuznick said, “I welcome the opportunity to exchange views and, if necessary, debate with people who take offense at such a heart-wrenching depiction of the atomic bombings.”