A U.S. poet living in Japan has compiled a photo book of A-bomb victims’ personal belongings, accompanied by poems, to help preserve the memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Arthur Binard first came up with the idea for his book, titled “Sagashiteimasu” (“Come Search”), during visits to the city a few years after he came to Japan in 1990.
The American poet approached Ritsuko Nagamuta, an editor at Doshinsha Publishing Co., around five years ago, saying, “I want to create a picture book that tells the story of Hiroshima, and the storytellers will be objects (who) actually experienced the radiation.”
The proposal struck a chord with Nagamuta.
“As the number of hibakusha decreases one by one, the time has come for us to seriously consider how to pass down the story of Hiroshima from generation to generation,” she said, using the Japanese term for survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The 14 objects in the book — including a charred lunch box and purple dress — were chosen from about 21,000 items in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. They were photographed against a backdrop of excavated stone taken from a hill in Hiroshima that Binard and Nagamuta selected especially for the purpose.
“The foundation that the objects stand upon must be something that could have withstood the atomic firestorm,” Binard explained.
One photograph of a pair of charred work gloves is accompanied by a poem that reads, “We keep searching for those hands/that filled us, the right one,/and the left.”
“What we wanted to convey is how each person’s life was destroyed,” said Nagamuta. “In studying the objects, I was able to feel the owners’ emotions.”
Nagamuta, a mother of two, said she made sure during the editing process to concentrate on the victims’ lives, not their deaths.
Instead of depicting them as “poor souls who died,” she said, “we want (readers) to appreciate them as human beings who lived their lives with vigor and grace.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.