HIROSHIMA – Marking the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Hiroshima Commercial Exhibition Hall, which became known as both the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Atomic Bomb Dome, a group of students on Sunday retrieved debris from the 1945 atomic bombing in the Motoyasu River, which runs in front of the ruins.
And later, in front of tourists and using the artifacts they had retrieved as a reminder of the devastation, the students from Hiroshima University spoke of the death and destruction the bombing brought to the city.
Members of the Association of Hiroshima University for Sending an Atomic-bombed Roof Tile, established by Rebun Kayo, a 36-year-old Okinawa native and Hiroshima University graduate student, excavated the riverbed and found various items associated with the bombing, such as roof tiles and parts of walls, in the mud.
Some of the artifacts recovered have been sent to organizations worldwide to promote knowledge of the nuclear devastation.
The now-ruined hall situated in Naka Ward was designed in 1914 by architect Jan Letzel, who was born in 1880 in what became Czechoslovakia. Construction was completed in April 1915.
The building was the only structure left standing in the area after the U.S. dropped the atomic on the city on Aug. 6, 1945, and was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1996.
On Sunday morning, students waited for the tide to ebb and in shallow water salvaged debris from the bottom of the river. After they had finished their search, they offered flowers and prayers at the cenotaph in front of the dome to commemorate the victims of the bombing.
According to Kayo’s group, even as Japan in August is set to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, fragments of the former hall’s brick walls and roof tiles from nearby houses obliterated by the bombing are still buried at the bottom of the river.
Since the group was established in 2009, it has grown to about 15 people, and it now has both current and former students as well as faculty members of the university among its members. They meet five times a month to continue searching for remains.
In September 2013, its members retrieved a large decorative piece weighing about 80 kg, which is believed have formed a section of the eaves on the third floor of the building.
They plan to donate the fragment to the Czech Republic, Letzel’s home country.
“Even after 70 years (since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima) have passed, these fragments of burned roof tiles and other objects damaged in the bombing are still found and tell us how horrendous the damage by the atomic blast was,” Kayo said. “We want to let the world know the dreadful devastation nuclear weapons inflict on people.”