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In the Shadow of Hiroshima: Childrens’ Visions of Life

Exhibit - Multimedia | June 12 – September 12, 2012 every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday with exceptions | 9 a.m.-5 p.m. |  Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor)


Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), Center for Japanese Studies (CJS)


"In the Shadow of Hiroshima: Childrens’ Visions of Life" is an exhibit that evokes war, horror, and devastation—with hardly a trace of any of these depicted in the works themselves.

“Hiroshima” is a city whose name is inextricably linked with the moment in August 1945 when it became the victim of the first atomic bomb attack. While the images of its destruction are widely known, less familiar is the tale of its survival and resilience.

Drawn within a couple of years of the bombing by children in Hiroshima, aged 7 to 12, the colorful pictures in this exhibition depict merriment and good cheer: schoolyard games, excursions into beautiful countrysides, flowers, city streets devoid of desolation. Only two children chose to depict the iconic dome at ground zero that caps the skeletal remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the dome has become known world-wide as the symbol of Hiroshima and the atomic bombing. In the picture at right, the dome crowds the extreme left of the composition, just barely included and jostling with the other structural elements of the bustling city along the dominant blue swath of the river. In the picture at left, done by a boy then only recently arrived in the city from the U.S., the dome is the full focus of the composition. For the rest, the young artists chose to depict the things that matter to them: a dress, a doll, a car, a cap—things that might catch the interest of a child anywhere.

The pictures were sent to All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C. in the late 1940s by one of the two surviving schools in Hiroshima as a thank-you gift for aid they had received. A selection of fifteen of the pictures, and three picture facsimiles for originals too fragile to travel, comprise this exhibit. The entire collection held by All Souls Church can be viewed at http://www.hiroshimaschoolyard.com/index.html.

In 2010, the pictures returned to Hiroshima for the first time, as part of a project seeking out those who had made them over sixty years before. The survivors were invited to attend an exhibit and ceremony at the annual August 6 atomic bombing anniversary observance in Hiroshima. A representative of All Souls Church has provided an account of the visit on one of the information panels. A documentary filmmaker covered the event and interviewed the survivors about their pictures, their lives, and their experiences as children growing up in Hiroshima. The film, "Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard," will be screened on August 10 (see Public Programs, below).

Layers of uncertainty cloud our understanding of these pictures. The pictures were later given titles; these are not included here as they were not titles given to the works by the children themselves. Even the names of the children, written in English on each picture not by the children but by other hands, may be erroneously translated. For some of the artists, we have, thanks to the filmed interviews, the words of the adults they have now become as they look back over the decades at the children they once were, and sift through their memories of that time and place. For others, who could not be located or who have passed away, we can know little of their thoughts or intentions. Rather than pursuit of definitive answers, what this exhibit inspires is the quest for greater understanding of the larger picture of twentieth-century history, the dark context of the devastated city, and the confrontation with the realities of atomic power that have haunted society since that fateful day in August 1945.

The Institute of East Asian Studies gratefully acknowledges All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington D.C. for the generous loan of these pictures.

Public Programs:

August 10, 4:30 p.m.
145 Dwinelle Hall
UC Berkeley
Documentary Screening: "Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard"
(Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Bryan Reichhardt, Producers)
Observance of the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Sneak Preview of the film and discussion with writer-director Bryan Reichhardt
Moderated by Steven Vogel, Political Science, and Chair, Center for Japanese Studies,
UC Berkeley

September 11, 4:00 p.m.
IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor
UC Berkeley
Lecture: "Hiroshima Maidens, Bikini Islanders, and Lucky Dragons: Contesting War Memories and Promoting Peace in Cold War Japan and the US"
Speaker: Elyssa Faison, History, University of Oklahoma
Moderated by Junko Habu, Anthropology, UC Berkeley
Closing Reception follows.

Sponsored by the Institute of East Asian Studies and the Center for Japanese Studies.


ieas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-2809


(No event on these dates: September 3, 2012)