Landmarks of Hiroshima: A-bomb Monument of Hiroshima Municipal Girls’ High School

by Kenji Namba, Senior Staff Writer

Famous formula serves as symbol of the atomic bomb

In the past, the people of Hiroshima called Hiroshima Municipal First Girls’ High School (now, Funairi High School) “Ichijo” (“first girls’) or “Ichiritsu kojo” (“municipal girls’ high) for short. On August 6, 1945, 541 of the school’s first- and second-year students, along with seven teachers, perished in the atomic bombing while helping to dismantle buildings to create a fire lane in Kobiki-cho (present-day Nakajima-cho). In all, including upper-class students and teachers in other locations at the time of the blast, the school suffered 676 deaths, the largest number of victims among schools in Hiroshima.

The monument for the school stands to the south of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, right by the west end of Peace Bridge, which crosses the Motoyasu River. It was in this vicinity that the students were working.

The stone monument measures 1.7 meters high and 1.3 meters wide. It bears no inscription with words like “atomic bomb” or “consoling the spirits of the dead.” Instead, on the front of the monument is the image of three girls, carved in relief. The girl in the middle wears baggy work pants and holds a box with the formula “E=MC²” written on it. The other two girls, wearing skirts and holding a flower and a dove, lay comforting hands on the head of the girl who is ascending to heaven.

The monument was first erected on the grounds of the school in 1948, three years after the bombing. In those days, Japan was still under the occupation of Allied Forces, and it was difficult to speak openly about the damage caused by the A-bomb attack. For this reason, when the monument was unveiled, it was not referred to as a cenotaph; it was called a peace tower.

The monument was designed by Kensuke Kouchiyawa (1900-1980), a sculptor from Yamaguchi Prefecture. According to a record left by the then principal of the high school Zoroku Miyagawa, the design was conceived after the sculptor visited a highly-respected physicist and sought advice. He came up with the idea of using the formula from the well-known theory of relativity formulated by Albert Einstein. It is believed that the formula, which was used in the development of the atomic bombs, symbolizes the atomic bomb itself.

The monument was relocated from the school grounds to its current spot in 1957. Every year on August 6, a memorial ceremony is held in front of the monument, which includes students from Funairi High School.

(Originally published on September 19, 2011)
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