Column: A wooden rice paddle and peace

“I don’t want to eat sweet potatoes today,” Fusako Harada, a first-year student at a girls’ school, told her mother on the morning of August 6, 1945, 72 years ago today. Her mother then shared her rice with Fusako. After finishing her breakfast, Fusako left home with the words “See you later” and went to help tear down houses to create a fire lane. She never returned home again. This was the story Fusako’s mother told the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Fusako’s mother surely used a rice paddle to scoop up the rice for Fusako’s lunchbox before sending her off to work that morning. It should have been an ordinary morning for the families of Hiroshima, despite the hardships of wartime. But the atomic bomb stole away their everyday lives.

The life people lived on that morning can be seen in the layer of earth beneath the museum’s main building, which was the surface of the ground at the time. Artifacts from the excavation of that site are now being displayed in the east building of the museum. These items include charred wooden boards, metal kitchenware, pieces of glass...and a burnt wooden rice paddle that has retained its original shape.

Rice paddles were used to pray for victory in the war with a play on words involving the Japanese term “meshitoru,” which can mean both scooping rice and capturing enemies. The burnt chunk of wood, found beneath the former Zaimoku-cho area that was once lined with homes and shops, conveys to us the folly of war and nuclear weapons and the importance of our everyday lives, which are irreplaceable.

More than 4,000 people lived in and around the Peace Memorial Park area before the atomic bombing. However, many visitors mistakenly believe that this area was a park even before the atomic bomb destroyed the city. The annual Peace Memorial Ceremony is held on the site where the daily life that was lost still lies 70 centimeters below the surface of the ground.

(Originally published on August 6, 2017)