Silent Witness

Silent witness: Flag for “reconstruction” that stood on the A-bombed landscape

The popular animated film “In This Corner of the World” tells the story of a young woman and her family living through the war in the cities of Hiroshima and Kure. Based on the manga by Fumiyo Kono, the film was directed by Sunao Katabuchi, who poured himself into creating it. Near the end of the movie is a scene that has generated considerable word-of-mouth among fans.

The scene shows the woman reuniting with her husband in the center of Hiroshima after the city has been devastated by the atomic bomb. In the burnt ruins a flag has been planted that bears two Chinese characters signifying “reconstruction.” Serving as the model for this flag was an A-bombed artifact held at the Peace Memorial Museum. Mr. Katabuchi reportedly went to great lengths to research the lives of the people and their environments back then for use in the film, and decided that this flag suited the needs of the movie.

The actual flag is held in the storage room of the museum. The two Chinese characters, measuring 73 centimeters high and 43 centimeters wide, are powerfully made. According to a staff member of the museum, these characters were written by Tomojiro Obara (61 at the time), who was exposed to the radioactive fallout from the bomb in present-day Enokimachi, Naka Ward, 900 meters from the hypocenter. They were written in India ink on fabric from a shirt, both found amid the charred rubble. He planted the flag at the site of his house one day after the atomic bombing.

Mr. Obara took to his bed about a week after the bombing and passed away on September 1. The flag he made was donated to the museum in 1976. The colorfast characters on the flag convey the resolve of one resident who died while wishing for the rebirth of his city.