Silent Witness

Silent witness: Buttons buried on Ninoshima Island convey despair of children killed in A-bombing

Four buttons, held in the storage room of the Peace Memorial Museum since 2004, are coated with rust. They were unearthed on the island of Ninoshima. The buttons are believed to have come from the school uniform worn by children from the National School, who experienced the atomic bombing and were brought to the island. The cherry blossom design is still visible. (Photo taken by Hiroshi Takahashi)

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum holds 36 A-bombed artifacts that were unearthed on Ninoshima, a small island located in Minami Ward, Hiroshima, when excavation work was carried out on the island in 2004. The rough, rusty buttons from school uniforms are particularly heartrending. The identities of the children who once wore these uniforms with the buttons are unknown.

Responding to a request from residents, the City of Hiroshima pursued this excavation work for about two months at the site where the former Japanese army quarantine station once stood to check the condition of military horses. The remains of an estimated 85 people were discovered during this dig and placed within the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound. In addition, most of the artifacts found at that time were brought to the museum because the owners could not be identified. The excavation site has now become a memorial place where residents have made a flower garden. They care for the garden and share the tragedy that took place there with visitors.

Ninoshima is a small island located in Hiroshima Bay. In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, about 10,000 wounded people were brought to the island. These people then died, one after another, their identities unknown. Many of those who died were buried beneath the ground without being cremated.

Guided by Kazuo Miyazaki, 69, a local history researcher who lives on the island, I stood on the site where the buttons were unearthed, and reflected on the despair of the A-bomb victims. The memorial for the victims stands nearby. I wondered if the boys who wore these uniforms with the buttons were buried here in the earth, too. I shivered in the face of the icy winds blowing from the sea. In the spring, the flowers in the garden will be in full bloom, welcoming those who come to the island to mourn the victims.

(Originally published on January 15, 2018)