Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Three items of clothing worn by students who fell victim to the A-bombing

Replicas of clothing also donated to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

by Makoto Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

A girl’s school jacket that cannot hold its original shape due to the A-bomb’s blast and heat rays. A boy’s tattered school uniform, with scissor cuts. A sailor-style blouse worn by a schoolgirl who narrowly survived the atomic bombing. These three A-bombed artifacts, donated separately to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and held in the museum’s storage room, have something in common: replicas were made of each item for a special exhibition. In 2010, the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum organized this special exhibition, titled “From Hiroshima to Hiroshima,” which explored the changes that have taken place in the city of Hiroshima through a focus on the Atomic Bomb Dome and its former identity, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.

In late July, four instructors from the Asaki Ishida Total Fashion College visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to donate the replicas that were made eight years ago. They helped the Prefectural Art Museum with the work of replicating the A-bombed clothing for the special exhibition. Asaki Ishida Total Fashion College, located in Hatchobori, Naka Ward, sent many graduates out into the fashion world over the course of decades, but the school was regretfully closed at the end of this past March.

Instructors and students of the college worked on the replicas of the A-bombed clothing for the exhibition. The display of these clothes drew the public’s attention and helped put a spotlight on the many boys and girls who became victims of the atomic bomb. These replicas had been stored in the college warehouse until Mieko Yamazaki, 73, the vice principal of the school, began putting things in order and thought of making use of them after the school closed. With the aid of a curator at the Prefectural Art Museum, they offered to donate these items to the Peace Memorial Museum.

Creating replicas of the A-bombed clothing also involved the process of handing down the A-bomb experience to the next generation. The college students who were involved in this project were graduates of the same schools that the three A-bomb victims had gone to: First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls' High School (now Minami High School), Hiroshima Second Middle School (now Kanon High School) and Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School. Each graduate worked on the item of clothing that had belonged to the person from the same school.

It was difficult for the students to measure the old A-bombed uniforms in the storeroom of the museum. Looking back at that time, one college instructor, Chikako Nakaoka, 67, said, “The replicas aren’t exactly the same, but we tried to make the clothes look like the original ones as much as possible by looking for old kimono fabric that had a similar texture.”

The size of the finished clothing was small, showing the smaller build that teens had during the war. The curator at the Peace Memorial Museum who received the replicas said, “The children were smaller back then, yet they were still mobilized and forced to work for the war effort.”

The museum will consider new ways to make use of the donated clothing, such as displaying them alongside the A-bombed artifacts when lending them to other institutions. They will no doubt become precious “educational materials” for younger generations who feel removed from the reality of the war and the atomic bombing that occurred 73 years ago.

(Originally published on August 20, 2018)