Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Roof tiles of hospital located at ground zero of A-bombing

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

The storage room of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum holds six A-bombed roof tiles that were discovered at ground zero of the atomic bombing. The roof tiles were collected from the ruins of Shima Hospital and the neighborhood nearby around 1949. Kaoru Shima, who was director of the hospital at the time of the bombing, donated these tiles to the museum in 1975, the year that marked the 30th anniversary of the A-bomb attack. The glaze of the tiles was melted by the bomb’s heat rays and solidified on the surface as a foamy substance. Some parts of the tiles are also burnt, discolored, or cracked.

At the time of the atomic bombing, the area around Shima Hospital was known as Saiku-machi (now part of Ote-machi, Naka Ward). The solid brick building of the hospital collapsed in the blast and was reduced to piles of rubble, quickly taking the lives of about 75 people inside, including nurses and patients. Mr. Shima was on a business trip outside Hiroshima from the day before the bombing. When he returned to the hospital after the attack, he reportedly found the wreckage still hot, with a lingering stench of death.

After adopting the orphaned child of his younger sister and her husband, who had operated a children’s hospital in the area but died in the bombing, Mr. Shima raised a wooden building in the same location to reopen his hospital. In the course of reconstructing the facility, someone picked up the roof tiles, which were simply kept in a small box for some time.

Mr. Shima never talked about his memories of the atomic bombing with his family. Two years after he secretly donated the roof tiles to the museum, he died at the age of 79. Kazuhide Shima, 83, his eldest son, said, “I think my father had a difficult life after the bombing because everyone he had worked with was gone. The roof tiles from the hypocenter are a legacy of the old Shima Hospital.” Again this year, on the morning of August 6, Kazuhide held a memorial ceremony for the A-bomb victims at his home, which is located within the premises of the hospital.

(Originally published on September 24, 2018)