Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Small bowl becomes memento of lost mother

Memories of life in the former Tenjin-machi district

by Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer

In the storage room of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a small bowl decorated with a flowery pattern, less than 10 centimeters in width. The bowl was found 73 years ago in the former Tenjin-machi district, where the City of Hiroshima is now pursuing a search for the purpose of displaying to the public the A-bomb remains that lie buried in the ground in today’s Peace Memorial Park. The bowl conveys the fact that people once lived in this area, which was once a thriving part of downtown Hiroshima. But all was destroyed by the atomic bomb.

The bowl is a memento of Tomi Yamasaki, the mother of Kanji Yamasaki, 90, who once lived in the former Tenjin-machi district and now resides in Fuchu-cho, Hiroshima Prefecture. Mr. Yamasaki donated the bowl to the Peace Memorial Museum. He recalls that the bowl was used for eating kidney beans and green vegetables.

Mr. Yamasaki was at Hiroshima Second Middle School (now Kanon High School) when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Although he was seriously injured, he managed to get back to his home in Tenjin-machi the following day. But when he arrived home, his mother was nowhere to be seen.

That September, Mr. Yamasaki returned to the rubble of their house with his older sister, who had evacuated into the countryside prior to the A-bomb attack. Although they were unable to find the remains of their mother, they came across the small bowl on the ground. Mr. Yamasaki’s wife, Atsuko, 84, received the bowl from his sister and carefully kept it at home.

Near the site of the search being conducted by the City of Hiroshima is a monument dedicated to the people, like Mr. Yamasaki and his family, who once lived in the northern part of the former Tenjin-machi area. Mr. Yamasaki has taken good care of the monument over the years and has talked to children about what the area was like before the atomic bombing. He says that the area was a bustling place with many kinds of businesses and that he often played in the river. He hopes that many people will learn about the old Tenjin-machi district and what made it such a wonderful part of town.

(Originally published on December 11, 2018)