Silent Witness

Silent Witness: A-bombed doll returns to Hiroshima from the United States

by Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer

The only thing known about the doll is that an American soldier picked it up in Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bombing. Until that day, what sort of little girl had treasured it? The doll, made of fabric and about 17 centimeters tall, is now held in the storage room of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Clad in a red kimono, it has big round eyes and pink cheeks.

A picture book about this doll was published in 2011. The book is titled Umi o watatta Hiroshima no ningyo (The Doll from Hiroshima That Crossed the Ocean) and the author is Kazu Sashida, 51, a picture book writer who lives in Konosu, Santana Prefecture. Ms. Sashida made a trip to the United States to visit the woman who had preserved the doll for many years. Her name is Nancy Meaders, the mother of the doll’s donor, and she lives in Texas. Ms. Meaders acquired the doll from a friend who served as a U.S. soldier and came to Hiroshima as part of the occupation forces after the end of the war. She said that she showed her children the doll and told them about the atomic bombing.

Ms. Meaders lost her elder brother in the war. Ms. Sashida was struck by the fact that Ms. Meaders seemed to personally grasp the tragedy of the atomic bombing and wondered if the girl who once owned the doll had been able to survive or if she searched for her parents amid the flames. Ms. Sashida said, “I felt empathy with her and her compassion for others, regardless of whether they were allies or foes.” She then wrote the picture book based on her interactions with Ms. Meaders and her family in connection with the doll. Of the more than 20,000 A-bombed artifacts stored at the museum, only a few have been featured in a picture book.

(Originally published on November 13, 2018)