Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Melted Buddhist statue

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

Marks left by blast and intense fires

There is no way to know the Buddhist statue’s expression, because its front, including its face, was melted in the atomic bombing. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in the city’s Naka Ward, hypothesizes that the 50-centimeter-high statue is made of copper or bronze. At that time, it was enshrined at Zenoji Temple in the area of Sakan-cho (now Honkawa-cho, Naka Ward), about 500 meters west of the hypocenter.

“The statue was blown off its pedestal by the blast, and its front surface was melted by the intensely hot fires,” according to one account. The chief priest Itto Yoshinaka, then 56, was believed to have been in the temple’s main hall and killed instantly. His remains were never found. According to his grandson Ryoichi Yoshinaka, 67, current chief priest of the temple, Itto did not evacuate from the site and instead stayed at the temple to guard the statue.

“The heat was so intense it melted even metal. Flesh-and-blood humans likely stood no chance,” Ryoichi said. “I pray that nothing like that ever happens again.” The Buddhist statue is now on permanent display in the main building of the Peace Memorial Museum.

(Originally published on July 6, 2020)