A-bomb Images

Landmarks of Hiroshima: Monument of the A-bombed Teachers and Students of National Elementary Schools

by Kenji Namba, Senior Staff Writer

Desire to see peace education efforts continue

“The heavy bone must be a teacher,
The small skulls beside it students gathered around.”

This poem, written by A-bomb poet Shinoe Shoda (1910-1965), is inscribed on the pedestal of the Monument of the A-bombed Teachers and Students of National Elementary Schools, which stands in a greenbelt on Peace Boulevard, just southwest of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The monument was unveiled on August 4, 1971 with 1,400 people in attendance, including relatives of the victims, teachers, and elementary school and junior high school students. Through a staged reading of poems and impressions which shared the emotions of their contributors, the stories of the children, parents, and teachers who had survived the bombing were told. To the principals’ association, teachers’ union, and PTA members who had worked to raise the monument, it was a long-awaited moment.

Before the bombing occurred, Hiroshima students from the 3rd to 6th grades had largely been evacuated from the city. Children in the first and second grades, along with students in junior high school, remained behind. No summer vacation was observed that year so on the day the bomb was dropped, the elementary school students went off to school and a number of junior high school students were mobilized to help dismantle buildings to create a fire lane.

It is estimated that about 2,000 students and 200 teachers of the national schools were killed by the bomb. To date, however, the identities of just 885 students and 143 teachers have been confirmed.

The statue, standing 2.4 meters tall, was made by sculptor Hisashi Akutagawa (1915-1998). It depicts a female teacher cradling a wounded child and looking up at the sky with an expression of grief on her face.

Takashi Shimohara, 81, a member of the Hiroshima Prefecture Hibakusha Teachers’ Association, attends a memorial service at the monument every August 4. He continues to pray for “the continuation and development of peace education efforts that teach the importance of life.”

(Originally published on October 3, 2011)