Striving to fill voids in Hiroshima, evidence of victims remains 76 years after atomic bombing — 212 “A-bombing photos” donated to Hiroshima Peace Museum since 2007

Four people, one research group newly identified as photographers of A-bombing photos

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

On December 4, it was learned that four individuals and one research group were responsible for at least 117 photos donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (in the city’s Naka Ward) since 2007, when the Chugoku Shimbun published results of a survey of “A-bombing photographs” of Hiroshima taken by Japanese citizens and photographers between August 6, 1945, and the end of that year. Including those taken by unidentified photographers, a total of 212 photos of the atomic bombing have been donated to the museum within the same timeframe.

For an August 14, 2007, article in a feature series titled “Record of Hiroshima,” the Chugoku Shimbun investigated the overall picture of A-bombing photos about which details had been unknown until that time, reporting that 57 people had taken a total of at least 2,571 such photos. Nearly 15 years after publication of the article, the newspaper investigated photos of the atomic bombing whose photographers had not been identified at the time of the article publication based on a record of donations since 2007. With cooperation from a museum curator, the Chugoku Shimbun also examined photos that had not undergone detailed analysis since being archived concerning times when the photos were taken.

The four people who the museum has newly identified as photographers based on accounts of donors of photos and related materials were all individuals who had experienced the atomic bombing. The late Yoshimi Nakamae entered Hiroshima City from present-day Hatsukaichi City to engage in relief efforts after the atomic bombing, taking 11 photos of the burnt ruins in the vicinity of the hypocenter between September and October 1945. Mr. Nakamae's bereaved family donated the photos in October 2007. The other three people took a total of at least 23 photos.

Among materials donated in 2018 by an individual related to the late Kiyoshi Kanai, an earthquake engineer who conducted research in Hiroshima from October in 1945, were 83 photos taken in Hiroshima by the end of 1945. Unclear is whether the photos were taken by Mr. Kanai or his assistant, but the museum has classified the images as being from a survey group composed of the two people.

Furthermore, the museum received a photo album with 18 photos of the atomic bombing owned by the late Masaaki Yamada, a member of an Osaka-based Navy survey team who was in Hiroshima on August 10 and 11th, as well as an album with 77 such photos kept by the late Takeo Yoshizawa, a mechanical engineer who entered Hiroshima in October 1945. The photographers of those 77 photos are as of yet unidentified.

Among the 212 photos taken by the four individuals and the research group and those contained in the photo albums of Mr. Yamada and Mr. Yoshizawa, four photos kept by Mr. Yoshizawa were carried in a previous publication. Most of the other photos, however, are thought not to have been made public for many years. Some of the photos were shown in the New Arrivals Exhibit at the Peace Memorial Museum after being housed at the museum. They have yet to be registered in the Peace Database, which posts the museum’s photos on the internet. The museum has said it would prepare for registration after more detailed examination of the photos. Apart from the 212 photos, some images are being examined in more detail due to a lack of background information or other reason.

Although the number of photos of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima taken by those who experienced the bombing is limited due to the chaos and lack of photographic film after the bombing, donations of once-stored photos continue today. The museum will carry on with its efforts to collect such photos in the future.

(Originally published on November 5, 2021)