48 works of art sent to U.S. 61 years ago to be exhibited in Hiroshima

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Former students of Honkawa Elementary School are planning the “temporary return” of drawings and calligraphy they sent to a church in the United States in 1947 not long after the end of the war. Students at the school, which was near the hypocenter of the atomic bombing, sent the art to the U.S. in appreciation for school supplies they had received. If funds to cover the cost of shipping the artwork to Hiroshima can be raised, an exhibition will be held in the city this summer.

Forty-eight works have been preserved by All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. Learning of the shortage of supplies in A-bombed areas, the church's minister sent paints and crayons to elementary schools in Hiroshima in 1946. The artwork was sent to the church in return. The minister is believed to have collected donations and sent the school supplies partly to express his dissent from American public opinion in support of the atomic bombings.

Two years ago Shizumi Shigeto, a native of Hiroshima Prefecture and a dancer now based in Washington, encountered the students' art and was moved by their works, which were filled with hope despite the tragedy of the atomic bombing. Along with working on the restoration of the artwork, she began documenting the art and interviewing people involved in it, both in Japan and the U.S., for a documentary film.

The “temporary return” of the artwork was suggested by Genji Higashikawa, 70, owner of a sushi restaurant, when he and others were filmed last year. Mr. Higashikawa, whose sketch of Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima, is among the works, said he was determined to see his picture again.

At a meeting of the reunion committee on the evening of May 9, Mr. Higashikawa and five others gathered to discuss plans for an exhibition. A final decision on the location will be made in the future, but they hope to hold the exhibition in the city center this summer.

Kojiro Taida, 70, a business owner, is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see a picture of gladiolus drawn by his younger sister. “Even though our countries went to war against each other, there was friendship and goodwill between our citizens. I felt that sense of hope. I would like many people to see these pictures,” he said.

The reunion committee has located 20 of the 48 students whose works were sent to the U.S. They continue to try to locate the others and are also seeking donations to cover shipping costs.