Atomic bomb mural headed to Shibuya

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

“Myth of Tomorrow,” Taro Okamoto's huge mural that depicts the explosion of an atomic bomb, will be entrusted to Shibuya, Tokyo. The owner of the mural, the Taro Okamoto Memorial Foundation for the Promotion of Contemporary Art, made this decision at a meeting of the Board of Directors on March 18, 2008. The cities of Hiroshima and Suita, in Osaka, had both been vying to host the mural as well, but were not selected.

Akiomi Hirano, Executive Director of the foundation and Director of the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, announced at a press conference, “The decision was made in a comprehensive manner, taking into consideration such factors as the environment for installation, the merits of the location, and preparations for receiving the mural. Though the mural will be placed in Shibuya, it should be considered a treasure for the whole of Japan. We believe it will serve as a source of inspiration for many people in its new home.”

Shibuya's proposal championed the idea of installing the mural on the elevated passageway that connects JR Shibuya Station with the building “Shibuya Mark City,” located across from the train station. The merits of this bid included the following factors: about 300,000 people move through the passageway each day and the mural can attract the attention of many people; the mural and the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, located nearby, can be of mutual support; and the framework for installing the mural already exists so funding and construction are not significant concerns. At this point, the dates for transferring ownership and mounting the mural have not yet been decided.

Hiroshima proposed building a special facility to exhibit the mural by the year 2011 at Hanover Garden, located next to the Municipal Baseball Stadium in the city center. To promote its bid, Hiroshima emphasized the significance of conveying a message of peace from the A-bombed city to the world and residents actively campaigned through such efforts as gathering signatures of support. At the same time, the city of Suita stressed the tie they have with Taro Okamoto since one of his most celebrated pieces, “Tower of the Sun,” stands in their Expo Park. However, the appeals from these two cities fell short.

“Myth of Tomorrow” is a spectacular work of art, 30 meters long and 5.5 meters high. The piece is said to depict the dignity of human beings, indomitable in the face of nuclear weapons. Mr. Okamoto created it in Mexico in the late 1960s, but it then went missing. In 2003, it was rediscovered and shipped back to Japan, where it was repaired. The Taro Okamoto Foundation announced that it would donate the mural to a worthy exhibitor and the three competing municipalities responded with interest.

Hearing the news, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba commented, “It's unfortunate that the appeal of our citizens' did not result in the outcome we desired. I hope the mural will be taken care of well in Shibuya and that many people will appreciate the message Taro Okamoto expressed through his art, of humanity rising above the tragedy of an atomic bombing.”