Panoramic photos found of Hiroshima’s reconstruction

by Masami Nishimoto, Senior Staff Writer

Valuable negatives of panoramic photographs from August 1947, revealing downtown Hiroshima rising from the ashes of the atomic bombing, have been found. Shunkichi Kikuchi (1916-1990), a professional photographer, took these photos from the roofs of the former Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry building and the former Chugoku Shimbun building, which were both located close to the hypocenter at that time. These negatives have been in the possession of Mr. Kikuchi's wife, Tokuko, who now lives in Tokyo.

The existence of these negatives depicting the period of Hiroshima's reconstruction became known during a project, conducted since March 2007, in which Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Chugoku Shimbun have been involved in digitizing photos taken in the aftermath of the bombing. This project has been carried out under a grant provided by the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation.

Mr. Kikuchi took these photos from the end of August to the end of September 1947 upon a request from the Seto Inland Sea Library which was formerly located in Hiroshima. Though a selection of his pictures were used in a collection of photos published in 1949 for overseas readers, entitled “Living Hiroshima,” most of them have never been shown to the public.

Mr. Kikuchi took these photos from the exact same rooftops used by Shigeo Hayashi (1918-2002) when Mr. Hayashi captured panoramic photos in October 1945 as a still photographer for a documentary film by the Special Committee for the Investigation of A-bomb Damage authorized by the former Ministry of Education. Mr. Kikuchi's photos, though, show the city in its early state of recovery, around the time of the first Peace Festival (currently, Peace Memorial Ceremony) held on August 6, 1947.

Mr. Kikuchi was also a still photographer for the same documentary film in October 1945. He took photos of the devastated city from October 1-20 of that year, producing 860 images, the largest output of any photographer at that time.

Peace Memorial Museum will exhibit Mr. Kikichi's valuable work, both photos from the aftermath of the bombing and the newly-found images captured during the city's period of reconstruction, in the “Shunkichi Kikuchi Photo Exhibition” which opens on February 14.

View from the former Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry building (1 image)
This image is assembled from five photos taken by Shunkichi Kikuchi and depicts the city center, at the end of August 1947, from the roof (4th floor) of the former Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry building. The Nakajima District, which would be developed into Peace Memorial Park, was still crowded with makeshift shelters. The first Peace Festival, the forerunner of today's Peace Memorial Ceremony, was held in front of the Peace Tower. Goryuso Hall was used for cultural activities during the reconstruction period. In 1947, the population of Hiroshima was 218,000.

View from the roof of the former Chugoku Shimbun building (2 images)
The image above was pieced together by the Chugoku Shimbun's Photojournalism Department from 27 photos that Shunkichi Kikuchi took at the end of August 1947. It depicts downtown Hiroshima, early in its reconstruction, from the roof (7th floor) of the former Chugoku Shimbun building, 870 meters east of the hypocenter. Along Hondori Avenue and other streets, stores and houses can again be seen. In the 1950s, when the former military ground in the Motomachi District was finally ceded by the national government, reconstruction began in earnest. The image below has been assembled from 19 photos that Shigeo Hayashi took on October 5, 1945.