Documentary on the A-bomb Dome restored after 43 years

by Koji Kitamura, Staff Writer

The NHK Archives, located in the city of Kawaguchi, near Tokyo, has restored the documentary “Contemporary Images: Twenty Years of the A-bomb Dome” for public viewing after it was stored in an incomplete state for the past 43 years. The program was first aired by NHK on August 6, 1965, when the question of the A-bomb Dome’s preservation was a source of significant controversy. The restored version, which includes a soundtrack that had been missing, was made possible due to the producer of the program having saved the original script.

The documentary reveals the contentious views of A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) over the controversial issue of preserving or dismantling the A-bomb Dome and provides a glimpse of the surroundings and daily life of the hibakusha 20 years after the bombing. Opinions regarding the A-bomb Dome demonstrate both sides of the preservation debate. Those opposed to preserving the structure argued that “The sight of the dome will just remind us of the cruelty we suffered” while those in favor contended that “The bombing may be forgotten if the dome is not preserved.” In 1966, the year after the program aired, a decision on the dome was reached and preservation work was initiated with funds from various sources, including a fundraising campaign.

The program also contains valuable footage of the first meeting of the “Mushroom Club,” an organization composed of microcephalic patients and their families, as well as researchers at Hiroshima University who were investigating the possibility of preserving the dome.

The impetus to restore the documentary came from the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Tokyo while preparing their exhibition “Peace Heritage Preserved by Citizens: The A-bomb Dome and the Daigo Fukuryu Maru,” which runs through December 21. When the exhibition hall inquired about the program at NHK, the film was located but they found that it had no recorded soundtrack due to the use of a “live” narration during its airing in 1965.

Subsequently, though, it was learned that Toshimitsu Miyahara, 77, a former NHK producer who had made the documentary, saved the program script at his home. The soundtrack for the program could then be reproduced and Shiro Kajiwara, a former newscaster and the original narrator, was enlisted for the recording. Yuji Miyahara, 52, the eldest son of Toshimitsu Miyahara, attended a screening of the restored documentary at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall and said that he was eager for his father, who is currently hospitalized, to see it.

Kozo Nagata, executive director of the NHK Archives, remarked, “The experience of restoring this documentary has reaffirmed for us all that the people of Hiroshima made a momentous choice in overcoming disagreement to preserve the A-bomb Dome. The program will become available for viewing at our facility in the near future and I look forward to showing it to the citizens of Hiroshima.”

(Originally published on October 16, 2008)

Related articles
Exhibition on A-bomb Dome and Daigo Fukuryu Maru now being held (Oct. 16, 2008)