Photo depicts panoramic view of Hiroshima before the atomic bombing

by Masami Nishimoto, Senior Staff Writer, and Junpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

The existence of a panoramic photograph, taken from Hijiyama Hill and depicting the cityscape of Hiroshima in the 1930s, was made public on May 7. Wakaji Matsumoto, who ran the Hiroshima Photography Studio before the war, took the photo and kept it at his parents’ home in nearby Hatsukaichi City. Mr. Matsumoto died in 1965 at the age of 76. No photos presenting a detailed view of the eastern part of the Hiroshima delta prior to the atomic bombing had been found, thus this image is confirmed to be the first of its kind.

The photo measures 106 cm by 16 cm. Captions attached to the picture include “Hiroshima cityscape taken from Hijiyama Hill.”

The photo clearly captures such sights as river boats floating on the Kyobashi River, which flows through the eastern part of the delta, rows of houses reflected on the river in the former Hiratsuka District in Naka Ward, and laundry and carp-shaped streamers flapping in the Danbara District in Minami Ward. While the main building of the Hiroshima University of Literature and Science (today, Hiroshima University’s Faculty of Science) is seen, a structure completed in 1931, the seven-story Hiroshima Fukokukan building, built in 1936 near the headquarters of the Geibi Bank, is not. In this way, it can be determined that the photo was taken in the early 1930s.

According to the census conducted in 1935, the population of Hiroshima City at the time was roughly 310,000, making it the seventh most populous Japanese city. The cityscape of Hiroshima is believed to have been taken from Gobenden Park atop Hijiyama Hill with a panoramic camera whose lens can pivot around a fixed point.

Mr. Matsumoto opened his photo studio after returning to Japan from the United States in 1927. He had earlier emigrated to Los Angeles, where he studied photography. Before the atomic bombing, he brought his prints to his parents’ home in Hatsukaichi, thus saving them from destruction. After Mr. Matsumoto’s death, they were held by his relatives. Photos of the Nakajima District, which later became the hypocenter area of the atomic bombing, were taken in 1938 from the rooftop of the former Chamber of Commerce and Industry building and these images were also recently found. Kazuhiko Takano, director of the Hiroshima Municipal Archives, said, “This is a very valuable photograph in that it provides evidence of Hiroshima’s past, which was annihilated by the atomic bombing.”

(Originally published on May 8, 2009)

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Photos vividly depict Hiroshima before the atomic bombing (Feb. 21, 2009)