Documentary film depicting the reconstruction of Hiroshima is newly found

by Yoko Nitta, Staff Writer

A documentary film titled “Hiroshima,” made 12 years after the atomic bombing, has been newly found. The City of Hiroshima made the film to convey its reconstruction efforts to people in Japan and abroad, but the film lay forgotten for many years, buried underneath other materials. The Hiroshima Municipal Archives, which will preserve the film in a digital format, commented, “A film of this length, with its many scenes of the reconstruction period of Hiroshima, is a rare find.” The film will be screened for the public at an exhibition to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the founding of Hiroshima City, to be held from August 20 at Fukuya Department Store in downtown Hiroshima.

Made in 1957, “Hiroshima” is a 25-minute color documentary that was shot on 16 millimeter film. In one scene, the film shows the former Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium being built near Peace Memorial Park. Although the stadium’s use as the venue for professional baseball games ended last fall, when the film was made it was a brand-new facility, completed in July 1957. The film refers to the stadium as “Hiroshima’s pride and joy, a dreamy diamond seen clearly in the night sky.” The film also contains a lively scene of Peace Boulevard as well as images of construction work to channel the Otagawa River.

The last scene of the film depicts events at Peace Memorial Park on August 6, 1957 when the 13th memorial service was conducted. In Buddhist teachings, the 13th memorial service is recognized as one of the most significant for the deceased. (Buddhists count 1945 as the ceremony’s first year.) Following the memorial service conducted by religious groups of different denominations, and the Peace Memorial Ceremony, the narrator concludes the film by stressing: “We must never permit another atomic bombing.”

An official working at the archives found the film hidden in the shelves of the Hiroshima City Public Relations Division. While conducting research on the film, the archives found that an English version of the film also exists. The English version was later donated to the archives by Naoyuki Watanabe, 63, a lawyer and resident of Nishi Ward, who owned it. Mr. Watanabe is the eldest son of the late Hiroshima Mayor Tadao Watanabe.

According to minutes made by the City Council, Mainichi Eigasha Co. was commissioned to produce the film and the project incurred costs of 2.22 million yen. It seems that Mayor Watanabe brought the film to the United States to convey the reconstruction of the city in order to attract visitors for the Hiroshima Restoration Exhibition held in 1958.

“It’s rare to see a documentary film of this length depicting Hiroshima between the years of 1955 and 1960, explained Kazuhiko Takano, director of the archives. “It can show us the whole path of the city’s reconstruction.”

The film is being screened at the exhibition commemorating the founding of the city until September 1. Admission is free.

(Originally published on July 31, 2009)