Elementary school alumni hope to hold exhibition of artwork sent to U.S. in 1947

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

Alumni of Honkawa Elementary School in downtown Hiroshima have formed a group to promote the “homecoming” of drawings and calligraphy sent from the school to a church in Washington, D.C. 61 years ago. The works were sent to the United States in appreciation of school supplies sent by Americans who had learned of the shortage of goods in Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. At the first meeting of the group on July 31, the members vowed to realize the exhibition of the works of art around August 6 of next year.

A total of 48 drawings and calligraphy are still preserved in a church in Washington, D.C. The pictures include drawings of the area around the A-bomb Dome with signs of recovery indicated by a streetcar, a child playing on a swing, a row of cherry blossom tress, and carp streamers. They are lively, colorful images created with paint and crayons. Shizumi Shigeto, 56, a dancer living in the United States, views these drawings and calligraphy as mementos of a little-known exchange between Japan and the U.S. during the city’s period of reconstruction and has been pursuing efforts to produce a documentary film on the exchange since 2006.

About 20 people, including alumni of the school who created the drawings, Ms. Shigeto, who was visiting the school for filming, and citizen volunteers, attended the first meeting held at Honkawa Elementary School. Ms. Shigeto reported on the prospect of obtaining a loan of the artwork.

On August 3, the group will visit Steven Leeper, chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, and ask if the group can use Peace Memorial Museum free of charge as a venue for the exhibition. The group is also considering inviting people from the church. To cover the costs of the effort, including the expense of shipping the artwork to Japan, the group is developing a financial plan with an eye toward the use of public subsidies.

Genji Higashikawa, 71, chair of the group and one of the former students who made a drawing, is the owner of a sushi restaurant and a resident of Naka Ward, Hiroshima. Looking forward to the exhibition, he remarked, “It’s a miracle that these drawings created more than 60 years ago are still being preserved in the United States. I want to see the homecoming of the artwork and tell children today about the exchange from that time.”

(Originally published on August 1, 2009)

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