• There Must Be Bones Under the Paved Street

    Vijay Prashad

    August 9, 2019

    Satsuo Nakata, Chugoku Shimbun building, 10 August 1945.

    On 6 August 1945, the United States military dropped a bomb that contained 64kg of uranium-235 over the city of Hiroshima (Japan). The bomb took just over 44 seconds to fall from 9,400 metres and detonated 580 metres above the Shima Surgical Clinic. Over 80,000 people died instantly. This was the first use of the nuclear bomb.

    Four days later, Satsuo Nakata brought the Domei New Agency’s Leica camera to the city. He took thirty-two photographs of the devastation; each of these pictures – archived in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – is iconic. The force of the bomb flattened the city, even though less than 2% of the uranium detonated. Nakata took a picture of the office of the newspaper Chugoku Shimbun and of the Odamasa kimono store. The store’s metal twisted into a whirlwind. It is a sign of the power of this weapon. As Toge Sankichi, a hibakusha (survivor of the atom bomb) and poet, wrote of that power and its impact, as the fires burnt down from the bomb’s power in a city of 350,000: ‘the only sound – the wings of flies buzzing around metal basins’.
    This past June, an eighty-nine-year-old hibakusha, Ai Masuda, returned to Hiroshima. Seventy-four years ago, Ai Masuda (then age 15) ran through the city in search of her cousin Harue (then age 13). ‘Harue’, she said as she looked into the Motoyasu River, ‘I am sorry I was unable to find you’. Ai and Harue were students at the Hiroshima First Municipal Girls’ School. Six hundred and sixty-six students, including Harue, and ten teachers died in the blast. ‘Everyone died such a cruel death’, Ai Masuda recalled. ‘I found myself gazing at scenes from hell’.
    Shigemoto Yasuhiko was also 15 on that day. His haiku on Hiroshima stills the heart:
    Hiroshima Day – 
    I believe there must be bones
    Under the paved street.

    First published in Tricontinental: Institute of Social Research.

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