Filling in the Blanks in History Over 75 Years “Hiroshima no Kuuhaku” (Literally: “The Blanks of Hiroshima”)—Unresolved Victims of the Atomic Bombing
The Chugoku Shimbun (located in Naka Ward, Hiroshima) has been serializing “Hiroshima no Kuuhaku” since 2019, where it publishes original reporting on victims of the atomic bombing that have remained unknown to the public, bringing to light countless unresolved issues, and went on to win the 2020 Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association Prize. It was also published as a book in July 2021. The Peace Media Center department of the Chugoku Shimbun plans and edits the serial. We interviewed Ms. Kanazaki Yumi, the director of the Peace Media Center, and reporters Mizukawa Kyosuke and Kuwashima Miho.
”Chugoku Shimbun has consistently worked reporting for peace, and we made special effort in writing the “Hiroshima no Kuuhaku” series in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing. The number of atomic bombing victims until the end of 1954 is commonly thought to be 140,000, plus or minus 10,000, but, based on the names of the dead, the actual number is approximately 89,000. With a large margin of error like this, we focused on capturing the yet unknown reality of the damage caused by the atomic bombing using investigative journalism, primarily by Mizukawa. Kuwabara and other reporters also joined the project to collect photos from the past and recreate the Hiroshima cityscape, which was destroyed by fire and is no longer recognizable, both in print and on the website. This is our two-pronged approach to reporting.” (Kanazaki)
The Hond-dori area the day after the bombing. A corpse with bend legs is visible in the front (Photo: Kishida Mitsugi, provided by: Kishida Teppei）
Senior reporters have build up a legacy of reporting materials, and it has become difficult to discover new things. Mr. Mizukawa re-read the materials and looked for a new angle.
“I decided to do this type of research because I took a four-month childcare leave when my child was born. I spent that time with my family, something that seemed to be a matter of course. But some children may have been born on the day of the bombing, on August 6, and died after only a few hours of life, and people who did not belong to a school or company are easy to overlook. In addition, some of the orphans whose parents died during the evacuation did not receive any relief from the government, and this fact has yet to be investigated. One such individual told me, ‘I want you to know that there are other victims like me.’ It made me rethink the way I was reporting.” (Mizukawa)
People being photographed in front of the Industrial Promotion Hall (Provided by Hamai Tokusou)
Ms. Kuwashima was in charge of re-creating the cityscape as they were before the atomic. She went door to door in the Hatchobori, Honkawa, Senda, Kokutaiji, and Shima Hospital areas to collect photos hidden in each home, and to ask for information.
“It wasn’t uncommon for the photos to reveal facts that the family was unaware of. I was also contacted by a man who lost his father in the bombing a week before he was born, and I interviewed him. After seeing the photos from the period in the magazine, he wanted to know how his father, who was a military doctor, had lived. It was opportunity for bereaved family members to come to terms with a past that had been covered up for a long time,” said Mr. Kuwajima.
Hon-dori shopping street decorated with Suzuran streetlights, 1930. (Provided by Masuda Suukyou)
A pre-war view of the East side of the Enkobashi Bridge. The bridge was heavily trafficked (archived at the public archives office of Hiroshima City)
The response to the series came both from subscribers as well as outside of the prefecture, as it was linked to Yahoo News in July and August 2020.
“I’m happy that people read the series and decided to speak up about their past and take action. The existence of facts that remain unknown tells us how enormous the damage caused by the atomic bombing was. I think the fact that we were able to reveal the truth of even one person, rather than giving up in the face of the difficulty of the feat, is a major achievement for the series. I hope to continue cover information on the bombing as a publisher local to the affected area.” (Kanazaki)
The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association’s reason for giving the series the award states that it “demonstrated that blanks in history can be filled in even after 75 years.” Kanazaki states that “this series is not a conclusion, but a waypoint,” intimating at her intent on continuing to discover new facts as she continues reporting.
【Hiroshima no Kuuhaku HP】
【Hiroshima no Kuuhaku Book Version】
Chugoku Shimbun x The Mediasion
See https://flag.style/magazine/books_kuhaku_pr/ for details
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