Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum updates exhibits—60 items to be shown to public starting today

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

On February 26, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum opened its doors to the media as its staff changed some of the A-bomb victims’ personal belongings on permanent exhibit in its main building. It was the first time exhibits had been updated since the museum was reopened in April 2019 after major renovations. Around 60 exhibit items were changed. The updated exhibits will be open to the public starting February 27.

The change in exhibits was the first time for the area titled “Devastation on August 6,” which displays many personal belongings of students killed while helping tear down buildings to create fire lanes as part of the war effort at that time. A total of 33 items belonging to 22 victims were put on display, including school uniforms, school bags, and an air-raid hood, which the families of victims had found among the charred ruins after the atomic bombing.

The “Cries of the Soul” area exhibits photographs of A-bomb victims of various age groups, their personal belongings, and words of family members. A pair of tattered monpe work pants in the exhibit belonged to a woman who had suffered severe burns and died. Museum staff carefully placed on display 25 items from 17 victims, including the monpe pants.

The Peace Memorial Museum houses some 20,000 authentic items, including victims’ personal belongings. The items on display are regularly changed to prevent deterioration from long-term exhibition and to ensure visitors can see as many different items as possible. For the work, the museum was temporarily closed during the period February 24–26.

According to Hironobu Ochiba, a curator at the museum, “Victims’ family members actually wanted to keep the personal belongings but donated them to the museum instead based on their desire that such a tragedy should never happen again, feelings I hope visitors are able to understand.”

Hand-embroidered by Yuki Ito, who died in atomic bombing at 17, mirror cover still bloodstained

Exhibited for first time in 14 years

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

Among the newly displayed items in the main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which will open to the public on February 27, is a cover for a mirror that belonged to Yuki Ito, a young woman killed in the atomic bombing at the age of 17. The red cover, which Yuki sewed, has a design with endearing sparrows, along with bloodstains from that fateful day 76 years ago. Yuki’s younger brother Shigeo Ito, 90, a resident of the city of Higashihiroshima, donated the cover to the museum in 2002, in the hopes that it would “help advance the cause of peace.”

“My older sister was so kind, we never fought. I was so impressed by her concentration when she was doing embroidery.” The handicraft was made as an assignment when she was a student at Shintoku Girls High School. Shigeo said Yuki worked hard on the project after coming home from school, taking one year to finish.

Yuki graduated from high school in the spring of 1945. She was at the family’s home in the area of Yoshijima-honmachi (now the Yoshijima-nishi area of Hiroshima’s Naka Ward) on the morning of August 6. Their home, 2.2 kilometers southwest of the hypocenter, did not collapse in the bombing. A shard from a mirror shattered by the A-bomb blast, however, had impaled her chest. Her family found her in the courtyard, where she had been blown, bleeding from her wound. She died there, her chest covered by the mirror cover.

Shigeo, a third-year student at Shudo Junior High School (now Shudo Junior and Senior High School), returned home from his work as a mobilized student. He and his family gathered firewood and cremated his sister’s body in the backyard. As Shigeo had seen many bodies and wounded people whose skin and clothes were burned on his way home, he did not experience “sadness, so much, because I was inured to all the death and had lost feeling.”

After the war, his family went through hardships and changed houses many times, but they always kept the mirror cover as a memento of Yuki. Before her father Sotojiro Ito died in 1978 at age 85, he wrote many haiku poems about Yuki on the backs of fliers kept in the house.

Some haiku examples:

She was to go buy peaches
My daughter Yuki

The fire to burn my daughter was red
A midnight of summer

Time passes
Who knows this is where my daughter was cremated?

When Shigeo donated his sister’s mirror cover to the museum, he also donated a booklet of his late father’s haiku poems.

The last time the mirror cover had been displayed was in 2007, 14 years ago. Shigeo keeps in his home a photograph of the mirror cover. “When I see it, I remember my sister being absorbed in embroidery, and I cannot help but feel for her. I hope people see this proof of my sister’s life and think seriously about peace,” said Shigeo.

(Originally published on February 27, 2021)