Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Western-style plate dug out of A-bomb ruins is imbued with sorrow for lost child

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

A western-style plate was dug out of the burnt ruins of a home that was owned by a man who managed to survive the atomic bombing because he happened to be in a suburb of the city when Hiroshima was attacked. The plate is imbued with the heartbreaking sorrow he felt over the loss of his son, whose remains were never found, and for the surviving members of his family, whose lives were irrevocably changed as a result of the war.(The plate was donated by Saburo Kinoshita in 2015. The photo was taken by Hiroshi Takahashi).

The plate is 31 centimeters in diameter and looks as if it is decorated with a plant motif, painted on with an ink brush. But, in reality, the plate was originally pure white and these designs likely came from something located nearby, transferred onto the plate from the force of ferocious, super-hot flames. The western-style plate, which the late Kannichi Kinoshita, who was 45 in 1945, dug out of the ruins of his house, holds the deep grief he felt for his family and for his child.

On August 6, 1945, Kannichi sensed a flash and heard a loud rumble while inside the house in Otsuka (now part of Asaminami Ward), where he had moved for safety with his parents and his third son, Saburo, now 83 and a resident of Nishi Ward. When Kannichi stepped outside, he saw a huge mushroom cloud rising into the sky. “Something terrible must have happened,” he thought and then rushed toward the city center. His wife Yoshie, 34 at the time, and his second son Michio, then 13 and a second-year student at Hiroshima Municipal Junior High School (now Motomachi High School), were both at their home in Kusunoki-cho (now part of Nishi Ward), where he had once owned a soap factory.

Both his house and factory, located 1,800 meters from the hypocenter, were completely burned to the ground and he was unable to find his wife or son. Fortunately, at one of the evacuation centers he visited, he miraculously came across Yoshie, but her body was completely covered in horrific burns. Michio, however, was helping to demolish buildings in Koami-cho (now part of Naka Ward), and didn’t return. “I walked around looking for my son day after day. I could only hope that he might suddenly come back one day,” Kannichi wrote in an A-bomb memoir which he donated to the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.

But no matter how much he searched, Kannichi was unable to find any trace of Michio. So the western-style plate that he retrieved from the burnt ruins of the earthen warehouse at his home was placed next to the family’s Buddhist altar and cherished over the years. This plate originally belonged to Yoshie’s father, who had emigrated to the United States.

Yoshie, who suddenly lost a much-loved son and suffered severe wounds herself, often wept until the day she died in 1996. She would cry and say, “I don’t want to talk about the bombing or remember what happened.” As a result of Michio’s death, Saburo became the last remaining child of the Kinoshita family, which had also lost their first and fourth sons at an early age.

In 2015, Saburo donated the plate to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, hoping that it will be carefully preserved for years to come. “This plate is evidence that the tragedy of Hiroshima, 73 years ago, must never be repeated,” he said. In Saburo’s memory, his brother is still a smiling young boy. He regularly visits the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims at the beginning of the month to pay his respects.

(Originally published on February 19, 2018)