Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Molten lump of old coins

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

The brown mass can be recognized as a pile of old coins because barely legible on the surface are the words “Kan’ei Tsuho” (an inscription used on Japanese coins during the Edo period). As a result of the intense heat rays from the atomic bomb, the coins melted and fused together. This A-bombed artifact was found in Naka-machi (now part of Naka Ward), located about 500 meters from the hypocenter.

According to the Peace Database managed by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the coins were found at the site of a clinic established by Bunzo Hirofuji, the father of the man who donated the lump of coins, Tadao Hirofuji. On August 6, 1945, Tadao was at his worksite and survived, but his mother and sisters lost their lives while at the clinic, and his father was killed at the Hiroshima Prefectural First Girls Middle School while giving a lecture on nursing care.

Several years after the bombing, Tadao found the remains of his mother and sisters when the ground of the site where his family had lived was being leveled. The lump of old coins was unearthed along with these remains. His father, a collector of antiques, had stored the old coins in the storeroom. Most of the works of art in his collection, such as works of calligraphy and drawings, were destroyed in the conflagration, but some items were salvaged, such as a pottery vase with its mouth deformed and six glass bowls for shaved ice, which melted then solidified into a single mass.

After the war ended, Tadao worked as an official at the Hiroshima City Office. He donated some of his A-bombed items to the museum, including the lump of old coins and the deformed vase, one year after it opened. At the same time, he held onto some other old coins and gave these to the principal of an elementary school in Honolulu, Hawaii, when this person visited Hiroshima in 1963. Hiroshima and Honolulu have long had a sister city agreement. An article that appeared in the Chugoku Shimbun covering their exchange described Tadao’s wish. According to the article, he said, “Both Hiroshima and Honolulu experienced tragedy during World War II. I hope my coins can help strengthen the bond between our two cities.”

(Originally published on October 22, 2018)