Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome
Isabel Guadarrama, Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2015
After the bombing of 1945, Hiroshima stood in ruin. All had been destroyed by the explosion. All but one building remained, the A-Bomb Dome. This painting captures what was left of the A-Bomb Dome after the bombing. Jan Letzel, an architect from the Czech Republic, designed this Western styled building built out of brick and cement. Although brick buildings are vulnerable to earthquakes, they hold up against fires. As seen in figure 1, the buildings made out of brick survived the bomb, while all the wooden structures were wiped out. An additional Western feature was the garden to the south of the building. Other unique features the building contained were the curved walls and the copper-plated dome (Slideshow of Atomic Bomb Dome).
This building was originally built to sell produced goods and therefore was given the name Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall (figure 2). In April of 1915, the Hiroshima Products Trade Fair was held in this building, four months before its opening date. During the fair, the building was lit up every night making the site popular. In 1933, the name of the building was changed to Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. However, in 1944, the building came to be used as governmental offices and other control unions due to the intensifying war that demanded more spaces for government decision-making. This led to the cancellation of all commercial purposes of the building. When the bomb was dropped, everyone inside the building died instantly as the building slowly caught fire. The framework that survived would soon be known as the A-Bomb Dome as seen in figure 3.
In 1966, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, claimed the building an important historical structure, and designated it for preservation as a World Heritage site (The Story of the A-bomb Dome). This launched two major fundraising campaigns to help preserve the building. The first fundraising raised 66 million yen (equivalent to 665,676 dollars in today's currency) and led to the building's first preservation project in 1967. It's second fundraising and preservation was in 1989. People were able to raise 395 million yen (equivalent to 3,983,970 dollars in today's currency), more than five times of what was gathered on the first fundraising campaign. To this day, people all over the world continue to donate for the preservation of the A-Bomb Dome.
Through major fundraisings, the A-Bomb building has become an emblem of lasting peace in Hiroshima, and has come to symbolize Hiroshima's motto "No More Hiroshimas" (Wish of Hiroshima). Due to the building's representation of the West through its Western style, it has also developed awareness against nuclear weaponry in Japan (A-bomb Dome Registered as World Heritage). One can say that as the number of people donating towards the building increase, the support towards this motto increases as well. Located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the A-Bomb Dome is currently one of the popular Hiroshima landmarks to visit. Today, a replica of the dome--made at 73% of the original dimensions--is also located inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
The painting itself was a gift to Dr. Joseph B. Shane, the then vice president of Swarthmore College, from the president of the University of Hiroshima, Tatesuo Morito. Morito visited the United States on March of 1951 under the sponsorship of the United States Government. He was originally visiting the University of Pennsylvania, but the Minister of Education of Tokyo included a visit to Swarthmore during his week in the country. An inscription on the back of the painting reads "To Dr. Joseph B. Shane, with cordial gratitude and best wishes, Tatesuo Morito." This gift symbolizes peace between the different cultures especially those marked by the war as the culprits and the victims or West and East. It shows the audience that there is no need for hatred, but the support each country is giving one another, this includes the fundraising and aid coming from both countries as needed.