HIROSHIMA CITY

The mountains are like dragon's teeth.
Five rivers flow down out of them, cut through the huge delta and empty into the Seto Inland Sea.
Hiroshima City spreads out across this delta.
But welcome to the rare!
Rare a 3000 year old castle town where nothing older than 50 years is still standing. Rare the city unified by one critical event, that specific day: a certain hour.
Rare a city, like Jerusalem, that serves as symbolic birthplace for a new era of human history.

An American writer, Noam Chomsky, wrote:
"I remember on the day of the Hiroshima bombing, for example, I remember that I literally couldn't talk to anybody. There was nobody. I just walked off by myself. I was at a summer camp at the time, and I walked off into the woods and stayed alone for a couple of hours when I heard about it. I could never talk to anyone about it and I never understood anyone's reaction. I felt completely isolated."
He was 16 years old on 6 August 1945: the same age as these japanese school kids looking up at the blue sky above them on the screen, a bright blue sky with tall white cumulous clouds.
The plane that emerges out of these clouds is old, it looks like a sluggish frollon on a lazy summer day.
The kids watch. Hundreds of them, in their short skirts and military tunics, school kid uniforms.…
They watch the Enola Gray approach on the huge screen high in the hall of the Peace Memorial Museum.
Strange ritual: strange apprentissage: whatever time of day it is or year, here in this place it is always 6 August 1945, a steamy summer morning, blue sky, tropical waters of the Seto Sea, the old plane, and now this other cloud which by comparison is black and turbulent and composed with an unprecedented verticality.
Then there is literally nothing left. No city.
And the young faces look at the screen and then at eachother.

Rare the city dedicated to peace.
On each 6 August, the names of victims who have died of diseases related to the A-bomb are reported by their friends or families, and these names are added to a giant stone register. The Japanese characters carved on the front of this coffin say: "Let All The Souls Here Rest In Peace; For We Shall Not Repeat The Evil."

Swarms of people out in the new streets of this new city.
Young people.
To tell you a truth, I am only interested in young people: young people living in the shadow of this past, and also right here and now in the present of an uncertain and troubled Japan: a place that is mostly not as we think it is.
Young people in Hiroshima.
Follow them in life, and work with them like actors.
What they do: therefore, a possible mirror of what they are thinking about.

Our friends are in their early 20's:
-the beautiful Tazz who is a photographer and perhaps a student;
-Hironabu the fisherman who knows all the atols in the Seto Sea;
-the visionary, Hideyuki;
-Nobuhiro the film director;
-Toshi the dockworker;
-John and Alice, American midwesterners who run the Peace Center Youth Hostel that is full all year with young peace pilgrims from around the world;
- the waitress Mikiko, whose mother owns the bar.
Hiroshima is their city.
They don't say much to us, but they lead us to what needs to be seen.

("The emphasis, in Ozu's work, on the quotidean, the here-and-now, on everyday gesture and everyday objects, and on their fine appreciation-by both characters and 'camera'--- this is related to the Tea Ceremony, Cha-No-Yu, which means 'HOT WATER FOR TEA.' It means that much and no more. A ceremony that was described in the 16th Century in the following way:
Be sure you know
That the tea ceremony, in essence,
Is nothing
But to boil water
Make tea and drink it.
Concrete, material, tangible, specific. The rest is questionable interpretation.")

The triangular delta island between the Motoyasu and Honkawa Rivers was the heart of the old Hiroshima. That's where the bomb was dropped: ground zero. The A-bomb Memorial Dome is there, that odd skeleton dome of rusted iron, a little brick building, quaint, intimate, the way the scale of the past so often appears to us….
But…there is something more, something other…I have been here at night, and felt this little building melt into the luxurious velvet darkness, leaving behind a kind of phosphorescent skeleton, an after-life outline of itself, a trace in the darkness like an x-ray of our collective history.

And this strange sense of past and present together, overlayed and inseperable, persists when you sit in Hijiyama Park at night. Hijiyama is a mountain in the middle of the otherwise flat delta city. It is wondrous steep and wild. The Museum of Contemporary Art is hidden by the tropical folliage, as are the old gray military buildings where the effects of radiation on the human body are still tracked and treated.

And far below Hijiyama the labyrinthe streets of this city glitter and dance like beads of light in the thick wet blackness, and the sound of the drums and flutes, the cries of actors inside their giant puppets rise up from the Shinto temple which is at the base of the mountain.
Heavy moist darkness on Hijiyama.
It is 6 August 1998: a night that never seems to end.

 

 
  Robert Kramer
Paris, France
07/98

 

 

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