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In pics | 70th anniversary: Hiroshima after the atomic bomb and today

world Updated: Aug 06, 2015 10:43 IST
Hiroshima

The-etched-shadow-of-a-passerby-is-seen-imprinted-on-the-road-surface-of-Yorozuyo-Bridge-due-to-the-heat-of-the-atomic-bombing-of-Hiroshima-on-August-6-1945-in-Hiroshima-in-this-handout-photo-taken-by-the-US-Army-between-October-and-November-1945-and-distributed-by-the-Hiroshima-Peace-Memorial-Museum-REUTERS-US-Army-Hiroshima-Peace-Memorial-Museum-Handout

Last month, with a handful of black-and-white archival photos in hand, I set out with my camera to document how Hiroshima had changed, 70 years after the atomic bomb.

I grew up in Yokohama, and had never been to this western Japanese city before, though I had seen plenty of images on television.

My first impression was of a modern city on a steamy summer day. I imagined the same intense heat, even in the morning, had greeted people headed to work on the morning of Aug 6, 1945. At 8.15 am, still 2,000 feet above the ground, the falling bomb detonated, forever changing their lives.

Some 90 percent of the city was destroyed, which is why it looks so new today. An estimated 140,000 people died in a city of 350,000, including those who succumbed to severe radiation exposure through the end of 1945.

The 1959 movie "Hiroshima Mon Amour" left a strong impression on me. The city as portrayed in the movie looked like any other, just 14 years after the devastation. I wondered how an outsider - a visiting French actress in 1959, or me today - could fully understand what had happened.

When I was traveling abroad 30 years ago, a man asked me a question: "Are there any trees, does grass grow in Hiroshima?"

I was shocked; I knew that trees and flowers grew the same as anywhere in the world.

The city I found was very much rebuilt and alive, with a population today of 1.2 million. The streetcars are packed again. The stark wasteland seen in the black-and-white photos taken soon after the bombing is but a memory.

The remains of one building stand on a river bank in the same place as 70 years ago. The Atomic Bomb Dome, now a UN World Heritage Site, has become the iconic image of Hiroshima.

It wasn't as big as I had imagined. Then I thought, the building itself may be small, but its meaning is huge to all of us human beings.

A young couple passed by the dome, hand-in-hand. Before the atomic bomb, did many couples walk by like them?



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A combination picture shows local residents walking near Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in this handout photo taken by Shigeo Hayashi in October 1945 and released by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (top), and the same location on July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Shigeo Hayashi/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato


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A combination picture shows the gutted Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (C), which is currently called the Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in this undated handout photo taken by Toshio Kawahara and released by his grandchild Yoshio Kawamoto (top), and the same location near Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima on July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Toshio Kawamoto/Yoshio Kawamoto/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato


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A combination picture shows the etched shadow of a passerby that was imprinted on the road surface of Yorozuyo Bridge, due to the heat of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in this handout photo taken by the US Army between October and November 1945 and distributed by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (top), and the same location on July 29, 2015. This location was 860 meters (2,822 ft) from the centre of the blast; the unshielded asphalt surface was scorched, while the areas that were shielded are a lighter colour. REUTERS/US Army/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato

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A combination picture shows the gutted Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (L), which is currently called the Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, as people walk on Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in this handout photo taken by Shigeo Hayashi in October 1945 and released by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (top), and the same location on July 28, 2015.REUTERS/Shigeo Hayashi/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato
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A combination picture shows the Urakami Cathedral (C), which was destroyed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in this undated handout photo taken by Shigeo Hayashi and distributed by the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (top), and the rebuilt cathedral in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, on July 31, 2015.REUTERS/Shigeo Hayashi/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato
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A combination picture shows the ruins of Nagasaki Medical College, destruction caused by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 in this undated handout photo taken by Torahiko Ogawa and distributed by Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (top) and the same location in Nagasaki, Japan July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Torahiko Ogawa/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum /Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato

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A combination picture shows the south face of Urakami Cathedral, which was destroyed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in this undated handout photo taken by Hisashi Ishida and distributed by the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (top) and the rebuilt cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Hisashi Ishida/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum/Handout via Reuters/Issei Kato

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