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  • The Position of Ninoshima
  • Kuraishi Shino (bio), Jason Beckman (bio), and Mikiko Hirayama (bio)
    Translated by Ellen Takata (bio)

Swarming miles of peaks like swordsLonely island winnowing downFrom water’s depths, the moon strains cold jadeAt the summit, wind cuts threads of cloud

Hayashi Harunobu, “Steep Peaks of Minoshima” (seventeenth century)1

In the depths of a panorama photograph that shows level scorched earth, just beyond the edge of all visual obstruction, lies the silhouette of an island that appears similar to Mount Fuji. It is the island of Ninoshima, long extolled as “The Little Fuji of Aki.”2 Ninoshima also has a pseudonym, Minoshima, and whether called Minoshima3 or Fujishima, it seems to have been named for its likeness to the form of a mountain.4 The photograph was taken about two months after the bombing of Hiroshima at the start of October 1945 by Bunkasha’s Hayashi Shigeo,5 who was dispatched from Tokyo to serve as a member of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. He shot it from the northern side of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, facing the eastern end of the bridge, in the vicinity of Ground Zero (fig. 12.1).6 In the panorama, assembled from 13 photographs and covering 360 degrees of Hiroshima’s streets, Ninoshima can be glimpsed in the background within the same frame as the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall, which had just been turned to ruin—the skeletal building thereafter called the Atomic Bomb Dome—behind the vastly snaking Motoyasu River. The photographer reflects: “That day, the pleasant autumn weather was perfectly clear. One way or another, I wanted to capture the whole scene. […] From there, the center of Hiroshima stretched out silently, backlit in the afternoon light.”7 Ninoshima, not surrounded by tall buildings in the Shōwa prewar period as it is today, was a charming landmark that would have been visible in the distance from just [End Page 160] about everywhere on the streets of Hiroshima. What emerges in Hayashi’s panoramic photograph is that Ninoshima is close: roughly four kilometers from Hiroshima Harbor, the distance of about a twenty-minute ferry ride. Even today, it is often visible from the city. What is astonishing is that the silhouette of the island is even more distinctly visible from the long, broad Miyuki Bridge that spans the Kyōbashi River—perhaps because it is near the river’s mouth. And this was just recently—last year, in 2014.

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Facing south from the rooftop of Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, October 10, 1945. Photographed by Hayashi Shigeo. Courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The copying of photos or text without permission is prohibited. Produced by Ari Beser.

The name-change of the bridge from Nagahashi Bridge to Miyuki Bridge originated in the Meiji Emperor’s tour of the San’yōdō Highway in 1885, the year emigration to Hawaii commenced. By 1894, after ten years of official immigration, Hiroshima remained the district to have sent the most emigrants to Hawaii in the whole country. And in less than ten years’ passing, the Emperor returned again to Hiroshima. During the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the Imperial General Headquarters was established within Hiroshima Castle and reigned as the highest command in the imperial military.8 Following the production of the official imperial portrait known as the goshin’ei (venerable true shadow) by Uchida Kuichi in 1873, in which a Western military uniform was adopted as formal attire, the Meiji Emperor was photographed—and moreover painted—exclusively in the image of a military high commander capable of controlling an empire. At the height of the war, these accumulated images of the emperor became one with reality.

In the war against China for hegemony on the Korean Peninsula, the course of the Japanese empire changed drastically. Developments in the media that conveyed the war’s detailed progress cultivated in the average person an awareness of the border between “the mainland” and “the territories.” In the Military Land Survey Department, a “photography team” was established, and large-scale documentation and reporting on the war by photographers...


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pp. 160-185
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