‘Under a Mushroom Cloud: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Atomic Bomb’ Traveling Exhibition to Open at JANM

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Mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb explosion, Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945, 8:15 a.m. (Photo by U.S. military, courtesy of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

“Under a Mushroom Cloud: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Atomic Bomb,” a traveling exhibition organized by the two affected Japanese cities, will be installed at the Japanese American National Museum, First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo, beginning on Nov. 9 and running until June 7, 2020.

The exhibition, which helps to mark the upcoming 75th anniversary next year of the atomic bombings, was conceived and prepared by the only two cities in the world ever to be subjected to nuclear bombs: Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Over 200,000 people died immediately or by the end of the year and both cities were structurally ruined.

The after-effects of the radiation on the survivors have continued until this day, yet both cities rebuilt rather than abandon their historic sites.

“Under a Mushroom Cloud” features the damaged possessions left by the victims. Hiroshima and Nagasaki collected and preserved these artifacts, including clothing and other personal items.

The exhibition is composed of photo panels and text panels that detail the histories of the cities, the development of the two bombs, their detonations, and the immediate aftermath for the survivors, known in Japan as hibakusha, of both cities. Besides the artifacts, the exhibition will feature origami cranes folded by President Obama and Sadako Sasaki.

JANM will supplement the exhibition with panels focusing on the number of Japanese Americans who were caught in the bombings, especially in Hiroshima. Before World War II, it was common for immigrant Issei parents to send their American-born Nisei children to Japan for education. By some estimates, approximately 15,000 Japanese Americans were living in Japan in 1945.

Because large numbers of Japanese immigrants came from Hiroshima, many children were sent there to live with relatives and endured the explosion. Those that survived and were able to return to the U.S. faced ongoing health issues that were unfamiliar to the American medical community.

In addition, JANM will include different perspectives on the atomic bombings and their aftermath developed by six Japanese and Japanese American artists: painter Yuri Mason; photographers Darrell Miho and Patrick Nagatani; interdisciplinary artist Alan Nakagawa; poet and book collector Brandon Shimoda; and visual artist and filmmaker Shinpei Takeda. Their various works focus on the plight of the victims and survivors.

“The Japanese American National Museum is honored to be the venue of this historically significant exhibition,” stated Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “‘Under a Mushroom Cloud’ shares a chapter of history that all of humanity should know and understand. It is to the credit of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they created this exhibition with the hope that by sharing these stories, no one would want to employ nuclear weapons ever again.

“JANM decided to add to this exhibition, highlighting the Japanese American historic connection to these events while displaying artwork that touches upon the emotional magnitude of this story.”

“Under a Mushroom Cloud” was created through a partnership between the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The principal sponsors for the exhibition are Mazda North American Operations and Otafuku Sauce Co., Ltd., companies that have historic connections to Hiroshima. It is also supported by the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles; the Hiroshima Peace Grant from the Hiroshima Peace Creation Fund; Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd.; and the Philip and Masako Togo Kasloff Foundation.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall is known today as the Atomic Bomb Dome, circa October-November 1945. (Photo by U.S. Army, courtesy of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

The Exhibition

The traveling exhibition consists of 30 panels and 20 artifacts developed and collected by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These artifacts will be on display until March 1, 2020, before they are returned to Japan.

The panels provide detailed profiles on a number of subjects. Besides a brief history of both cities, the exhibition touches on the development of the atomic bomb by the U.S., the decision to use it against Japan and the reasons to target Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It also explains the difference between the uranium-235 (“Little Boy”) bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the plutonium-239 (“Fat Man”) bomb exploded over Nagasaki.

Through photographs, the exhibition depicts the cities before the explosions and immediately afterward. The human costs are shown through photos and artwork, including the long-term effects of radiation. The story concludes with Hiroshima and Nagasaki rebuilding and recovering and the determination of the hibakusha to lobby against of the use of nuclear weapons ever again.

JANM will introduce panels that focus on the Japanese American survivors of the atomic bombings and their physical and emotional issues after their return to the U.S.

The dark pattern from this woman’s kimono was burned into her skin by the intense heat of the Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion. Circa Aug. 15, 1945. (Photo by Gonichi Kimura, courtesy of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

Artifacts

Among the traveling artifacts:

A rosary belonging to a group of parishioners who were attending mass at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki when the explosion occurred. Nagasaki has one of the oldest Christian communities in Japan.

A blouse belonging to Mutsuko Shimogochi, 15, who was a student at Shintoku Girls High School in Hiroshima. She was walking near Shirakami Shrine when the bomb exploded and was badly burned. She managed to make it home, but passed away two days later.

An origami crane folded by President Barack Obama in 2016 while visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. He was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city of Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial.

An origami crane folded by Sadako Sasaki, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, who suffered from radiation sickness after the war. Sadako became famous for having folded 1,000 cranes during her illness.

Artwork by the Japanese and Japanese American artists will include “Particle Painting Untitled #2” (acrylic on canvas) by Yuri Mason; photos of surviving hibakusha living in Japan, America, Canada, and South Korea by Darrell Miho; “Trinity Site, Jornada Del Muerto, New Mexico” (chromogenic print) by Patrick Nagatani; a sound installation by Alan Nakagawa; a collection of 160 books collected by Brandon Shimoda; and “Alpha Decay” (ink on paper) by Shinpei Takeda.

This paper crane was folded by President Barack Obama when he visited Hiroshima in 2016. He was the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima.

Public Programs

“Passing the Legacy: Hiroshima and Nagasaki” on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be a special presentation by Takuo Takigawa, director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and testimonies followed by Q&A with Howard Kakita and Junji Sarashina, Japanese Americans who were in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. The program will be moderated by JANM Vice President of Operations/Art Director Clement Hanami, whose mother was also an atomic bomb survivor.

The premier of “Seeds,” a 20-minute documentary by director Miyuki Iwasaki about the late Kazuye Suyeishi, a Japanese American atomic bomb survivor and activist, will also be included in the program. A shorter version of the film will be shown as part of the “Under a Mushroom Cloud” exhibition.

Included with museum admission. RSVPs are recommended.

Under a Mushroom Cloud Film Festival on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. JANM is hosting a day-long film festival. JANM will screen three world-acclaimed films related to the atomic bombs. These films tell the story of people who were under the two mushroom clouds. JANM encourages the public to see the films and share these stories of resilience, love, and hopes for peace. This festival is co-presented with the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles.

“The Face of Jizo” (99 minutes, 2004, directed by Kazuo Kuroki)

“In This Corner of the World” (129 minutes, 2016, directed by Sunao Katabuchi)

“Paper Lanterns” (60 minutes, 2016, directed by Barry Frechette)

More films to be announced.

Gallery hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 12 to 8 p.m. Final visitor admissions are accepted 30 minutes before closing. Closed Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Admission: $16 adults; $7 seniors (62 and over), students with ID, youth (6-17); free for children 5 and under and JANM members. Free general admission every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. and all day every third Thursday of the month. Group rates available.

For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

Shinpei Takeda, “Alpha Decay,” 2017. Ink on paper.

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