Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Children of Hiroshima (原爆の子, 1952)

I know of two Japanese films which are in the public domain. One of them is Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (羅生門), and the other one is Kaneto Shindo's Children of Hiroshima (原爆の子).

The title Rashomon probably registers recognition to many readers interested in Japan, while Children of Hiroshima is probably lesser known, although there is a good chance that the film's subject can be correctly guessed from the title. The film's Japanese title, 『原爆の子』, translates literally into English as, "Children of the Atom Bomb."


Children of Hiroshima was released in Japan in 1952, seven years after the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima in 1945, and one can imagine, even from the easy chair of remoteness, that at that time, memories of the event, and emotions stemming from both, were still raw and easily summoned. The film's director, Kaneto Shindo, himself was a son of Hiroshima.

The film's story follows schoolteacher Takako Ishikawa (played by Nobuko Otawa), as she visits her home town of Hiroshima six years after the atomic bombing. During her visit, she checks up on three of her former kindergarten students who survived the bombing. She finds each of them—and their families—in different states of coping with the consequences of the bombing. She finds both despair and hope, both cold and warm receptions.