Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Hiroshima and Nagaski as seen by Japanese Photographers

with 5 comments

This blog has covered the Atom Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski before. Here, Iconic Photos looks back yet again. 

The very first pictures taken in Hiroshima was by Yoshito Matsushige who was just outside the blastzone; he looked out of his window into a large mushroom cloud, and took the only photographs taken of Hiroshima on that calamitous day. Of his 24 possible exposures, only seven came out right.

Two Asahi Shimbun travelled to Hiroshima. Hajime Miyatake arrived on August 9; Eiichi Matsumoto on August 18. Today, there are 121 of Miyatake’s and 157 of Matsumoto’s photos. Miyatake and Matsumoto’s photos are exceeded in number only by those taken by Shunkichi Kikuchi and Shigeo Hayashi. The latter duo was sent by Japan’s Special Committee for the Investigation of A-bomb Damages. They documented Hiroshima between  30 September to 22 October 1945. (Kikuchi’s photo above).

In Nagaski, a military photographer Yosuke Yamahata took over a hundred photographs in twelve hours in the  afternoon of August 10th, the very next day after the bombing. These photos were the first to be seen by the Japanese. In between Japan’s surrender and arrival of the American Occupation Forces, they were printed in 21 August issue of Mainichi Shimbun.

After the Americans arrived, however, tight censorships began. Miyatake and Matsumoto were forced to surrender their prints and ordered to burn their negatives. Both hid them instead, Miyatake under his porch and Matsumoto inside his locker at the company. After the Occupation ended in 1952, the Asahi Graph published a special edition on August 6th 1952, titled First Exposé of A-bomb Damage. It proved to be extremely popular, and the Asahi Shimbun had to run four additional printings with a black and white cover replacing the original color cover. The total circulation was 700,000.

In the U.S., Life magazine followed suit on 29th September 1952, featuring Yamahata’s famous photo of a breastfeeding Japanese woman, which had Madonna overtones. In accompanying editorial, Life wrote, “Dead men have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them. Peace and the way to attain it, which paradoxically may mean that we have to prepared for war, has been a world issue…. the love of peace has no meaning or no stamina unless it is based on a knowledge of war’s terrors.”  A 2012 website version of Life, however, takes a more wtf approach; it nonchalantly notes: “The reasons most of these and many more pictures by LIFE photographers on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never published have largely been lost or simply forgotten over the intervening seven decades.”

Seriously. I think Life needs to hire a better intern.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Great shots of the devastation. They deserved it for what they did to Pearl Harbor, the subjugation and prostitution of the people of Korea, China, and the rest of South East Asia. Using the A bomb was merciful compared to the devastation which would have been wreaked had the Allies needed to invade Japan to bring the war in the Pacific theater to an end.


    August 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  2. […] See on iconicphotos.wordpress.com […]

  3. The city of Hiroshima was actually a busy military location, so for it to end up as a city of ruins would have greatly damaged the morale of any Japanese who saw the photos. The death toll was numbered in the tens of thousands and a large portion of those would have been soldiers as well as medical staff, so the damage was also logistical as well as physical. Being the first of only two times that an atomic bomb has been used it will never leave the memory of Japan and the world.


    December 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm

  4. Reblogged this on Drshoman2009's Blog.


    January 29, 2013 at 4:13 am

    • Have any of you commenting actually picked up a book on the subject? The Japanese had ALREADY surrendered. This is a fact that has been confirmed by numerous individuals in the military and government. Truman dropped the bombs to intimidate Russia, penalize the Japanese and see how their new weapon affected those on the ground.

      It was and remains a war crime, and Truman and his supporters are mass murderers.

      Joe Bongiorno

      January 28, 2016 at 1:54 am

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