Art and Remembering

Why Should the Roof Tiles be Displayed?

Preserving moments in history through artistic expression not only provides a way for victims and family to remember the events that unfolded but also keeps those in question accountable. 


While searching for various pieces of art related to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we found many different works (ranging from poems to art panels) that chose to focus on different aspects of the event. Some seemed more devoted towards depicting the physical horrors of the aftermath, while others focused on the pain of remembering what was lost. Although the impact and message of each piece varies according to the artist’s intent, all of them are sure to leave a lasting impression on their viewers. 


What does it mean for these tiles to have moved from Japan to the US and specifically, Princeton? 

Even if people outside of Princeton are not aware of the tiles, does Princeton as an institution owe it to the people whose lives were lost to display these tiles for the sake of taking responsibility? We must make an effort to take responsibility for the power that comes with knowledge.


By organizing some of the related artworks in chronological order of their creation, we hope to get a glimpse of how art has been a form of communicating emotions over the years, as well as how the memory of the bombs has changed, with some artists choosing to look back in time and some choosing to look forward to a future with nuclear weapons. This highlights how the memory continues to live on in succeeding generations of survivors. To read more about personal accounts, see our interview with 3rd-generation survivor Misaki Katayama.




A Legacy of Memorizaliation


Hiroshima Panel – 1. Ghosts by Maruki Iri & Maruki Toshi (1950)

1. Ghosts by Maruki Iri & Maruki Toshi (1950)


Accompanying Text:

“It was a procession of ghosts.


Clothes burned in an instant. Hands, faces, breasts swelled; purple blisters soon burst and skin hung like rags.


A procession of ghosts, with their hands held before them. Dragging their torn skin, they fell exhausted, piling onto one another, groaning, and dying.


At the center of the blast, the temperature reached six thousand degrees. A human shadow was etched on stone steps. Did that person’s body vaporize? Was it blown away? No one remains to tell us what it was like near the hypocenter. 


There was no way to distinguish one charred, blistered face from another. Voices became parched and hoarse. Friends would say their names, but still not recognize each other.


One lone baby slept innocently, with beautiful skin. Perhaps it survived, sheltered by its mother’s breast. We hope that at least this one child will awaken to live on.” 


Apparently, after witnessing the horrific devastation left by the bomb, Maruki Iri felt that he had seen “something that [he] wasn’t supposed to see”. Why, then, did he and his wife feel compelled to dedicate three decades of their lives to creating the Hiroshima Panels? 


Genbaku Shisu [Poems of the Atomic Bomb] by Toge Sankichi (1951)


Give back my father, give back my mother;

Give grandpa back, grandma back;

Give my sons and daughters back.

Give me back myself,

Give back the human race.

As long as this life lasts, this life,

Give back peace

That will never end.

Title: August 6

can we forget that flash?
suddenly 30,000 in the streets disappeared
in the crushed depths of darkness
the shrieks of 50,000 died out

when the swirling yellow smoke thinned
buildings split, bridges collapsed
packed trains rested singed
and a shoreless accumulation of rubble and embers - Hiroshima
before long, a line of naked bodies walking in groups, crying
with skin hanging down like rags
hands on chests
stamping on crumbled brain matter
burnt clothing covering hips

corpses lie on the parade ground like stone images of Jizo, dispersed in all
on the banks of the river, lying one on top of another, a group that had crawled to
a tethered raft

also gradually transformed into corpses beneath the sun's scorching rays
and in the light of the flames that pierced the evening sky
the place where mother and younger brother were pinned under alive
also was engulfed in flames
and when the morning sun shone on a group of high-school girls
who had fled and were lying
on the floor of the armory, in excrement
their bellies swollen, one eye crushed, half their bodies raw flesh with skin ripped
off, hairless, impossible to tell who was who
all had stopped moving
in a stagnant, offensive smell
the only sound the wings of flies buzzing around metal basins

city of 300,000
can we forget that silence?
in that stillness
the powerful appeal
of the white eye sockets of the wives and children who did not return home
that tore apart our hearts
can it be forgotten?!


From the wording of these poems, it is clear that their purpose is to preserve the memory of the atomic bomb and to call for peace. The first poem remains engraved on a monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park. As an activist, Sankichi makes it quite clear that the events should not be forgotten, and by emphasizing the harrowing moment the bomb was dropped, suggests that they should serve as a reminder of the dangers and long-lasting trauma of nuclear weapons. 


Hiroshima Panel – XII. Floating Lanterns (1968) 

Hiroshima Panel – XII. Floating Lanterns (1968)


Accompanying Text:

“On August 6, the seven rivers of Hiroshima fill with floating lanterns, inscribed with the names of fathers, mothers, sisters.

The tide shifts before the lanterns reach the sea, and they are swept back to the city by the swell. Extinguished now, the mass of crumpled lanterns drifts in the dark currents of the river.

On that day in the past, these same rivers flowed dense with corpses.”

It is interesting to note how the scenes transition from graphic depictions of the bomb to efforts to remember the event and prevent it from happening again. This highlights how we must not keep this event isolated in the past, but rather use it as a moment to learn from. The roof tiles donated to Princeton University have the potential to produce these effects of memory and acknowledgement. 

“Painting the Atomic Bombing with the Next Generation” (2004 ~ Present)

“Painting the Atomic Bombing with the Next Generation” (2004 ~ Present)


The artworks produced during this event are special in that the student creators are paired with survivors of the bomb, who recount their experience to them. Essentially, the paintings are a visual representation of a survivor’s story. 




View More Works:


Works Cited

Harada, Mahiru. “Dazzling Light,” Hiroshima for Global Peace, 2020,

Maruki, Iri, and Toshi Maruki. “Floating Lanterns ,” Maruki Gallery, 1968, “Ghosts,” Maruki Gallery, 1950,

Takehara, Akiho. “Let’s All Die, All Together,” Hiroshima for Global Peace, 2020,