It is the small details from the everyday life, the objects of common use that sometimes become heartbreaking memories of a bigger tragedy. Like that wretched and rusted tricycle, with neither pedals nor seat, today kept inside a glass case as a precious jewel at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Above: picture by Taisyo via Wikimedia Commons – licence GFDL, cc-by 3.0
In 1955, after 10 years from the explosion of the atomic bomb which destroyed the Japanese city and later the city of Nagasaki, the Peace Memorial Museum opened up inside the Peace Memorial Park of the city of Hiroshima.
Scale model of Hiroshima after the bomb: the red ball shows the explosion spot
Above: picture by Rabs003 via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0
The tricycle, like all the other objects exhibited at the museum, tells a story of pain with no remedy, of an unacceptable loss. Once that little toy was flame-red and it was the favourite game of a 3 years old little boy, Shinichi Tetsutani.
Above: picture by Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Little Shin used to play sometimes with his two sisters Michico e Yoko, and even more often with a girl living near his house, Kimi.
Shinichi and his sister Michico – New Year’s eve 1944
Kimi and Shin used to love to read illustrated books especially one, where there was an image of a tricycle, the toy that the baby boy was longing for the most. The child had asked to his father for one, but within the city it seemed impossible to find one: the country was at war and the Japan resources were drastically compromised. Metal was destined to the production of weapons and it was recovered from public statues,road railings, bicycles and even pots and pans.Shin’s father could really do nothing in order to make his son’s dream come true.
Until a day, a few weeks from the 4rth birthday of the boy, the so wanted tricycle was donated to Shin by an uncle who had found it amongst his old forgotten toys in a wardrobe. shin’s uncle, by knowing how much the nephew wanted it, wrapped the tricycle around some paper and took it to him.
Shin and his friend Kimi were often playing with the tricycle in the house yard, under the benevolent eyes of the passengers who often were stopping by to look at the joyful children, unaware of the tragedy affecting their country and the ones which were still to come.
On the morning of the 6th August 1945, Shin and Kimi were as usual in the courtyard when a dazzling flash lighted up the city, to which followed the devastating explosion of the atomic bomb which burned to the ground the city of Hiroshima and with it its 70-80,000 people.
Even Tetsutani’s house fell apart: the parents, survived to the explosion, found Shin under the ruins, still alive with his hand tight to the handlebar of his tricycle. The older sisters were stuck under a wooden beam, which caught fire before they could be saved. Of the little Kimi there was no sign. Shin’s family gathered up, along with the other survivors, near the river bank. The child was asking for water but the father, who realised how who was drinking from the river was dying quickly, rejected the request. The little boy did not survive the night, just 10 days before his 4th birthday.
The following day Shin’s father, thinking that the boy was too young to rest in a tomb far away from home, decided to bury him in the courtyard of their house, there, where he loved to play, along with his red tricycle. Only 40 years later in 1985 the parents decided to move the remains of the boy to the family tomb. They had forgot about the tricycle. The father of the boy therefore decided to donate the favourite toy of his boy to the Peace Memorial Museum, a touching memory of the child and a tragic symbol of the horrors of war.
The story of Shin and his tricycle has been told in a book for children written by Tatsuharu Kodama, published in 1992. And if the writer has added up some poetic details it did not change the dramatic reality of the anecdote, remembered in one of the pages in the Peace Memorial Museum.