Greater Victoria photographer creates vivid story of Nagasaki bomb aftermath

Ken Mizokoshi shared his images of items left behind in Nagasaki after the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bombing by the U.S. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)Ken Mizokoshi shared his images of items left behind in Nagasaki after the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bombing by the U.S. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
A clock, stopped at 11:02 a.m., the moment when the atomic bomb devastated Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945. (Ken Mizokoshi photo)A clock, stopped at 11:02 a.m., the moment when the atomic bomb devastated Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945. (Ken Mizokoshi photo)
At the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the city had the biggest Christian community in Asia. The largest brick cathedral in Asia was near the epicentre. The wind blast from the bomb destroyed it completely. The speed of the wind was about 1,600 Km/h, faster than the speed of sound. This is the fist of the statue of the saint which stood by the cathedral. (Ken Mizokoshi photo)
A school girl’s jacket. The chest name tag shows her name, age, blood type, address and father’s name. Her name is Kazuko Yoshiyama, she was 18. (Ken Mizokoshi photo)

Born and raised in Nagasaki, Japan, it may seem natural that photojournalist Ken Mizokoshi was inspired by a project to share stories of the fallout after an atomic bomb.

Mizokoshi moved to Canada about four years ago and settled in Saanich in December 2020 with his wife and child. He says the name of his hometown reminds people of the atomic bomb dropped there at the end of the Second World War.

He wants people to know its effects linger 76 years later.

A few days after the bombing, one man who had survived the blast returned to his home which had been burned to the ground. He lost his wife and children. He found this head of a doll in the ruins. He kept it for years as a memento of his dead daughter. (Ken Mizokoshi photo)

His project involved taking photos of personal belongings found around the epicentre of the blast after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945. Three days earlier they had dropped one on Hiroshima. The recorded numbers vary, but he says it killed roughly one third of Nagasaki’s population at the time.

The project started at work. He was a newspaper photojournalist and interviewed bomb survivors and took portraits for a series of articles. People were suffering from diseases such as cancer, caused by the radiation. Some caused generational, genetic effects.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay commemorates Hiroshima, Nagasaki with tree planting

For the 2010 features, he photographed items from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum as well as two institutions near the blast, the Urakami Cathedral and the School of Medicine, Nagasaki University.

He immersed himself in the topic, reading books and papers on top of the interviews. He became adamant that people learn about atomic bomb survivors – most were civilians – and the dangers of nuclear weapons. As he gathered the information and images, he found it wasn’t part of the past anymore.

A lot of photographers try to express the fears, show the gory devastation, Mizokoshi said. But he wanted his images to be calm, while instigating discussion and connection. He wants to inspire the viewer to feel for the owners of the items, to take it personally, to see “it’s not so different from me. It could be us.”

READ ALSO: Nagasaki survivor still haunted by scenes of atomic blast

For example, a few days after the bombing one man who survived returned to find his home burned to the ground. He lost his wife and children and instead, found a doll’s head in the ruins. He kept it for years as a memento of his dead daughter.

Mizokoshi has showcased the body of work three times, in 2013 in Nagasaki, 2014 in Tokyo and 2015 in New York. No shows are set for Greater Victoria, though he’s open to it (email mizokoshiken@gmail.com). The series can be viewed online at mizokoshiken.com.

READ ALSO: Sunflower girl mural sprouts up along Saanich’s Burnside Road

READ ALSO: Ode to Log Driver’s Waltz among art installations popping up in Saanich neighbourhood

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

JapanVisual ArtsWorld War II

Pop-up banner image