Hiroshima Library

Counterpath is excited to host the Hiroshima Library.

The Hiroshima Library is an itinerant, sometimes spontaneous reading room/collection of books on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their ongoing afterlives, as well as the environments and situations in which the collection either publicly or privately exists. The collection is (currently) 200+ books, including hibakusha testimonies, history and journalism, art and photography, poetry, novels, graphic novels and comic books, art and literary criticism, theory, politics, science, and also contributions by the communities in which it appears. It is inspired, in part, by the Rest House in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima; the ice cream vendor in the Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki; the reading areas in the MRT stations in Kaohsiung, Taiwan; abandoned gas stations and strip malls throughout the United States and Japan; as well as mundane, workaday spaces adjacent to catastrophic life, which occupy a frequency between communal mourning and melancholy, private refreshment, and idle and free associative learning, and into which an individual (passerby, tourist, wanderer, child), motivated by an aimless yet open curiosity, might enter and, for a moment, disappear.

The collection was first conceived in 1988 when Brandon Shimoda received, as a gift from his parents, a copy of Keiji Nakazawa’s manga, I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima: A Survivor’s True Story (English translation, 1982). That same year he visited, for the first time, the city of Hiroshima. He was ten.

The Rest House in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, for example—located across the Motoyasu River from the atomic bomb hypocenter (detonation point), and surrounded by memorials and monuments to the dead—is an information center/gift shop filled with brochures, benches, and beverage machines, where people can use the restroom, have a drink, and, in the midst of the ruins, let their minds go blank. It was originally a kimono shop, but was turned over, during the war, to the war effort, where it became the site of the murder, by the bomb, of thirty-six people.

The Hiroshima Library was first installed on a dining table in an abandoned house in Marfa, Texas (2015). It was installed at BRUNA press + archive, in Bellingham, Washington, from August through October 2019, and in the Japanese American National Museum, in Los Angeles, from November 2019 through August 2021, as part of Under a Mushroom Cloud: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Atomic Bomb.

Brandon Shimoda is a yonsei poet/writer, and the author of several books of poetry and prose, most recently The Grave on the Wall (City Lights, 2019), which received the PEN Open Book Award, and The Desert (The Song Cave, 2018). His next book of poetry and prose, Hydra Medusa, is forthcoming from Nightboat Books, and his book on the afterlife of Japanese American incarceration is forthcoming from City Lights. In addition to the Hiroshima Library, his writings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have appeared in EntropyEvening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions, 2015), Evening Will ComeThe Massachusetts Review, and O Bon (Litmus Press, 2011). His grandfather was born on Kurahashi, off the coast of Hiroshima, in Hiroshima Prefecture. Find him @brandonshimoda.