In Decemeber 2011, my husband and I spent a month in Hiroshima. I have to admit my ignorance: when our son first told us he was going to be living there, I asked "but doesn't it still glow in the dark?" He assured me that it was totally safe, and when we learned that he was going to marry a woman he had met there, we came to meet her and spend some time getting to know our wonderful daughter-in-law, Erina.
Hiroshima is a beautiful city. After the bomb, other Japanese cities sent some of their trolley cars to help replace the lost city transportation system. So Hiroshima still has a great system of trolley cars that will get you all over the city, quickly and cheaply. And while many are new, some are still great post-war models with wooden floors.
Well before we went, I planned a map project. I consulted several different maps, some of them old ones that I had seen, and photographed, on previous trips.
Hiroshima has a number of rivers running through it. Each of these is contained within old stone walls, with stone steps leading from street level down to water level. bridges and roads run across the rivers. Here you can see one river wall, and the stone steps. At low tide, there are small patches of ground along the walls.
I took a section of the city, simplified it, and made a paper pattern of it. Each small city section was given a piece of woolen backing, and dyed cloth, and placed in a ziplock back with the pattern piece. This was my sewing kit for the trip.
Each day in Hiroshima, I would go 'beachcombing' in the river beds at low tide. Although the streets and sidewalks are spotlessly clean, the river held all sorts of objects: many ceramic shards, game pieces, small toys, coins....and glass that had been fused in the blast.
I went to the memorial library, and asked about my project. Were people allowed to find and take these bits of history? An answer came back that yes, they had finished their archaeological search, and I could keep what I found. So I searched, and brought my findings back to our hotel room and washed and scrubbed and then sewed the pieces into the cloth of the map sections. Back at home, I continued sewing (I only finished about a quarter of the map sections while in Hiroshima).
A detail of the map, showing pieces of ceramic, metal and glass sewn onto fabric sections. . When all the sections were complete, I pinned them onto the white cotton pattern (traced from the paper pattern, which I had cut up), laid over a heavy black woolen backing. Then they all were stitched together. I had originally planned to remove all of the white cloth when it was finished. But I liked the crisp contrasting edge, so I left a little bit around each section, and enough to act as the roads going across.
On this detail, you can see my rough stitching on the roads, and a piece of the fused glass.