← Back to Tokkotai

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima has moved many to write music. There is far more “Hiroshima music” than “Nagasaki music” (which is in the section “On Peace”).

Takemitsu: Music to the film Black Rain

Black Rain is a novel by Ibuse Masuji that was made into a film in 1989 by Imamura Shohei. The score is by composer Takemitsu Toru.

Music to Black Rain (Takemitsu)

Ohki Masao: Symphony No. 5 “Hiroshima”

Perhaps the earliest classical music to engage the bombing in Japan is Ohki’s Symphony No. 5.

Ohki: Symphony No. 5 “Hiroshima”

Akutagawa: Orpheus in Hiroshima

A television opera with a libretto by Oe Kenzaburo. It is “a symbolic fantasy about a young man, hopeless because of facial scars received in the atomic blast” (New York Times).

Akutagawa: Orpheus in Hiroshima (TV opera version)

Kohjiba: Hiroshima Requiem for Strings

This work by Kohjiba Tomiko has been released on CD and performed under the baton of Seiji Ozawa and others, but I am unable to find a YouTube version … although this informative programme from the European Union Youth Orchestra tells of the performance in 1985.

Hosokawa: Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima

A major orchestral work (1989 / rev. 2001) by a native of Hiroshima.

Hosokawa: Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima

This version of the piece (under the title Hiroshima Requiem) features testimony readings, recordings, sirens and explosions in an apocalyptic musical recreation of 6 August.

Hosokawa: Hiroshima Requiem

Dan: Symphony No. 6 “Hiroshima”

Another symphony by Japanese composer Dan Ikuma.

Dan: Symphony No. 6 “Hiroshima”

Fujikura: “Akiko’s Piano” Piano Concerto No. 4.

A concerto inspired by the story of a hibaku piano. It is performed here as part of a peace concert by the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, which commissioned the piece as part of its Music for Peace programme.

Fujikura: “Akiko’s Piano” Piano Concerto No. 4.

Penderecki: Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

It is a challenging piece of music to listen to, but that is undoubtedly what Penderecki intended.

Penderecki: Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

Other pieces by non-Japanese composers that are about Hiroshima or include movements about Hiroshima include: Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man.

Samuragochi/Niigaki: Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima”

And finally … This piece was overcome by controversy when it was revealed in 2014 that rather than Samuragochi Mamoru being the “Japanese Beethoven”, as the Japanese media had built him up to be, much of Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima” was ghost-written by Niigaki Takashi (see the documentary film “Fake”). In complete contrast to all the above pieces, this piece is tonal, even neoromantic in style, with strong elements of Bruckner and Shostakovich. It was also a huge commercial success, resulting in both major tours and a best-selling CD.

This complex scandal raised many issues: Why did a second generation hibakusha perpetrate such a fraud? Could the piece really honour Hiroshima victims when it was built on a lie? But the scandal also embarrassed the music industry and media. They had been caught out selling a hyped-up story about a deaf hibakusha composer’s masterpiece about Hiroshima, but is this sort of narrative the only way to market tonal classical music these days?

The music is what it is. Have a listen.

Samuragochi/Niigaki: Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima”

Forward to Hibaku Pianos