The Iridescence of the Lanterns: Hiroshima Behind the Lens of Seiji Shinohara

Receipt: January 15, 2023

Acceptance: January 18, 2023

玉虫色に光る蛍たち ~篠原誠二のレンズの向こうに写る広島~1
Naku na mushi
wakaruru koi wa
hoshi ni sae

Don't cry, insects!
just like the stars
lovers separate.

In the Western imagination, Hiroshima refers to a city devastated by atomic bombs, to mass destruction and suffering. In the novel La tumba de las luciérnagas (1967), written by Akiyuki Nosaka2 and in its anime adaptation, produced by Studio Ghibli (Takahata, 1988), the starkest horrors of the 1945 air raids on Japan are presented through the experiences of siblings Seita and Setsuko, who, despite losing everything, embark on a journey towards hope.

The story is inspired by the writer's own experiences, as well as photographs and oral accounts of the large number of children who, when they were orphaned, were the only ones responsible for carrying the bodies of their deceased relatives to the cemeteries. The small children were tied with a ribbon on their backs and thus they were transported. About this fact, there is a sordid portrait that has circulated around the world in which a boy of approximately six years old carries the corpse of his younger brother on his back.

Seiji Shinohara's photographs seem to question this image and turn it around, for his gaze is not that Hiroshima, but that place that does not coincide with our imagination, lined with large gates, with Buddhist offerings among the alleys, architectural details of Shinto shrines, cobblestone roads, cherry trees reflected in the rivers and daily announcements that insinuate inhabited, vivid streets... leaving out of the frame any silhouette or individual. He presents us with black and white photographs that undoubtedly allude to the hope that the brothers sought in the tomb of the fireflies.

Panoramic view of the exhibition Hiroshima at El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., 2022.
Panoramic view of the exhibition Hiroshima at El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., 2022.

These images inspired us to title the interview "The iridescence of fireflies", because Shinohara's sensitivity shows us, with an experimental sharpness, the beauty of a Hiroshima that also exists and that by the weight of events has been denied. They are the steps whose gaze creates in every corner and that his visual memory filters towards the observer; it is the possibility that the baby in the photograph and his brother have a future. The basis of her visual steps thus becomes a metaphor: that of hope. The hope not only of the child who took his brother to the cemetery, but also the hope that in some corner of the city the child lives next to his little sister, like Seita and Setsuko; that the pains have perhaps become the aesthetics of a memory that, rather than lacerating, teaches lessons. These images, which we would like to call iridescent, with their chiaroscuros like whispers of the past, are destined to transform the scares of war, to make visible the meaning of the word "nankurunaisa", with time everything gets better. It is the iridescence of a firefly that illuminates this Hiroshima that, like Suzaku, the Japanese phoenix, is reborn under the ashes to shine and reach immortality.


Nosaka, Akiyuki (1999). La tumba de las luciérnagas. Barcelona: Acantilado.

Takahata, Isao (director) (1988). La tumba de las luciérnagas [película]. Japón: Studio Ghibli.

Seiji Shinohara Born in Hokkaido, Japan. He has been living in Mexico for 47 years. Has used a Hasselblad 6×6 camera for more than 25 years. Founder of Foto Club Azteca Nippon in Mexico, cdmx and first official member in Mexico of the Photographic Society of Japan. Author of several photobooks in which he portrays the Japanese community in Mexico.

Arturo Gutierrez del Angel is professor-researcher of the Anthropological Studies Program at El Colegio de San Luis. Member of the National System of Researchers since 2008. His research has revolved around mythology, religions and rituals. She has specialized in visual anthropology, particularly in the relationship between photography, plastic and cultural expressions. He has worked with groups from western and northern Mexico, such as the Wixaritari and the Na'ayari. He has published five books as author and six books as co-author, in addition to publications in national and international magazines. He has exhibited his photographic work in museums and galleries, and has 20 exhibitions of photographs, including those related to Asia, The instant of the glance: five Asian countries.

Greta alvarado lugo is a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Member of the Latin American and Caribbean Network on China. Doctoral candidate in Anthropological Studies at El Colegio de San Luis, Mexico (2018-ongoing). Master's degree and Specialist in Indian Art at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. Diploma in Asia, Universidad del Chaco Austral, Argentina.

Frances Paola Garnica Quiñones is a professor-researcher and Conacyt professor assigned to the Anthropological Studies Program at El Colegio de San Luis. She holds a master's degree and PhD in Social Anthropology with Visual Media from the University of Manchester, UK. Her research topics include the perception and imaginary of spaces, Chinese migration in San Luis Potosi and ritual and therapeutic uses of peyote from a biocultural territorial defense approach. She is co-director of the documentary ...And I'm not leaving the neighborhood! (2019).


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EncartesVol. 7, No. 13, March 2024-September 2024, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: March 25, 2024.