"Atomic Ware" Vases Hand-Carried to Hiroshima

Oct 9, 2017

Two vases etched with "Atomic Ware" and inscribed with S. Hamai, Mayor of Hiroshima were purchased by Yvette Lee for $2 a piece.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Two pottery pieces labeled “Atomic Ware” were delivered to Japan last week. As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, the unique artifacts were found during a garage sale in Hawai’i Kai. 

“Two vases stood out to me so I picked them up.  One of them I noticed that it was etched with a name and stamped Hiroshima and I felt that was actually kind of important and so I purchased them for two dollars apiece.”

Yvette Lee took the two 8-inch vases home.  Upon closer examination she noticed that both pieces were inscribed with the words, atomic ware, and she wondered if they could somehow be linked to the August 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

State Representative, Mark Nakashima, hand-carried the vases belonging to Yvette Lee (right) to Hiroshima, Japan.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“On both of these vases they are inscribed with S. Hamai, Mayor of Hiroshima.  And I did a little research.  So Shinzo Hamai was deputy mayor of Hiroshima in 1945 when the bombing took place.  And in 1947 he was elected by popular vote to be the mayor.   And in 1947 he started the Hiroshima Peace Festival.”

Lee had no way of verifying the origin, age or authenticity of the two vases but asked 3rd year U-H Manoa PhD student, Tokikake Ii, to look at them.  Ii is studying nuclear cultural history and says the 1945 bombing and the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant following the March 11, 2011 tsunami are connected.

“What came out from the early 1950s period, Promotion of Peace, was the use of nuclear energy as a source of power plant energy rather than a weapon.  And Japan passed a law that would allow the creation of the first nuclear power plant in Tokkai Mura.  So that legacy still exists in the 3-11 disaster.”

Tokikake Ii, a PhD history student studies nuclear culture at UH Manoa
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Ii says the vases, in different shades of green, evoke physical and spiritual messages to remind succeeding generations of the destructive nature of nuclear power and energy.  Big Island Representative Mark Nakashima is a long-time friend of Yvette Lee.  He hand-carried the vases to Japan last week during his participation in the 20th anniversary of the Hawai’i-Hiroshima Sister State celebration.

“In Hiroshima, we will be meeting with the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture as well as the mayor of Hiroshima City.  So I think that I will bring up the fact that I have these vases with both of them and look for some of their guidance in terms of who I might speak to to   find the right home for these vases.”

Nakashima left the pottery with the director of the International Relations Division of the City of Hiroshima where a museum curator will do further research on them.  Meanwhile, Lee, says whatever the outcome, she believes the vases were put in her custody for a reason and that in light of a heightened threat of nuclear attack by North Korea, her mission is now complete.

Rep. Mark Nakashima left the vases with the International Relations Division of Hiroshima City
Credit Rep. Nakashima

“One of my greatest fears was that if they did end up in the wrong hands, they would just sell ‘em and keep them for themselves and not share them with the world.  I feel that this is very important, especiall in this time right now.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.