Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For information about listening to Vermont Public Radio, please go here.

Timeline: A-Bombed Instruments

U.S. Public Domain
This archive photograph shows the aftermath of the 1945 Hiroshima blast. Many musical instruments have been recovered and restored from the rubble.

We’ve been discussing the ways that music has changed the world, exploring how art and music have affected us as a species and as a society. In this episode, we’ll discover one piano tuner’s passion to change hearts and minds through restored instruments.


Mitsunori Yagawa lives and works in Hiroshima, Japan. Almost 20 years ago, he was involved in a project restoring unwanted pianos and donating them to facilities like hospitals. One day, Yagawa got a call about a particular piano that the owner wanted to donate. This instrument had survived the atomic blast of Hiroshima in 1945.

On Aug. 6th and 9th of that year, the United States and Allies dropped nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s estimated that somewhere between 129,000 and 226,000 people were killed in those two blasts that effectively ended the Second World War. The Japanese government has recognized around 650,000 people as Hibakusha, a term for an individual affected by the bomb.

This hibaku-piano had survived the bomb with just cosmetic damage; the blast had thrown the instrument against a wall and glass had pierced the wooden shell. Yagawa tuned and restored the inner workings but left the outside untouched, scars and all. On August 6th, 2001, the first concert was given featuring this A-Bombed piano.

Today, Mitsunori has collected and restored six pianos, all of them survivors of the Hiroshima blast. He loads them onto a truck and travels around Japan, bringing them to schools and venues for around 150 performances every year. Each piano has a story which Yagawa shares and even allows the audience to come and touch the damage.

Some people believe that these pianos should be in a museum, but Yagawa disagrees. He's stated, “…I think these instruments want people to play them. Through their tones, I want to communicate the importance of peace. I myself, despite my parents and grandparents being hibakusha, did not take much interest in the issue until I came across the pianos. I want to continue sowing the seeds of peace as long as I can.”

It’s been 75 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and since then there have been many remarkable musical instruments rescued and restored from the rubble, ready to play a song of peace to a modern audience, generations removed from the violence that damaged them. In next few episodes of Timeline we’ll explore several of these instruments and share their stories.

Learn more about Mitsunori Yagawa's Hiroshima pianos here and follow the Timeline.

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.
Latest Stories