The above tricycle belonged to a toddler, nearly 4 years old, who was riding in front of his house when American planes dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima 68 years ago this August. The child, Shinichi Tetsutani, died that night, and his family later buried his bike alongside him. It remained underground for 40 years, until, in 1985, the boy's family dug up his grave to transfer him to a family plot. They gave the tricycle to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum.
As of this week, it now lives online, archived in Google's Cultural Institute, a kind of cyber window into some of the world's brick-and-mortar museums. Google unveiled a new collection of images and artifacts from the bombings that utterly changed the two Japanese cities at the end of World War II. As urban history lessons go, these digital exhibits are eerily static, somber, barren, the opposite of how we normally talk about cities as symbols of dynamism and progress. Hiroshima and Nagaski, in contrast, are lessons in cities as targets.
The material, from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, shows neighborhoods torn down instead of built up. It shows time stopped instead of speeding by. It shows urban streets without any residents at all. The site is worth a visit if you don't think you'll make it to Japan in person any time soon.
Top image via the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.