素粒子論研究・電子版 Vol 36 (2022) No. 1
We have discovered unknown very valuable old photos of Prof. Hideki Yukawa at the unveiling ceremony of his bronze statue at an elementary school in Kochi in 1954, which are publicized here. They were discovered at the house of one of the two school pupils who unveiled the statue. We found that the statue had been in front of the main entrance of the school until 1981. However, the statue was moved to a newly created garden near the entrance gate when the new schoolhouse was rebuilt in 1982. The trees in the garden, which grew tall over the statue in the subsequent decades aided and accelerated the forgetting of its existence. The forgetting of the statue by the local people is related by chance to a historic event in the Marshall Islands. Prof. Yukawa’s visit to attend the unveiling ceremony occurred just after news that Japanese fishermen were heavily injured by atomic testing at the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. At the news conference when he arrived at Kochi, he was unexpectedly asked about his attitude to the bomb testing by the US. He was considered to be the foremost top scientist in nuclear science in Japan at that time, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1949. People in Kochi were very anxious about the test since many fishermen worked near Bikini Atoll. Contrary to the expectation of local people, he refused to comment on the matter at the news conference and in public lectures, which were held several times during his stay in Kochi. After returning to Kyoto, he issued the famous statement titled “Nuclear Era and the Turning Point of Mankind” in an influential national newspaper. This was a time in Prof. Yukawa’s life when he had to reflect and consult his conscience, and he chose to take a principled stance that became a turning point in his life. After the visit to Kochi, he devoted himself with his wife to the peace movement against nuclear weapons. Looking back, it can be observed that the visit in 1954 to attend the unveiling ceremony of his bronze statue in Kochi marked the start of that change. The statue can be seen to symbolize not only his Nobel Prize but also the turning point in his life that led him to support the peace movement against nuclear weapons.