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Hiroshima

Hiroshima EP

The first of four projects documenting travels in Japan, this EP is a love letter to Hiroshima , a city writing a new history.

Track list

  1. Shimmering City – 05:43
  2. Cheer Song – 05:24
  3. Paper Cranes – 05:38
  4. Hotel Sunroute – 05:11

Formats

Cassette
Special edition cassette includes mini fold-out locations map, track-by-track notes and translations, diary and ephemera gallery, holographic sticker, origami paper and instructions. Quantity: 50

Vinyl
One-off lathe-cut vinyl edition. Quantity: 1

Digital
Download and streaming.


Release

Friday 6th May, 2022.
UPC 198003 457430
Catalogue OTSN-01, published by Obvious Things. © All rights reserved.


Credits

Written, produced & mixed by Simon Collison.
Mastered by Simon Mills.
Artwork by Simon Collison & Geri Coady.

All samples recorded in Hiroshima in 2016 and 2018.
Additional spoken word by Geri Coady and Saki Watanabe.


Site Nonsite

Site Nonsite is a project researching and documenting a connection to place. The site is the source, a place rich with scattered information and experiences; the nonsite is the resulting document, a multimedia abstraction of that place. (These guiding thoughts are adapted from land artist Robert Smithson’s 1968 Theory of Non-Sites .)


Track notes

PDF liner notes — 6MB Zip download

Shimmering City

  • Geri: The weather is gorgeous, and the city gently shimmers.
  • Saki: / Hiroshima has nine tram lines, the biggest tram network of any Japanese city
  • Saki: / Hiroshima Electric Railway Company Limited
  • Saki: / Hiroden
  • Saki: / Hiroshima is writing a new history.

Notes

The opening track diarises our return to Hiroshima in March 2018, following our first visit two years earlier. It was Spring, the weather was stunning , and there was blossom on the trees.

We arrived aboard the 500 Type Eva Shinkansen, painted in tribute to renowned 90s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion . Inside, visual details and sound design enhanced the experience, and the first car featured an exhibition. The train ran as a regularly scheduled train, Kodama 730 (Hakata to Shin-Osaka) and Kodama 741 (Shin-Osaka to Hakata).

Hiroshima Electric Railway Company Limited was established in 1910 and operates streetcars and buses in and around Hiroshima Prefecture. It is known as Hiroden for short. On 6th August 1945, the atomic bomb blast damaged or destroyed most of the trams, but the system started running again within three days. Trams 651 and 652, which survived the bomb, are still running today.

Okonomimura is a multi-storey food theme park boasting twenty-four Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki restaurants. This track features dialogue and teppan sounds recorded at Takenoko , one of the restaurants where Geri filmed her February 2017 episode of Who Wants To Come To Japan? (TV Tokyo). For further notes about okonomiyaki, see track 4, Hotel Sunroute .


Cheer Song

  • Saki: / Hiroshima Toyo Carp vs Yomiuri Giants at the Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium.
  • Saki: / Baseball is the biggest sport in Japan, a national pastime. There is a professional league of 12 teams.
  • Saki: / Yomiuri Giants 6, Hiroshima Toyo Carp 4.

Notes

This track celebrates the Hiroshima Toyo Carp , founded in 1950 and playing in the Central League of Nippon Professional Base- ball. The game we attended took place on a beautiful evening on Sunday, 3rd April 2016, at Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium , Minami ward. The opening recording features the Yomiuri Giants fans’ chants. The closing recording features the excellent 7th inning ‘fight song’ or ‘cheer song’, Soreike Carp (Wakaki Koitachi), sung just before the entire crowd sends long red balloons whistling into the air. The lyrics translate approximately as follows:

Go for it, Carp (Young Carp),
Carp, Carp, Carp Hiroshima, Hiroshima Carp,
If you fly to the sky, heaven will open its breast,
Certainly fighting at this time today,
Far and high, far and high,
Raise the flag of glory,
Carp, Carp, Carp Hiroshima, Hiroshima Carp.


Paper Cranes

  • / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Museum exhibits, list one:

  • / A student’s uniform, reduced to shreds
  • / A glass Coke bottle, misshapen by heat rays
  • / Gauze, bandages
  • / A pocket watch, hands stopped at 8:15 a.m

Museum exhibits, list two:

  • / A roof tile, melted and deformed
  • / One box of healthy human plasma
  • / An inquest ledger, recording victims’ names
  • / A certificate confirming disaster survival

Closing monologue (expanded), from the article At Home in Hiroshima , first published on colly.com , 18th April 2018.

We swing by Side Stand in the city, then walk to the Peace Memorial Park. We’d already spent a full day here on our first visit, absorbing the horrors of August 1945 and the lasting effects. Still, the lovely riverside and emblematic dome are hard to resist. We arrive under a close red sun and hazy orange skies; it’s a beautiful, warm evening. We spot stained glass be- fore-and-after models of Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (the dome). Some people are chatting with the gentleman who made the models, and he asks us to join.

The man’s name is Okihiro Terao, and he is hibakusha: a survivor. With great grace, he patiently teaches us to fold paper cranes. Geri can make origami birds with her eyes shut, but I struggle — although I’m not really trying; I’m thinking about this man and his life. I’ve read John Hersey, watched The World at War, shed a tear in the museum; I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about the bomb. But when this survivor shakes my hand, it unlocks a deeper level of empathy; makes everything tangible and immediate. It’s such a gift to feel a direct human connection to that terrible event.

Notes

This track is an abstraction of our day exploring the Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum during our first trip in April 2016. It was a suitably grey and drizzly day.

On August 6, 1945, the United States detonated a nuclear weapon over Hiroshima. The city was hit by heat rays of approximately 4,000°C, along with a blast wind and radiation. Most people in the area lost their lives instantly. The time was 8:15 a.m. It is estimated that 66,000 people died, and 69,000 were injured. Survivors are known as hibakusha .

The track opens with Geri ringing the bell at The Children’s Peace Monument . That bell sound is then stretched throughout as an eerie background. Geri offered one thousand paper cranes that she’d made before we travelled.

The goal of making one thousand origami cranes ( senbazuru ) was popularised through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was two years old when she was exposed to radiation from the bomb. Sasaki developed leukaemia and after much time in a hospital, began making origami cranes ( orizuru ), aiming to produce one thousand. There is a statue of Sadako in the park, surrounded by chains of cranes offered by visitors.

Okihiro Terao greets visitors close to the dome. He presents his models of the building as it was before the explosion and teaches peo- ple how to make paper cranes. His business card describes him as a stained glass artist, a survivor of the A-bomb and a volunteer guide.


Hotel Sunroute

  • Simon: It’s another beautiful, warm, bright and hazy Hiroshima morning, and once again, we’re sad to leave.
  • Simon: The building work that followed is a source of great national pride.
  • Simon: Like the seven rivers that flow through Hiroshima, fresh ideas course through the city.
  • Simon: Sumu ‘to live’.
  • Simon: A city steeped in history.
  • Simon: Hiroshima Mon Amour.
  • Simon: Hiroshima innovating, developing and improving long into the future, writing a new history.
  • Saki: / Okonomimura is dedicated to Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. The building boasts twenty-four restaurants, each with a slightly different style and ingredients.
  • Saki: / In I945 okonomiyaki didn’t exist. The burnt fields were contami- nated, which meant nothing could be eaten raw. People took the flour distributed by the Allied forces and created a version of issen yoshoku.
  • Saki: / Like the seven rivers that flow through Hiroshima, fresh ideas course through the city.

Notes

Hotel Sunroute is the former name of Sotetsu Grand Fresa. The memory of checking out and stepping into the heat of our last morning is vivid. The opening bird song is fake, played over the tannoy at Itsukaichi Station. Collaged words acknowledge the city’s striking aspect, swift recovery and progressive outlook.

Hiroshima Mon Amour is a 1959 French New Wave romantic film by French director Alain Resnais and author Marguerite Duras. The film documents personal conversations between a French actress and a Japanese architect.

The track ends with a recording of the local train to Miyajimaguchi . A sample of the Miyajima Ropeway PA system and the conversations of our cable car companions gives pause in the middle.


Locations

Primary field recording locations This map details approximate locations and file metadata for the most prominent field recordings used in the four tracks. All recordings made in Spring 2016 and 2018.

1 - 500 Type Eva Shinkansen
Date of recording: 24/03/2018
Equipment: Tascam DR-40
Track: Shimmering City

2 - Hiroden tram (approximate location)
Date of recording: 25/03/2018
Equipment: Tascam DR-40
Tracks: Shimmering City , Hotel Sunroute

3 - Takenoko, Okonomimura
Date of recording: 25/03/2018
Equipment: Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset
Track: Shimmering City

4 - Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium
Date of recording: 03/04/2016
Equipment: iPhone 10 (extracted from video)
Track: Cheer Song

5 - Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)
Date of recording: 01/04/2016
Equipment: iPhone 10 (extracted from video)
Track: Paper Cranes

6 - The Children’s Peace Monument
Date of recording: 01/04/2016
Equipment: iPhone 10 (extracted from video)
Track: Paper Cranes

7 - Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Date of recording: 01/04/2016
Equipment: iPhone 10 (extracted from video)
Track: Paper Cranes

8 - Itsukaichi Station
Date of recording: 25/03/2018
Equipment: iPhone 10 Voice app
Track: Hotel Sunroute

9 - Sotetsu Grand Fresa
Date of recording: 26/03/2018
Equipment: Tascam DR-40
Track: Hotel Sunroute

10 - Miyajima Ropeway
Date of recording: 03/04/2016
Equipment: iPhone 10 (extracted from video)
Track: Hotel Sunroute


At Home in Hiroshima

We arrive in style, aboard the impressive 500 Type Eva Evangelion Shinkansen , delighted to be back in Hiroshima. This charming city made a big impression on us two years earlier.

Geri returned with a TV crew last year and enjoyed her stay at Sunroute Hotel (since renamed Sotetsu Grand Fresa), so we base ourselves here. We're met by one of those “robots” for the easily-impressed; a vogueing doughboy with an iPad glued to its chest. It makes eye contact, so I try an easy question. It answers with silent pirouettes and poses, performing a nervous breakdown in ballet. The machine is out of its depth; I realise its primary directive is to mobilise the Explore Hiroshima website so it can harass foreigners. We abort and head to the desk for efficient human-assisted check-in.

Our room affords excellent views over the Motoyasu River and Peace Memorial Museum , past neatly-arranged tall buildings to the lush mountains beyond. If I press my nose to the glass and strain my eyes Northwards, I can see the A-Bomb Dome . The weather is gorgeous, and the city gently shimmers. It’s almost tropical.

In the lightest clothes we’ve worn so far, we stroll. We soon reach the former Bank of Japan , 380 metres from the hypocentre. Many died within these walls, but the external structure survived almost intact. It’s an incredible relic of such a monumental moment in history, and in some ways exudes more quiet power than the dome. Geri tells me that banking services resumed in a partitioned area of this building after just 48 hours.

We leave Fukuromachi and head to Side Stand Coffee , another of Geri’s discoveries from last year. I expected a clothes store with a coffee stand wedged in the back, but it’s the reverse. The barista immediately remembers Geri, and they chat in Japanese; I grab the only two stools and await my flat white. He finishes mine with a standard rosetta, but for Geri, he draws — with foam — an impressive winking kid with blush cheeks, in a bear hat.

With the Takenoko gang
With the Takenoko gang.

Caffeinated, we weave around narrow streets toward Hondori arcade. We browse a few favourite stores: Beams, Ships, GU, etc., and have our photo taken with Rilakkuma (and no, I don’t try his zipper). Soon, we feel the need for more coffee, so we return excitedly to Obscura Roasters for fruity drip and two of their excellent scones.

We’re hungry, and we’re in Hiroshima. That means Okonomimura — a sort of multi-storey food theme park dedicated to Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki : layered rather than mixed, with noodles and a fried egg. The building boasts twenty-four okonomiyaki restaurants, each with a slightly different style and set of ingredients. However, they all use a special sauce created especially for Okonomimura by Sun Foods.

We’re here to find one particular restaurant, Takenoko , where Geri donned a red apron and flipped for her TV Tokyo doc . The floor — 4th, I think — is a labyrinth of similar-looking operations, but eventually I recognise a face. The younger bloke is on duty, and the moment he sees Geri, there is much excitement. They still display the small framed illustration she gave them; in pride of place between the TV and their Hiroshima Carp baseball shrine. They catch up in Japanese, and Geri orders the works: beansprouts, noodles, fried egg, and juicy Hiroshima oysters. The resulting okonomiyaki is massive and gorgeous, and I wash it down with a refreshing cold beer. He asks we return tomorrow evening; the owner has been ill, but will probably do a shift if it means seeing Geri again.

Sunday, and we wake to yet more sunshine, although there’s a smoggy haze. We enjoy a tram ride through the city to the central station. From there, a short ride on the Shinkansen to Iwakuni , then a little bus to the awe-inspiring Kintai bridge . Despite previous visits to the area, we only recently learned of this remarkable bridge with its five sequential wooden arches on four stone piers, and two wooden piers on the dry riverbed. After the bridge's completion in 1673, it stood until 1950, when a brutal typhoon struck Iwakuni. Despite post-war hardships, the rebuild took just three years, and more recently, the bridge underwent extensive reconstruction costing two billion yen. We explore nearby Kikko Park, which includes museums, statues, shrines, fountains, and — unexpectedly — albino snakes and a Cormorant Training Facility.

With hibakusha Okihiro Terao
With hibakusha Okihiro Terao.

Back in the city, we swing by Side Stand , then walk to the Peace Memorial Park . We’d already spent a full day here on our first visit, absorbing the horrors of August 1945 and the lasting effects. Still, the lovely riverside and emblematic dome are hard to resist. We arrive under a close red sun and hazy orange skies; it’s a beautiful, warm evening. We spot stained glass before-and-after models of Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (the dome). Some people are chatting with the gentleman who made the models, and he asks we join.

The man’s name is Okihiro Terao , and he is hibakusha : a survivor. With great grace, he patiently teaches us to fold paper cranes. Geri can make origami birds with her eyes shut but I struggle — although I’m not really trying; I’m thinking about this man and his life. I’ve read John Hersey , watched The World at War , shed a tear in the museum; I've spent plenty of time thinking about the bomb. But when this survivor shakes my hand, it unlocks a deeper level of empathy; makes everything tangible and immediate. It’s such a gift to feel a direct human connection to that terrible event.

The light drops with the temperature, and it’s dinner time, so we head back to Takenoko . The owner has indeed made it in, and he's quietly delighted to see Geri. Tonight, the other customers — in particular, a very excited young woman, and a Kyoto couple with a tiny baby — realise they’d seen the show and remember Geri. Everything happens in Japanese, of course, but it’s joyous for everyone. I think about the chain of events that brought me to this seat, by this teppan, in this city, having this okonomiyaki experience. We all pose for photos and promise to see each other again.

Our final morning comes too soon. We enjoy a little quiet time at Obscura Coffee , then head to the station. It’s yet another beautiful, warm, bright and hazy Hiroshima morning, and once again we’re sad to leave.

This article first appeared on colly.com


A little backstory

If you've been following my Stream, you'll know that I wandered creatively frustrated for many years but rediscovered something significant by looking again at my old art journals.

"Everything I needed was in these pages all along. It's overwhelming to realise that what mattered then matters now, that my deepest interests and thoughts have meaning and value. By looking back, I see how to move forward."

So, I looked back over two decades and found a version of myself that I really liked. And as I'd just started learning to make music and had considered doing something with the hundreds of field recordings I made in various places, I realised that sound was the perfect outlet for my resurgent creative inquiry.

Music has been a massive part of my life, but only as a fan. I've always had a good ear but never thought I could make music. But it became clear that sound art is the way to reconnect with that young artist who was so wide-eyed and fascinated by the topics that still matter, topics that I never stopped researching. I could apply my ability to collage and form narrative to sound design. Suddenly, all my threads and interests began to coalesce, and many months later, here we are.

The first new document is a four-track EP, but I'll be making things in many ways — books, maps, photos, walks, datasets, etc. Sometimes these will be editions of one, just for me, because I have an artist's compulsion that certain things need to exist. In that way, Site Nonsite is very liberating and wide open. I'll be sifting through old research, tying up loose ends with new thinking about connections to place, and forming new ideas. Honestly, I feel like the artist in me has come back to life.

Inspiration playlist

Site Nonsite: Inspiration (Spotify/Apple) is a roundup of artists and tracks that influence my sound. If you think the glitches and blasts of static are strange choices (I think of these sounds as analogous to the expressive brushstrokes and turps pours I enjoyed as a painter), listen to these artists, and I think it'll give my noise some context.

“Simon Collison created something that's hard to encapsulate. In one breath, it's an EP of atmospheric music, but as you dig deeper you find it's a diary, a love letter and a reflection, a different way to experience a place.” — Chris Glass.
“A lovely piece of ambient electronica reminiscent of Erland Cooper. I think I'll be turning to it a lot.” — Richard Rutter.
“This is beautiful, beautiful work. Could easily have this on repeat all day, and certainly have so far.” — Jon Hicks
“What amounts to a mini journey with soundtrack, tasteful audio samples, and a skosh (sukoshi) of gentle narration, this new EP is subtle, cheerful, sobering, and worth looping all day.” — Luke Dorny
“This is not my sort of music, but I find this wonderful and mesmerising.” — Paul Freeman.
“A wonderful and poignant mix of electronica and environmental ambient, the third track, Paper Cranes, is an especially emotional listen.” — Colin Walker