Anju Niwata (left) works on colorizing a black and white photo in the city of Hiroshima in May. | KYODO
HIROSHIMA – With technology
powered by artificial intelligence, high school students are colorizing
black and white photos of Hiroshima taken before the atomic bombing of
the city in 1945.
The 14 students at Hiroshima Jogakuin high
school launched the initiative last November, aiming to make the images
more vibrant and to revive the memories of survivors so they can better
pass on their experiences to the next generation.
“We are the last generation who can talk to atomic bomb
survivors. We want to treasure conversations generated through the
photos and contribute to keeping records of their accounts,” said Anju
The students began the work after learning about
AI-based free colorization technology from their collaborator, Hidenori
Watanabe, a professor of information design at the graduate school of
the University of Tokyo.
The AI technology, which stores data on
2.3 million matching color and black and white photos of the same
subject, first picks the appropriate colors.
The students then
modify them to bring them as close as possible to the original color
based on the accounts of the A-bomb survivors they interviewed.
The students are colorizing photos received from four hibakusha and keeping video records of the survivors’ accounts.
Hamai, an 83-year-old hibakusha from Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture,
provided 35 photos from the prewar period, including those showing him
with his parents and siblings, who died as a result of the bombing. The
pictures were kept safe in the aftermath at the place to which he was
“Adding colors to the photos made the scenery in the
photos more stereoscopic,” Hamai said, adding happily that the images
had brought back forgotten memories of a friend.
that black and white photos seem to divide the lives of modern people
and those of the prewar period. “I hope colorization (technology) will
bridge the postwar and prewar periods,” he said.
The United States
dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and the
second on Nagasaki three days later. Around 210,000 people are estimated
to have died from the attacks by the end of 1945. Japan surrendered on
Aug. 15, bringing World War II to an end.