Photo/IllutrationThis photo was colorized with artificial intelligence and adjusted manually by Anju Niwata based on an interview with Hisashi Takahashi, an atomic bomb survivor. Takahashi is far left with, from left, his grandmother, mother, father and younger brother. (Provided by University of Tokyo professor Hidenori Watanabe)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

HIROSHIMA--Students here are recreating the lives of people devastated by the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, by vividly colorizing photos taken before the city was leveled by the nuclear attack.

Students from Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School combine artificial intelligence technology and interviews with atomic bomb survivors to produce realistic coloring of black-and-white photos provided by hibakusha.

Monochrome pictures snapped before and during World War II are automatically colorized with artificial intelligence. The processed photos are shown to hibakusha so colors can be manually adjusted based on their accounts.

Converting one black-and-white photo into color takes from one week to several months, and 140 pictures have been colorized since November. The finished pictures will go on display at an exhibition here in autumn at the earliest.

In late July, Anju Niwata, 16, a second-year student who heads the project in which six other members are participating this fiscal year, visited Hisashi Takahashi, 89, who lives in Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward.

A photo shows Takahashi with his parents, grandmother and younger brother smiling in a carpet of flowers.

“They were dandelions,” Takahashi said, referring to the small flowers that Niwata had assumed were white clovers.

The Takahashi family’s photo studio was destroyed by the atomic bomb a few years after the picture was taken, killing his parents and younger brother. Takahashi survived the disaster because he had evacuated from Hiroshima.

Tokuso Hamai, 84, in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, who lost his parents as well his elder brother and sister in the devastation, provided a photo showing his family going to see the cherry blossoms.

More than 10 people sit around a picnic box on a rush mat with smiles on their faces in the picture shot in spring 1935, a year after Hamai was born.

Watching the colorized photo, Hamai smiled and said he also remembers he “picked up cedar nuts with my friends there and put them in bamboo to fire them like bullets.”

Niwata said, “Color photos show that people of the time led their lives just in the same way as we currently do and that their lives were destroyed by just one atomic bomb.”

Hidenori Watanabe, 43, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, supervises the student project.

“I hope those who watch the photos will see firsthand that the atomic bombing took place only a short while ago, not in the distant past, and understand that it has a link with their own lives,” he said.