HIROSHIMA, Aug. 6 – As Hiroshima marked the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city on August 6, 2020, many bomb survivors groups are to close down, leaving the mission to pass down the memories of the war witnesses in younger hands. The number of atomic bomb survivors’ groups in 2019 was 31, down from 73 in 1986, and more are planning to stop their activities during this anniversary year. Some second-generation a-bomb survivors in Japan are undertaking the task of realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world by launching new activity groups or offering training to future storytellers.
“It’s my life mission.”
In 2018, a community of survivors, or hibakusha in Japanese, in Mukaihara, Akitakata City, Hiroshima Prefecture, decided to disband the group on August 6, 2020. The chairman of the group, Yuukou Tamagawa, 86, who is also a member of a local agricultural cooperative in northern Hiroshima (JA Hiroshima Hokubu), explained sadly that the decision was made because “all of the members are very old.” “Most of us need support for walking, except maybe ten. It’s impossible to keep organizing the group.”
The group in Mukaihara was established in the 1970s by hibakusha with official A-bomb victim certificates. Tamagawa became the sixth Chairman in 2012. The town has a monument for hundreds of people who died in the atomic bomb, and a memorial service was held on around August 6 every year.
The group still has 130 members, with many living in nursing homes and only six acting members, including Tamagawa. They tried to find someone younger to hand the baton, but gave up as “young people are out of the town for work, and we can’t force them to take charge.” The coronavirus forced them to cancel their last memorial service this year and disband the group very quietly.
Seventy-five years ago, Tamagawa was a student of a high school in Hiroshima City. He was at the Hiroshima Station, far from the ground zero, thanks to the train delay when the bomb was dropped, but he lost most of his friends from school. “It’s so silly to have a war. It’s my life mission to share my experience with elementary and junior high school students and help them learn about the war and the peace,” Tamagawa said in a determined voice.
Hiroshima City offering program for future storytellers
Hiroshima City is currently undertaking a project for creating new tellers who can pass down the A-bomb experience. In the three-year course, one trainee will listen to one first-generation hibakusha’s stories to acquire the skill for becoming a new storyteller. As of July 2020, 150 A-bomb survivors participate in the project for 197 trainees. Also, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum continues to film the stories of the bomb survivors. This year, it plans to film the story of ten hibakusha.
Koichiro Maeda, Secretary-General of the Hiroshima Prefecture Federation of A-bomb Victims Associations, said, “We need to make further efforts to pass on the desperate hope of the atomic bomb survivors to make the world free of nuclear weapons.”