Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors Pass Their Stories to a New Generation

The New York Times (New York, NY), August 5, 2015


HIROSHIMA, Japan — Hiromi Hasai was being trained to make machine gun bullets when the flash from the atomic bomb that destroyed his city lit up the already bright morning sky. Just 14, he had been pulled from school a week before to help Japan’s failing war effort.

Mr. Hasai, now 84, has often talked publicly of his experiences that day, 70 years ago Thursday, when the first of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war ultimately killed more than 100,000 people. The victims included hundreds of his classmates, who were still at their school near the blast’s epicenter. The bullet factory, 10 miles out of town, was paradoxically a haven.

Yet the things that Mr. Hasai saw and felt that day are not recounted by him alone. The person who knows his story best, after Mr. Hasai himself, is Ritsuko Kinoshita, a woman 25 years his junior who is serving as his “denshosha” — the designated transmitter of his memories. It is part of an unusual and highly personal project to preserve and pass on the experiences of atomic bomb survivors, whose numbers are dwindling rapidly.

Mr. Hasai, a retired university physics researcher with a quick and infectious laugh, is still healthy, as are many of the survivors. But the object for Ms. Kinoshita and roughly 50 other volunteer denshosha is to keep telling the stories they have inherited once the witnesses become too frail to do so, to keep alive memories of a traumatic event that has anchored the pacifist sentiment that has pervaded the country ever since.


Subjects Covered: diversity, education, personal storytelling

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