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Inheriting the legacy of Hiroshima: Conveying experiences to the 'third generation'

In this file photo, the 72nd Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony is held at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2017. (Mainichi)

It's difficult to find the right words. "Incredible" and "admirable" may come into mind, but beyond that, I can't find the right expression...

On Aug. 6, a Sunday marking the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I found myself at a feature exhibition event held at an elementary school in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward.

Folding chairs were lined up in a room slightly bigger than a regular classroom, and sitting in a chair facing the audience was 86-year-old Yoshiko Kajimoto, an atomic bomb survivor, or "hibakusha," who had come from Hiroshima to speak. The classroom was filled to perhaps double its capacity of 30 people with some members of the audience standing.

Kajimoto spoke about her experience of the bombing when she was 14 years old. There is definitely no word other than "Incredible" that can describe her testimony.

However, on this day, I think the sight of the young people training their ears to listen to her tremendous experience particularly struck my heart, and I was moved by the young organizers of the event who continue to create opportunities for people to have various "encounters" with the Hiroshima bombing.

The elementary and junior high school students in particular stood out at the venue, with one girl barely raising her head as she passionately took notes. During the question and answer period, it was an elementary school boy in a T-shirt who was the first to raise his hand high.

After the bombing, Kajimoto was trapped under the debris at a factory where she had been working with other young girls. While most of the girls died, Kajimoto barely survived.

"When you were trapped under the rubble, did you think that you wanted to give up and die?" The boy in the T-shirt asked.

Kajimoto smiled as she answered. "No, I wanted to live."

Witnessing that casual conversation, I imagined that that exchange would probably be forever etched into that boy's memory.

The exhibition event is titled "Hiroshima -- 3rd Generation Exhibition: Succeeding to History." The event is the brainchild of 34-year-old web designer and Hiroshima-native Ryoko Kubota, whose grandmother experienced the bombing. It calls on the "third generation" -- those who have no experience of World War II -- to think of how to continue to pass on the stories of Hiroshima. This is the third year the event has been held.

A blank space has deliberately been inserted into the Japanese title of the exhibition. This is because Kubota would like participants to not only take away new information, but also take their own initiative to learn, listen and think about events of the past, and insert their own answers.

The average age of hibakusha is now over 81. Working out how to continue conveying the experiences of the survivors is no small task for Japan. Maybe that's why I was moved by acts of conveying and passing down the stories of hibakusha.

Let's listen to what Kubota has to say. (By Hiroshi Fuse, Expert Senior Writer, Editorial Board)

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