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New ways to pass down war experiences developed as direct witnesses lost to time

Nagasaki University professor Jun Byungdug, far left, explains the peace education materials he created using virtual reality and 3-D printed figures of buildings, at Nagasaki University, in Nagasaki, on Aug. 7, 2018. (Mainichi)

NAGASAKI -- As the number of people who experienced the tragedies of war continue to be lost to time, a new movement seeking methods to pass information on to the next generation has gained momentum, and a university professor here in this southern Japan city has created a VR system that allows students to see Nagasaki shortly after the U.S. atomic bombing.

Professor Jun Byungdug of the Faculty of Education at Nagasaki University has developed a VR experience using 3-D printed mini "houses" that allows wearers to see an aerial photo of Nagasaki taken by the U.S. military near the hypocenter two days before the atomic bomb was dropped. When the goggle-clad student fast-forwards, those buildings disappear in the blast. Jun plans to use the system to teach elementary school students.

A 23-year-old teacher living in Nagasaki said that when he saw a paper-scroll theater production featuring atomic bomb survivors wrapped in bandages in his first year of elementary school, he was simply terrified, and the so-called "peace education" did not "prompt any thought of issues with nuclear weapons or peace at all." The VR system, on the other hand, has the effect of drawing a child's interest, and Jun believes "there is a need for education where children are engaged and can learn the reality" of damage caused by the bombing.

Fourth-year Nagasaki University student Hanako Mitsuoka, 22, has been visiting elementary, junior and senior high schools to hold lectures for school children to encourage them to seriously consider the subject of peace since last year. "We need young people to act," she said.

Efforts crossing the boundaries of generations are on the cusp of gaining momentum. In the 2018 fiscal year beginning in April, a project to dispatch people who had heard the oral history of the atomic bomb directly from survivors got its start. Using funds from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for their travel and other expenses, these carriers of oral history have been dispatched some 160 times from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to schools, citizen lectures and other events all across the country.

A representative from the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall of the Atomic Bomb Victims commented, "We heard stories that some were shocked hearing the testimonies for the first time. We would like to continue to spread the story of the areas hit by the atomic bomb by these carriers of oral history."

(Japanese original by Kenta Somatani, Kyushu News Department, and Asako Takeuchi, City News Department)

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