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Hibakusha: After drawing 3,345 pictures of A-Bomb Dome, artist, 83, keeps pressing on

HIROSHIMA -- The city of Hiroshima was covered with snow on New Year's Day in 2015.

    "In the past, I would rush to the Atomic Bomb Dome and draw a picture, but ..." says Hiroshi Hara, his words trailing off. The 83-year-old stayed at home in Aki Ward of this atomic-bombed city that day.

    "My physical strength -- no, my spirit has declined lately, though I love the dome," he says. Hara has drawn 3,345 pictures of the Atomic Bomb Dome some 160 meters northwest of ground zero over the past 31 years. Since November last year, he has drawn only one at the request of a local broadcaster.

    Whenever he arrives at the dome, he goes down the embankment to the nearby river and puts some water from the river into a container and uses it to dissolve his paint. In recent years, however, it has become difficult for him to go up and down the embankment. He feels his physical strength has weakened and finds it tough to go up the bank in cold days.

    He was 13 years old when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. He still cannot forget a river scene he saw from a bridge the day after he went into the city.

    "The bodies of people were flowing as if they were piling up on others. The stomachs of the bodies of both men and women were swollen," he recalls.

    Whenever he draws a painting of the atomic-bombed city, Hara tells the spirits of the victims, "Let me use the precious water of life."

    Despite his weakening spirit, Hara has not lost enthusiasm about drawing pictures. In mid-January, he posted a postcard on the door to his house with a painting of a round leaf holly with bright-red berries.

    "I must lift my spirit," he says, trying to cheer himself up. "In spring, I'd like to resume my activities. I can't wait for the cherry blossoms to bloom."

    This year marks not only the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing but also the centennial of the completion of the building as the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition.

    Hara remembers that the building was a modern Western-style structure before the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. He has also witnessed the building as a symbol of the atomic-bombed city in the postwar period although it was reduced to ruins.

    The dome is now surrounded by steel scaffolding for a survey to see how far it has degraded, but the work is aimed at preserving the heritage for future generations.

    "The dome says nothing. Still, it has firmly called for nuclear disarmament," Hara says. "By drawing pictures of the dome, I'm determined to convey what I saw, heard and felt in the war to children. This is my mission as someone who has been allowed to survive although I was exposed to radiation."

    Hara is glad that his five grandchildren have asked him to draw pictures until he turns 100. Therefore, he will never abandon drawing pictures in the near future. (By Takehiko Onishi, Hiroshima Bureau)

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