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Yoroku: Inheriting the experiences of World War II to tell the next generation

Osaka-based publisher Shimpu Shobo Co. has been collecting war testimonies from across the country and publishing them in the yearly volume "Magotachi e no Shogen" (Testimonies for our grandchildren). Since starting publication in 1988, the company has received roughly 20,000 memoirs, and selected some 2,400 stories for inclusion in the volume.

Company president Takuma Fukuyama began the task of reading every single submission and making the selections believing that conveying the raw sights and sounds of war is the best way to prevent future conflicts. However, Fukuyama is now 83 years old, and for the latest issue of "Magotachi e no Shogen," the publication's 30th, a new editorial member was added to be Fukuyama's successor -- 36-year-old Shingo Ueno.

Ueno must inquire about the names, places and times the stories occurred in order to check for historical inconsistencies. This is no easy task for someone who was born after World War II. Ueno's grandmother experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but she passed away before he got the chance to hear about her ordeal in detail. And so he spends each day pouring over the manuscripts, determined to ensure that no one else will feel the regret of losing the testimony of the past.

Submissions made by family members collecting the writings of their relatives who experienced the war or writing down oral stories are increasing. A submission came from a 72-year-old man orphaned at 5 years old who traced the footprints of his father, who died in a Soviet prison camp. Another came from a sixth-year elementary school student who submitted tales heard from a great-grandmother who lost her husband to the war.

Seventy-two summers have passed since the end of the war, and this summer we saw one obituary after another for those who used their war experiences to fuel ardent calls for peace. The government is tackling projects to cultivate storytellers, and the municipal governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also making efforts to train people to relate the experiences of atomic bomb survivors.

There was a time when Fukuyama considered ending serialization of Shimpu Shobo's testimonies due to a drop in the number of submissions. But what made him decide to pass the publication onto Ueno was the families who wished to convey the experiences of their relatives to the next generation. While there are still inheritors willing to pass down information, "Magotachi e no Shogen" will continue to offer an outlet for common people to tell of their war experiences. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

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