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Exhibition of hibakusha A-bomb experiences painted by Hiroshima students to open in Tokyo

A painting of a young mother bearing her dead son, by Kana Tsumura, is seen in this image provided by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

TOKYO -- An exhibition of paintings of the August 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima created by high school students, based on testimony from survivors, is set to open from July 19 at the ArtGraph Gallery in Tokyo's Ginza district.

The Hiroshima Municipal Motomachi Senior High School's art club's activities have been introduced previously in books and theater shows, but it's rare for the works themselves to be compiled and displayed in the Greater Tokyo Area. The organizer of the event said, "We hope it'll be an opportunity for people to think again on the war and atomic bombings through appreciation of these works, made through collaboration between high school students and hibakusha," as A-bomb survivors are called.

Amid the aging of hibakusha, the school in the western Japan city of Hiroshima launched the atomic bomb painting project in 2007. Since its inception well over 100 pieces have been made, with the initiative continuing this year. The works are kept by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and have even been used as presentation aids when hibakusha speak publicly about their experiences.

The students making the paintings are enrolled in the school's art course on creative expression. They get a firsthand sense of the event by repeatedly asking about the A-bomb experiences of hibakusha who they work together with, going on trips to the area laid waste by the bomb, and looking into other sources on the bombing. Over a year, they draw nearer to the reality of what happened through their close work with survivors.

In 2015, The Seinen Gekijo theater, based in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, created a dramatic piece called "Ano Natsu no e" (The pictures of that summer) modeled on the activities of the high school. It portrayed students carrying on the feelings of hibakusha and coming to re-evaluate their ideas of peace through creating the paintings. Many people from across the country came to see it.

A high school student participating in the program is seen discussing the creation of the work with a hibakusha describing his experiences, in this photo provided by Hiroshima Municipal Motomachi Senior High School.

The coming exhibition has been put on by a committee that in 2018 celebrated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Masuji Ibuse, author of "Black Rain," a renowned novel about the effects of radiation sickness after the bombings.

One senior member, Takayuki Okoshi, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "It appears that some hibakusha who have not related their experiences for a long time have been moved to do so by seeing the passion of the younger generation. It's also said there are a lot of hibakusha whose memories of that time are revived by seeing the paintings as they're being made."

Some 30 reproductions of the project's works will be shown at the Ginza exhibition. A talk on the paintings' creative process by a graduate from the high school, now studying art in the suburbs of Tokyo, is also scheduled.

Admission is 500 yen, and free for children of elementary school age and under. Its opening times are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with the exception of its final day, July 25, when it will close at 5 p.m.

For more inquiries, please call Okoshi at 090-2754-5652 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Jun Ida, Integrated Digital News Center, Evening Edition Group)

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