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Students release translation of booklet on prominent Hiroshima A-bomb survivor online

A screenshot of the website displaying an English translation of a booklet on the life of Sunao Tsuboi is seen. (Photo courtesy of the Network of Translators for the Globalization of Testimonies of A-bomb Survivors)
Eishin Junior and Senior High School human rights club president Rumi Umayahara, second from left, and other members work together with Network of Translators for the Globalization of Testimonies of A-bomb Survivors staff member Takahiro Abiru, third from left, to translate a booklet on the life of Sunao Tsuboi, at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies in Kyoto's Ukyo Ward in July 2019. (Mainichi/Mai Suganuma)

KYOTO -- Students from Hiroshima Prefecture hoping to spread the message of 94-year-old A-bomb survivor Sunao Tsuboi have released their English translation of a booklet on his life online.

"We hope to spread Mr. Tsuboi's strong desire for denuclearization across the globe and realize a world without nuclear weapons," said a member of the human rights club at Eishin Junior and Senior High School in the western Japan city of Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, who were involved in the translation.

Titled "Cry of the soul Tsuboi Sunao," in English, the booklet was compiled from interviews with the prominent A-bomb survivor in 2016 by Eishin's human rights club members. It can be read on the official website at:

Tsuboi, a resident of Hiroshima, was exposed to radiation when the first U.S. atomic bomb exploded over the city on Aug. 6, 1945. Club members documented how he shared his experiences and anti-war message with junior and senior high school students while introducing himself as "Pikadon Sensei," literally meaning teacher of the A-bomb's flash and boom, after becoming a math teacher.

His activities against nuclear weapons as a chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo) were also covered in the booklet.

The booklet elicited a favorable public response after it was donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Hoping the booklet would also be read by foreigners, some 10 club members launched efforts to make an English translation last year.

Students received cooperation from the Network of Translators for the Globalization of the Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors (NET-GTAS) based in the western Japan city of Kyoto. They conducted a follow-up interview with Tsuboi by phone, and repeatedly visited Kyoto on their days off school to receive advice on English terms and other matters.

"I thought we must not devalue Mr. Tsuboi's turbulent and precious life with botched English," recalled Eishin's human rights club president Rumi Umayahara, 17, describing the heavy responsibility the students felt.

According to Umayahara, it was especially difficult to choose appropriate English terms to convey subtle nuances. For example, students initially wrote that "it was black" under the mushroom cloud, but after receiving advice from NET-GTAS, reworded the translation to read, "it was pitch black," in order to emphasize the darkness.

When updated on the progress of the translation, Tsuboi apparently rejoiced and thanked the students.

Club members finished translating the booklet into English this past November. Thinking it would be most effective to publicize the translation via the internet to share it with a wider audience, students asked NET-GTAS to create a website.

The original Japanese content and its English translation were published on the site along with illustrations and other images on Dec. 8. The day marked the 78th anniversary of the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor. "We wanted to attract attention on the day, when many people in the world think about war," Umayahara explained.

She added, "As the number of hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) is decreasing each year, we want to spread their experiences across the world more." Eishin's human rights club next plans to create an English translation on the life of Chieko Kiriake, a 90-year-old hibakusha in Hiroshima who has been sharing her experiences in the atomic bombing with the public.

Students also plan to translate and put up testimonies of second-generation hibakusha and Umayahara's essay on the club's activities.

(Japanese original by Mai Suganuma, Kyoto Bureau)

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