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Mission to pass down A-bomb experiences of my grandma and father: Hiroshima bureau chief

The Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims and the "Atomic Bomb" in the background are seen at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in this file photo taken on Oct. 15, 2019. (Mainichi/Yasunori Sato)

HIROSHIMA -- Seventy-five years ago today, my grandmother was looking up at the blue sky in Hiroshima. As soon as she saw the aircraft, which "looked like a crow," she was blown off her feet by a flash of light and a violently loud blast. My father, who was still a baby, was swept off the porch where he was sleeping. When my grandmother picked him up and stood up, she saw that the whole city was covered in a mushroom cloud. My grandmother cremated those who succumbed to the bombing, and walked endlessly through the rubble with her baby strapped to her back.

    It was in the summer of 2000 that I reported on my own family's experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. My grandmother, who accompanied me to the place where she had been living when the bombing occurred, passed away seven years ago at the age of 89, and her name was added to the registry stored in the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims. My father, who has lived the same number of years as post-war Japan, is now 75. The day when we will no longer be able to hear the live voices of people who experienced the atomic bombing, or hibakusha, is getting closer with absolute certainty. I have the visceral sense that we are at a turning point in which the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are going from being something that happened in our time to something that happened at one point in history.

    I have long been involved in covering the nuclear bombings, considering it my destiny. There were times when I got my hopes up, like when the United Nations passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. But unfortunately, I don't have the sense that we have moved closer to a world without nuclear weapons that hibakusha long for. In fact, conflict and division, and an air of animosity between countries and ethnic groups has given rise to the term "a new Cold War," as the sound of peace groaning grows louder and louder. If we can imagine that conflict that goes unchecked results in destruction like that which happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then we know that we must continue to warn the world from the only cities that have been struck by nuclear bombs that the same mistakes must not be repeated.

    In another quarter of a century, it will have been 100 years since the atomic bombings. The significance of passing down the reality of the atomic bombings should not change even after the hibakusha are gone. But to be able to do so, there are things we must do now. Even in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we face crises such as written resources getting lost and architectural structures that survived the bombings facing possible dismantling. I believe that the passing down of "things" that possess the memories of the bombings to the next generation is a responsibility that we have to history and to the future.

    Since this past spring, visitors to the cities where the atomic bombs were dropped have drastically decreased due to the effects of the novel coronavirus. Still, there are people around the world who use the internet to learn about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the use of the latest technology and ingenuity, I believe we can further improve the capacity of the two cities to deliver messages to the world.

    Going forward, those of us who have heard and learned directly from those who experienced the bombings have the major responsibility of passing down their stories. With that in mind, I hope to constantly endeavor to fulfill my responsibility.

    (Japanese original by Noboru Ujo, Hiroshima Bureau)

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