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Comic book relays stories of A-bomb survivors who moved to Brazil

A scene from the comic book Projeto HIBAKUSHA is seen in this image provided by Guilherme Profeta. It shows Junko Watanabe, who was exposed to radioactive "black rain" that fell immediately after the Hiroshima atomic bombing, reading statements by A-bomb survivors, which were left at the Association of Atomic Bomb Victims in Brazil.

HIROSHIMA -- A Portuguese-language comic book incorporating the experiences of hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, who moved to Brazil after World War II, and their narrative accounts of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, has been published, with one copy going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

    A scene from the comic book Projeto HIBAKUSHA is seen in this image provided by Guilherme Profeta. The Grim Reaper is seen landing in the city of Hiroshima on at 8:15 a.m., on Aug. 6, 1945, the day of the U.S. atomic bombing, saying, "Today is going to be a very busy day."

    The 157-page book, titled "Projeto HIBAKUSHA" (Hibakusha Project), was written, illustrated and designed by Brazilians. Guilherme Profeta, a 32-year-old professor at the University of Sorocaba in Sao Paulo, Brazil, engaged in the project in the hope of utilizing it as learning material to pass down A-bomb survivors' memories to the younger generation.

    One scene in the comic strip depicts an interview where Profeta sat down with Takashi Morita, 97, and Junko Watanabe, 79 -- both A-bomb survivors from Hiroshima who currently live in Brazil.

    At age 21, Morita was on duty as a military police officer on a street in an area located some 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter in the city of Hiroshima. After World War II, he emigrated from Japan to Brazil in February 1956, against the backdrop of the Japanese government's migration policy. There, he raised two children born in Hiroshima, and in 1984, he established the Association of Atomic Bomb Victims in Brazil, which played a central role in expanding support for A-bomb survivors residing in Brazil and in passing down spoken accounts of the atomic bombing.

    Watanabe found out from her parents at age 38 that she had been exposed to radioactive "black rain" that fell immediately after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She commenced efforts to talk openly about her experiences as she felt the need to voice her inner thoughts as a hibakusha.

    Takashi Morita, an A-bomb survivor living in Brazil, right, and Guilherme Profeta are seen in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in this Nov. 16, 2018 photo provided by Profeta.

    The comic strip portrays the Grim Reaper to express the image of "death" that Profeta sensed during his trip to Hiroshima, which took place after his interview with the two hibakusha. In the work, the Grim Reaper lands in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., and says, "Today is going to be a very busy day." Profeta hopes that through his version of the story of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing, people will be encouraged to "know our history, avoid repeating it, and think about their own ways of retelling it, to ensure that people will keep sharing and listening to it."

    Priscila Nakajima, 30, a graphic designer and fourth-generation Japanese-Brazilian whose maternal grandfather has roots in Hiroshima, said it was not until she participated in the comic's production that she became aware that there were people around her who experienced the atomic bombing. She commented, "We can't erase what happened in the past, but we can keep retelling this story, so it won't happen again."

    Graphic designer Priscila Nakajima, who was involved in the production of Projeto HIBAKUSHA, is seen in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, in this Jan. 9, 2020 photo provided by Profeta.

    From March 2020, 13,365 Brazilian real (about $2,600) was gathered through crowdfunding, and 600 copies of the approximately B5-size comic book were published. The comic, which is in Portuguese only, was released for sale in July 2020 in Brazil.

    A copy of the comic book is kept at the library of the University of Sorocaba, and there are also apparently attempts to have it used in journalism classes. One copy was donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and it can be viewed on the first basement floor of the library. Profeta has expressed hopes for a Japanese-language version of the comic book.

    While the number of A-bomb survivors living in Brazil peaked at around 270 at one stage, there were only 72 hibakusha there as of the end of 2021. The Association of Atomic Bomb Victims in Brazil founded by Morita grew into the government-certified organization the Peace Association of Brazilian A-bomb Survivors, but the association's activities ceased at the end of 2020. Morita and other hibakusha based in Brazil currently continue giving lectures and performing skits, among other efforts, as small groups.

    The comic book Projeto HIBAKUSHA, which was donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, is seen in the city's Naka Ward on Aug. 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Akihiro Nakajima)

    As of the end of March 2021, there were some 2,800 A-bomb survivors who lived outside Japan and had Atomic Bomb Survivor's Certificates, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number fell from the approximately 3,400 people recorded in a survey in 2015.

    (Japanese original by Akihiro Nakajima, Hiroshima Bureau)

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