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Japanese city initially marked by US as A-bomb target to open new peace museum

KITAKYUSHU -- A press preview of a new peace museum in this southwest Japan city, which was the United States' initial target for an atomic bombing on Aug. 9, 1945, was held on April 14 ahead of its scheduled opening on April 19.

    The Kitakyushu Municipal Government in Fukuoka Prefecture has been organizing and preparing Kitakyushu City Museum of Peace in the city's Kokurakita Ward to raise awareness that the city of Kokura, now part of Kitakyushu, was initially marked by the U.S. as an A-bomb target, among other historical facts from World War II.

    The 360-degree theater at Kitakyushu City Museum of Peace in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward allows visitors to visually and aurally experience World War II history, as seen in this photo taken on April 14, 2022. (Mainichi/Takashi Kamiiriki)

    On Aug. 9, 1945, the U.S. changed its bombing target from Kokura to the city of Nagasaki due to low visibility over Kokura. Based on this history, a local A-bomb survivors' group holds a peace memorial ceremony in Kitakyushu on Aug. 9 every year, and the municipal government has co-hosted the event since 2008. Katsuyama Park in Kokurakita Ward is home to a cenotaph paying tribute to A-bomb victims, and the new museum stands nearby.

    The museum exhibits some 150 items, including a wall clock from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum collection whose hands are stopped at 11:02 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. In a 360-degree theater, visitors will be able to learn visually and aurally how a bomber carrying an atomic bomb flew over Kokura before heading to Nagasaki. They can also learn about the Aug. 8, 1945, air raid that hit the then city of Yahata, now part of Kitakyushu, and killed and injured some 2,500 people. Additionally, the exhibition includes a life-size model of a firebomb shell used in the Yahata air raid, and a miniature model of a balloon bomb used by the Japanese military, as well as an area to experience a wartime blackout.

    Yukihiko Shigenobu, 62, a former professor at the University of Kitakyushu, who will assume the inaugural directorship at the museum, commented, "You can get a feeling for the everyday lives of the people who lived during the war (through the exhibition). We want to expand this museum's potential so that people will become interested and learn (about this part of history)."

    Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue will attend the opening ceremony on April 19.

    (Japanese original by Maika Hyuga, Kyushu News Department)

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