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Hibakusha: Nagasaki A-bomb survivor looks how to keep sharing story 77 yrs after tragedy

Mitsugi Moriguchi, a Nagasaki A-bomb survivor, speaks about his war experiences to students on a school trip in the city of Nagasaki on May 31, 2022. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Takahashi)

NAGASAKI -- "Children younger than you also had to work in place of adults who went to war, and they died after being exposed to the atomic bomb," said Mitsugi Moriguchi, the chief secretary of the "Nagasaki no shogen no kai" (Nagasaki testimonials association).

    The 85-year-old expressed his anger toward the A-bomb while speaking to second-year junior high school students from Kagoshima Prefecture on a school trip at Nagasaki Peace Park on May 31.

    Lately, he is concerned that more and more children seem to respond they "don't know" when asked about when the atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place. As 77 years have passed since the tragedy, Moriguchi says "it's becoming increasingly difficult to convey the experience of the atomic bombing."

    A few years ago, he was invited to an elementary school in the city of Nagasaki as a lecturer on peace education. To convey the actual situation of the damage, Moriguchi planned to show a video of Sumiteru Taniguchi, who died at the age of 88 in 2017, being treated for serious burns to his back after becoming exposed to the A-bomb about 1.8 kilometers from the hypocenter.

    However, the suggestion was rejected by the school's principal, who explained, "Parents will protest that their children are scared and can't sleep at night."

    In 1945, Moriguchi was only 8-years-old when he heard an air raid warning and rushed to a bomb shelter after putting on a protective hood. There he prayed, "Please god." About 10 days after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, he returned to the city from the Saga Prefecture town of Shiroishi, where he had evacuated. Smoke from burning corpses could be seen everywhere across the scorched fields, and he felt numb due to the shock.

    There were marks left from burning bodies on the school playground, and children were piling up stones saying things like, "This is the mark where my father was burned," and, "This is the mark where my mother was burned."

    Moriguchi's older sister, who was exposed to radiation at a munition factory about three kilometers from the hypocenter at the age of 19, suffered from multiple primary cancers after World War II and died at age 41.

    How can the inhumanness of nuclear weapons, which annihilate everyone on the spot, be passed on?

    Taniguchi's way of doing so was showing the photo of his own back burned red, and saying, "Please don't look away." It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell children about the reality of nuclear damage like Taniguchi experienced. Moriguchi, who himself worked as an elementary school teacher for about 40 years, is becoming more and more concerned.

    Five years have passed since the death of Taniguchi, who sometimes even took off his shirt to show his scars, and called of the abolition of nuclear weapons. Moriguchi worries about the current situation in which Russia, invading Ukraine, is suggesting it may use nuclear weapons. "The world doesn't understand what will happen if nuclear weapons are used," he said.

    Mitsugi Moriguchi, a Nagasaki A-bomb survivor, speaks about his war experiences to junior high school students on a school trip at Nagasaki Peace Park in the city of Nagasaki on May 31, 2022. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Takahashi)

    Moriguchi is also disappointed with politicians, who talk about "nuclear sharing" to deploy U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan and jointly operate them between the two countries, as he feels they "don't know anything about the cruelty of nuclear weapons."

    The Nagasaki testimonials association has recorded over 2,000 A-bomb testimonies for more than half a century, and even now, if there are people who want to testify about their A-bomb experiences, Moriguchi and others will visit them to keep records.

    Why do A-bomb survivors keep on talking about their experiences even if it brings back painful memories?

    Moriguchi explained, "A-bomb survivors do not wish people to take pity on them. They want people to understand the horror of nuclear weapons, and reach a point where they think, 'That's why we should never start a war.'" Moriguchi's search for ways to convey this message to children and world leaders continues.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takahashi, Nagasaki Bureau)

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