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Hiroshima "beacon of hope"

August 6, 2015


VOX POPULI: Hiroshima permanent beacon of hope for nuclear-free world



Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the Asahi Shimbun.

One summer, a boy was playing by himself on the stone steps of his family's warehouse. When he noticed ants swarming toward him, he began squashing them with his fingers, one after another. He became totally engrossed. At dusk, he saw hallucinations of a river of scarlet flames flowing before him while bizarre creatures gazed at him in the semi-darkness.

The aforementioned is a summary of a passage from the novel "Shingan no Kuni" (The land of heart's desire) by Tamiki Hara (1905-1951), who became a Hiroshima "hibakusha" (A-bomb survivor) on Aug. 6 exactly 70 years ago.

Hara wrote that these images of hell the boy hallucinated were perhaps a preview of the "real hell" he would be forced to see years later.

Hara's depiction of an innocent child at play suggests the utter inhumanity of the nuclear attack in which people were treated as if they were no different from ants.

Having miraculously cheated death, Hara jotted down in his notebook as he surveyed the city of Hiroshima, which had been reduced to rubble, "I am probably being ordered by heaven to stay alive and tell others about this disaster."

He must have resolved, there and then, to help keep memories of the nuclear devastation alive for posterity. "Natsu no Hana" (Summer Flowers), his best-known work, was born from the jottings he made in that notebook.

But relaying the memories from generation to generation becomes less certain over time. According to a recent survey of hibakusha by The Asahi Shimbun, more than 50 percent of respondents said their atomic bomb experiences "have not been conveyed at all" or "have not been conveyed enough" to the next generations. In other words, those who thought their stories were being passed on formed only a minority.

Against this backdrop, Hara's notebook, together with materials belonging to other hibakusha novelists, was recently proposed for inclusion in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

I pray they will make the register, so that the horrific consequences of nuclear war will become part of the shared understanding of the global community.

Hara also wrote a good number of poems. "Towa no Midori" (Eternal green), which was meant as his message for the people of Hiroshima, appears to encourage them not to give up hope. It goes as follows: "Let young new leaves swirl ... let green leaves drip."

While we keep alive the "memories of death and flames" depicted by Hara, we must also keep alive the hope he held in his heart.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.


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