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Hiroshima story told through pictures

 May 6, 2016


Teacher's tragic A-bomb story told in pictures in Nagasaki



By SHOHEI OKADA/ Staff Writer

Hiroshima story told through pictures

NAGASAKI--Kazuko Yumii was determined to take the story of her wartime experience to the grave. But decades after World War II ended, Yumii told a city official what happened to her when the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

What the official heard was a story of tragedy and shame, words so moving that Yumii’s experience is now being told through picture-story shows at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum here.

Yumii, a 24-year-old teacher at Yamazato national school, was digging a bomb shelter at the school in August 1945. The school happened to be about 700 meters from ground zero.

She flopped forward on the ground when she felt the shock wave and heard the deafening roar of the nuclear blast. Sometime later, the teacher looked for a pupil who had called out to her before the explosion. The child could not be found.

A girl then staggered toward Yumii.

“My mom and dad are both dead,” the girl said, looking into Yumii’s eyes and then dying in her arms. About 1,300 of the school's 1,600 students were killed by the atomic bombing.

Yumii’s story, titled "Hitomi no naka no Kodomotachi" (Children in My Eyes), has been told more than 100 times so far at the museum. She died before the picture cards for the story-telling shows were completed in 2009.

At one show on April 10, visitors cried as they listened to the words and viewed the accompanying picture cards. Foreign tourists also watched the show while reading the text translated into English.

Yasuhiro Onoe was the city government employee who heard Yumii’s story and decided to produce the shows.

Onoe, 57, became acquainted with her in 2006, when he was visiting an uncle in a hospital where the former teacher was also being treated.

At the urging of his aunt, Onoe asked Yumii to share her wartime experience.

She was initially reluctant to recall those tragic days, but she accepted his request and began to speak slowly.

She later poured out details of what she had went through toward the end of World War II.

Onoe already had a connection with Yumii. He graduated from Yamazato Elementary School, the successor of the school where Yumii had worked.

When he was a student there, scars from the atomic bombing were still evident on the school building.

Onoe visited her three times at the hospital and scribbled down all her words.

“Yumii harbored a sense of guilt,” he recalled feeling at that time.

As a teacher, she had encouraged her students to join the nation’s war effort with the spirit of “I won’t demand anything until I win,” a wartime slogan that had circulated throughout the country.

“I was under the impression that she was ashamed (of what she told her students),” Onoe said.

Onoe said Yumii looked relieved when she finished sharing her account.

He then asked Hidehiko Tajima to produce pictures based on Yumii’s experience.

Both Onoe and Tajima were members of Mugentai, a group that visits local nursing homes to entertain residents through singing and other activities.

Since December 2011, Mugentai has been offering the free picture-book shows at the museum at 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on the second Sunday of each month.

“I am happy to be able to pass down her experience in the form of a show,” Onoe said. “I would like young people to watch the performance. Yumii’s experience should be remembered.”




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