Hiroshima University junior sets off on voyage: A-bomb survivors to recount their experiences

Nao Fukuoka, 21: Eager to pass on accounts of A-bombing

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

When the Peace Boat departs on its “Global Voyage for a Nuclear-free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project” on March 13, Nao Fukuoka will be on board as a Youth Communicator for a Nuclear-free World. The Peace Boat, which is operated by a non-governmental organization, will stop in 18 countries on its journey of three months. Eight atomic bomb survivors will make the voyage to tell of their experiences. Ms. Fukuoka is involved in the planning of the trip and in providing support to the A-bomb survivors. “I want to help them convey to people that the A-bombing is not just a historic event but something that real people experienced,” she said.

Ms. Fukuoka has worked to understand the experiences of atomic bomb survivors. She served as a member of the planning committee for a June 2013 event connected with the manga “Barefoot Gen” that was held in Hiroshima. She read notes written by the manga’s artist, Keiji Nakazawa, who died in 2012, and also visited the spot where Gen was when the bomb was dropped and walked the route he is supposed to have taken when he fled. Along the way she sometimes got down to a child’s level and tried to imagine what Gen might have seen. “Family, friends, special occasions – I could sense the thousands of day-to-day lives that were lost in an instant,” Ms. Fukuoka said.

Born and raised in Hiroshima, Ms. Fukuoka is the granddaughter of an atomic bomb survivor. Her mother’s father experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But he died in 1972 at the age of 41 without talking about his experiences, so Ms. Fukuoka had no real sense of being the granddaughter of a survivor. Instead she first confronted the facts of the A-bombing in peace education at school. She came to feel that, as a young person of Hiroshima and a member of the last generation to be able to hear survivors’ accounts, she had a duty to pass on their stories.

She will be making the voyage with atomic bomb survivors of her grandfather’s generation. “I’m sure we will find a way to pass on the story of Hiroshima in a way that wouldn’t be possible by A-bomb survivors or young people only,” said Ms. Fukuoka.

In her free time Ms. Fukuoka enjoys visiting cafes and strolling around town with her friends. “I like going down unfamiliar alleys and finding knickknack shops,” she said. “I want to enjoy the atmosphere of the ports we visit.” Ms. Fukuoka lives in Aki Ward with her parents and two younger brothers.

(Originally published March 11, 2014)