American university students report on Hiroshima in search of A-bomb survivors’ message

by Kyoko Niiyama, Staff Writer

Two U.S. university students spent about one week in Hiroshima interviewing some 20 local residents, with the aim of discovering how Hiroshima A-bomb survivors and citizens’ groups engage in peace activities and communicate the area’s message for abolition of nuclear weapons.

Alessandro Getzel, 21, and Juliane Ding, 19, are third- and second-year students, respectively, at Swarthmore College in the eastern U.S. state of Pennsylvania. On January 16, they visited the ‘social book café’ Hachidori-sha, in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, and interviewed the café owner Erika Abiko.

Ms. Abiko spoke about her café’s activities, such as inviting A-bomb survivors to talk to customers and introduced the activities undertaken by Kakuwaka Hiroshima, a group of young people who visit local parliamentary representatives to try and persuade them to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In the interview, Mr. Getzel asked Ms. Abiko about what is being done to encourage more young people to engage in peace activities and how the story of devastation caused by the atomic bombings will be communicated even when no A-bomb survivors remain.

The two students spent some of their time in Hiroshima listening to the A-bomb experience of Keiko Ogura, 82, an A-bomb survivor, and visiting the World Friendship Center, an NPO in Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward that promotes international exchange activities.

The two students’ stay in Hiroshima was part of their class titled Social Innovation for Peace. Other students in the same class have visited Northern Ireland and Columbia to research the kinds of activities carried out by local people and organizations that experience war and conflict to help create peace in their own countries.

The students are planning to visit Hiroshima again this July to organize activities based on their class results. “I understood that the people of Hiroshima see nuclear weapons as an issue facing all of humanity and try to communicate that idea widely to the world,” said Ms. Ding. “We’d also like to play a role.”

(Originally published on January 27, 2020)