Junior Writers Reporting

Peace Seeds: Teens in Hiroshima Sow Seeds of Peace (Part 1)

Part 1: Hiroshima in 2045, 100 years after the atomic bombing

This year marks the 7oth year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the end of this March, the average age of the A-bomb survivors, known as hibakusha in Japanese (those holding the Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate), will exceed 80. The total number of survivors, which once stood at over 370,000, has dropped to less than 200,000. In these unavoidable conditions, with the A-bomb survivors aging and passing away, the teenagers of today may be the last generation able to hear their thoughts directly.

In 2045, the 100th anniversary of the atomic bombings, the “junior writers” of the Chugoku Shimbun, now teens, will be in their 40s. Meanwhile, by that time, the A-bomb survivors will likely all be gone. What circumstances will then rise in Hiroshima and in Japan? What sort of places should they be?

Pondering these questions in a workshop, we considered our own involvement in society by linking the world today with the world in 30 years. Come along with us as we plant the “seeds” for realizing a brighter future in 2045.

What is Peace Seeds?
Peace Seeds is a project where teens can grasp the preciousness of peace and life more deeply, from a variety of perspectives, and expand their view of our planet. With the aim of making more smiles bloom in this world, 45 teens in Hiroshima, from the sixth grade of elementary school to the third year of high school, will write articles which express their ideas by determining the themes and gathering the information they need.

Case No. 1 in 2045: Virtual reality experience to learn about that fateful day

On August 6, 2045, marking the 100th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the Peace Dream Park, located largely in Naka Ward and centering on the area of Peace Memorial Park, opens to the public. This is a theme park of peace situated within a radius of five kilometers from the hypocenter. Visitors can tour the various sites of the park by streetcar. A-bombed buildings, like the former Hiroshima University Science Faculty No. 1 Building at the old Hiroshima University site, are used to create a virtual reality museum.

Each streetcar stop inside the park is equipped with a button. When this button is pressed, a life-size image of a person who experienced the atomic bombing appears at the stop and speaks about their experiences. These accounts are available in 20 different languages.

The virtual reality museum features a ride which reproduces downtown Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bombing. Participants can go through a virtual reality experience of the bomb’s flash and blast as well as the black rain that fell afterward. There is no impact, physically, on the participants. Other A-bombed buildings offer additional experiences to participants, such as the work carried out by mobilized students in 1945 at the former Army Clothing Depot in Minami Ward.

An official of the park comments, “I hope that visitors will go through firsthand experiences in this virtual reality environment to deepen their understanding of the atomic bombing.” With little opportunity left to hear accounts of the atomic bombing directly from the survivors, the park provides a groundbreaking approach to handing down the memories of that time.

A new curriculum known as “Learn, Tell, and Act” (LTA) is introduced in schools nationwide. LTA seeks to expand the idea of “peace” more broadly, including such concepts as “discrimination,” “disparity,” and “human rights,” to enlarge the model of peace education pursued in Hiroshima which has been focused on providing basic knowledge about the atomic bombing and related issues.

Studying abroad after graduating from junior high school is now mandatory for all students. In high school, the students themselves create their own peace education program and take part in teaching junior high school students.

Through the process of creating these peace education programs, high school students can convey information about peace and strengthen their ability to communicate on this subject by teaching younger students. The opportunity to implement peace education themselves can nurture their initiative and cultivate more human resources for the cause of peace in the world. (Yuumi Kimura, 18, and Takeshi Iwata, 16)

In order to realize this vision...

All A-bombed buildings which convey the message of Hiroshima will be managed by the City of Hiroshima. The city will seek to have these buildings added to the list of World Heritage sites. To realize this aim, it will be necessary to reinforce the buildings to make them earthquake-resistant. (Miyu Okada, 13)

For this reinforcement work, donations will be solicited nationwide, as in the “10 Feet Film Project,” which was pursued in the 1980s. The funding goal should be 10 billion yen, equivalent to about 100 yen per person in Japan. (Mei Morimoto, 16)

To create virtual life-size images of A-bomb survivors sharing their experiences, survivors will be asked to give their accounts on video, filmed from various angles. With the survivors now aging, this activity must be addressed as soon as possible. (Kaito Tani, 12)

For school trips, high school students will visit sites with a “negative legacy,” the result of war in various nations, in order to create their peace education programs. They will take part in exchange activities with local high school students to raise their awareness for peace in the world and share this awareness with peers of other countries. (Arata Kono, 17)

Students will have opportunities to give presentations about Hiroshima in English when they study abroad during their final year of compulsory education. In junior high, lessons will foster ability in making presentations in English by incorporating such training as well as exchange activities with international students. (Nanaho Yamamoto, 15)

Handstraps in streetcars will be equipped with an audio function so passengers can listen to the experiences of A-bomb survivors and songs about peace through headsets. A system will also be devised so people can make donations for A-bombed buildings using PASPY or an IC card ticket. (Hiroyuki Hanaoka, 13)

Case No 2. in 2045: Streetcars float in the air

The city of Hiroshima is chosen as the “most livable place in the world” by a well-respected research group, which cites Hiroshima as a place “friendly to all kinds of people.” Here, people with disabilities, the elderly, children, and those of other nationalities can go out freely on their own and pursue their chosen activities.

The city’s streetcars, introduced over 130 years ago, are well known and well loved by residents and visitors. The City of Hiroshima, with the Hiroshima Electric Railway and local universities, have teamed up to develop a new type of streetcar, unique to Hiroshima, which floats in the air. The new streetcar can run at higher speeds and offers a comfortable ride due to less vibration. At stops, the entrance and exit are level with the ground so that the elderly, people in wheelchairs, and infants in baby carriages can easily get on and off.

There is a new streetcar line which links such stops as Shoko Center in Nishi Ward, the Eba district in Naka Ward, and Red Cross Hospital, also in Naka Ward. Another streetcar line creates a loop, connecting major stops in downtown Hiroshima, like the Kamiya-cho district and Hiroshima City Hall, both in Naka Ward. These new lines enable more convenient travel to work, play, study, and other activities.

Meanwhile, A-bombed streetcars still run through the city. They are operated at a set time every Sunday so that the memories of that fateful day, and the wish for peace, will not fade. (Hinako Saeki, 16)

In order to realize this vision...

The people of Hiroshima will seek support for this vision to make streetcars more user-friendly through signature drives and social networking. (Nana Kawaichi, 13)

Junior high and high school students in Hiroshima will launch a group which pursues a campaign to raise funds for the world’s first floating streetcar. (Shiori Niitani, 16)

As universities in Hiroshima give greater attention to the environmentally-friendly streetcar, they, along with the City of Hiroshima and the Hiroshima Electric Railway Company, will become a driving force in meeting the technical challenges to create a new model. (Miki Meguro, 11)

The Hiroshima Electric Railway Company will develop a stretchable hand strap for streetcars so that passengers won’t lose their balance and fall. The company will also increase the number of buttons, and vary their height, so passengers can more easily alert the driver when they want to get off. (Atsuhito Ito, 11)

The City of Hiroshima will create moving walkways and build roofs over major roads around streetcar stops so people can move about more easily on snowy and rainy days. (Satoko Hirata, 17)

To eliminate rough surfaces on roads after construction work, universities and businesses will carry out joint research to develop technology which ensures that the surface of the road is smooth. (Marika Tsuboki, 14)

All shops in downtown Hiroshima will provide a free parking space for bicycles and the City of Hiroshima will establish a system of fines for those who park their bicycles in unauthorized locations. By reducing the number of bicycles that are parked illegally, the city can secure wider road space, enabling pedestrians to walk more easily and decreasing the number of accidents. (Ishin Nakahara, 16)

Case No. 3 in 2045: Experience as evacuees of disaster

A camp experience to simulate the reality of evacuation in the event of a disaster is introduced at elementary schools nationwide in the academic year of 2045. The national program is modeled on the Hiroshima program begun three years earlier. Each month, students in every grade of elementary school learn about how disasters occur, damage from disasters in the past, and countermeasures if a disaster should strike. The camp activity takes place on the school grounds to simulate the experience of life as an evacuee.

It has been 25 years since a law obligated all homes to be equipped with emergency supplies. This preparedness, along with the condition of fire alarms, is checked regularly. A system in which the people of a neighborhood support one another in their daily lives has spread. On a weekly basis, the people in charge of a neighborhood group visit the homes of those who face difficulties going out. “Hazard lamps” at front doors are now widely used. Residents can call an ambulance or seek help from neighbors just by pressing a button for the lamp.

A reliable cell phone app has been created which enables users to learn evacuation routes from their present location and inform their location to others linked to their account, in addition to receiving timely reports on the disaster at hand. The app is expected to help reduce the damage and impact from disasters, including earthquakes. With nearly all homes now equipped with solar panels and reserve batteries, blackouts are no longer a concern. (Maiko Hanaoka, 16)

In order to realize this vision...

Using the area hit by the mudslide disaster in Hiroshima in 2014 as a model, those running cell phone companies and software development companies will create hazard maps, working alongside local residents. The application they produce will make use of the global positioning system (GPS) to deliver information in the event of disaster. (Yoshiko Hirata, 13)

Each community appoints leaders who serve as volunteers, delivering snacks and newsletters at seasonal events such as Christmas and the Girls’ Festival. Through interaction, the members of the community can gradually strengthen their bonds. (Shiho Fujii, 13)

The installation of hazard lamps will begin with households with the elderly. The aim is to make these lamps widely used. Making this installation mandatory, like fire alarms, might be a good idea. (Aoi Nakagawa, 13)

Every home will have a shelf used expressly for disaster preparedness, where residents place such items as water, hard biscuits, and sleeping bags. It is also important that adults hold in mind that the lives of children are a higher priority than money. (Hiromi Ueoka, 14)

The cost of solar panels and batteries must be lowered. To make these more widely used, the central government and other entities will provide subsidies to users and developers. Such items will enable many more families to maintain power in their homes in the event of a blackout. (Chiaki Yamada, 15)

To begin with, children’s associations and other organizations will hold survival camps for children to provide them with proper knowledge of disasters. The benefits of such camps will be shared with the public through newspapers and the Internet. (Nako Yoshimoto, 15)

Case No. 4 in 2045: A year abroad in an English-speaking area

From the academic year of 2045, the education system undergoes significant change. In the past, English was taught from the third grade of elementary school. However, the old framework of six years for elementary school and three years for junior high school is altered to a new framework of five years for elementary school and three years for junior high school. Now one year shorter, the savings of time and expense will be put toward a mandatory year-long study abroad experience in English-speaking parts of the world after graduation from junior high school.

Students in elementary school study only Japanese, Math, and “Life Studies.” In junior high, students will also start to learn English. Knowledge that is important for daily life is the focus. Life Studies will combine Science, Social Studies, Home Economics, and Moral Education. In their learning, students are expected not to merely take in knowledge one-way, but to study proactively and take part in hands-on work, including discussions and group projects.

Starting in high school, students pursue more intensively the themes that they found of interest during their earlier years of compulsory education. For university entrance examinations, the pass-fail decision will be determined by presentations instead of a written test format. (Shino Taniguchi, 16)

In order to realize this vision...

“Life Studies” is designed to teach the meaning and skills of living. It incorporates the subjects of technology, home economics, and physical education, too. Through personal experiences, students will gain the wisdom of living, such as cooking and sewing, using the Internet, treating injuries, and preventing colds. Hiroshima will first pilot this subject. (Tokitsuna Kawagishi, 13)

To realize the mandatory study abroad program for all junior high school graduates, many homes must be found to accommodate these students. Homestay families, paid for their support, are solicited at schools in English-speaking nations considered safe by the Japanese government. Children will study the culture and history of English-speaking nations and regions before going abroad. Each student will then choose their five preferred places to study abroad after taking part in some exchange with the local people of these places. The students’ destinations are decided by lottery. In my case, I would like to exchange views with international students in Japan to deepen mutual understanding. (Shino Taniguchi, 16)

Other developments

No euthanizing of cats and dogs

Fiscal 2044 marked the 2oth year in a row that no cats or dogs were euthanized in Hiroshima Prefecture. In fiscal 2011, 33 years ago, the prefecture recorded that 8,340 cats and dogs were put down, the worst among any of the 47 prefectures. Thirteen years later, the prefecture’s efforts paid off in bringing that number down to zero, an achievement that has continued year after year. We are apt to forget the tragic past in which cats and dogs were once put down because of the selfishness of human beings. In order not to forget this history and maintain our morals, we have been communicating this sad experience.

The coordinated efforts of the public and private sectors are needed to keep this number at zero. Government regulations are in place to monitor breeders of cats and dogs, with a system of registration for all animals. There are stricter rules on keeping animals in the home, too, with a tax on those who keep dogs, as one example. (Riho Kito, 13)

Magnetic cars run the roads

The construction work on major roads for the use of magnetic cars, begun five years ago, has been completed. By embedding magnets beneath the street, cars can drive using the repulsion force produced between cars equipped with magnets and the magnets beneath the roads. Further advances in automobile technology have also made driving safer and more energy efficient. This helps lessen global warming.

Cars now only require magnets and simple driving devices; they no long need to be changed regularly. With public subsidies to cover costs, Japan puts its technology to practical use for the first time in the world as a nation.

I use public transportation when I go to a farther destination. If I bought a car, I would choose an environmentally-friendly model. I hope that car manufacturers develop successful magnetic cars. (Harumi Okada, 15)

Exchange between Japan and China

The people of Japan and China are experiencing a boom where the people of both countries enjoy the music and dramas of the other nation. In Japan, musicians from China, called Chinese Pop or C-POP, are popular, while in China, actors from Japan are active in Chinese dramas.

At the Asa Zoo, located in Asakita Ward, Hiroshima and in operation for 74 years, a giant panda that arrived from China five years ago is pregnant. In the spring it will give birth. Pandas are now no longer endangered and are common in zoos. They are also a symbol of the stronger relationship between Japan and China.

High school and college students from the cities of Chongqing, a sister city of Hiroshima, and Hiroshima will engage in exchange activities during the summer vacation and at other times. They will make mutual visits, for one or two weeks, to the two cities to deepen their friendship through such group activities as workshops on history and culture and visits to memorials. They will also hold meetings to report on their efforts to actively expand their circle of understanding. (Kana Fukushima, 16)


Jumpei Hirao, head of Hiroshima Jin Daigaku, an NPO located in Hiroshima

Jumpei Hirao, 38, head of Hiroshima Jin Daigaku, an NPO located in Naka Ward, served as moderator for the workshop. He offered advice to the participants, saying, “It’s important to narrow the gap between current conditions and your ideals by examining the present thoroughly in order to realize these dreams of ‘Hiroshima in 2045.’”

Mr. Hirao said he found the vision conceived by the junior writers intriguing, because “I had never imagined many of these ideas.” As for disaster preparedness, he said that “a change in mindset can lead to less damage.” Based on his experience, he recommends studying abroad, saying that his travels in the world for a year changed his perspective.

“Together, why don’t we achieve these dreams for 2045?” he said. He offered encouragement by saying that if young people think concretely about their vision of 30 years in the future, and connect that with the reality of today, the way forward will be seen. (Sayaka Kawata, 16)

Peace Seeds appears in the Chugoku Shimbun on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.

(Originally published on January 8, 2015)