Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum releases to public via YouTube videos of 30 A-bomb survivors’ testimonies communicated to students on school trips

by Rina Yuasa, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s Naka Ward, is working on an initiative to record videos of A-bomb survivors communicating their atomic bombing experiences to students on school trips and post them on YouTube, the popular video-sharing website. Considering that, in the future, it will grow more and more difficult for the aging survivors to communicate their experiences, the museum’s Outreach Division began to film videos of survivors three years ago. Amid a decrease in school and other trips to Hiroshima due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum is calling for the videos to be used for a variety of purposes.

Shunichiro Arai, 90, a resident of Hiroshima’s Minami Ward, says on one of the videos, “The faces of two girls holding hands were swollen like balloons.” Mr. Arai entered the city in the aftermath of the atomic bombing at the age of 13. The roughly 60-minute video was taken of Mr. Arai describing to first-year junior high school students in the fall of 2019 what he had seen at the time of the bombing. The video was released on the internet in February this year and has been viewed around 800 times.

The atomic bomb was dropped when he was a first-year student at the junior high school affiliated with Hiroshima Higher Normal School (now Hiroshima University) on his way to school from the area of Kamo-gun (now part of Higashihiroshima City), where he had been evacuated. His school building in the area of Higashisenda-machi (now part of Hiroshima’s Naka Ward), about 1.3 kilometers from the hypocenter, was reduced to ruins. The following day, he became sick and bedridden with a high fever and nausea. He concluded his account of the bombing with the words, “Based on my story you heard here today, please decide whether war or peace is preferable. That is the message I will leave you with.”

Since 2010, Mr. Arai has been registered by the Hiroshima City government as one of the survivors who convey their A-bombing experiences to the public. Because recently he has been in and out of the hospital, he refused a request to share his story earlier in April this year. “I don’t have an idea of when I will no longer be able to provide my testimony. I therefore want to pass on my experience through the video, because such a medium can communicate to viewers a speaker’s facial expressions and breathing.” Based on his experience of having served as director, among other posts, at the RCC Broadcasting Company, he understands deeply the importance of documenting his story in video format for archival purposes.

Starting in March 2019, the museum’s Outreach Division began to shoot videos of survivors’ testimonies with a view to releasing the footage on the internet. The following year, 2020, case numbers of the coronavirus increased rapidly. In April 2020, while being forced to shut its doors temporarily due to the pandemic, the museum started posting such videos on YouTube as soon as they became available.

In March this year, the division released a video of Emiko Okada, an A-bomb survivor who suddenly passed away in April last year, that has been viewed about 1,000 times to this point in time. While videos of testimonies from around 30 survivors have been released to the public, six of the survivors have already died and three have retired from the work of communicating their experiences in the atomic bombing.

As of May 1, the city maintains a list of 34 survivors, aged 79 through 94, who are registered for the work of communicating accounts of their atomic bombing experiences. Their average age is 85.9 years. Since 2012, when the city first introduced a training system for such survivors, the number of people on the list has declined, after reaching a peak of 49 in 2015. The museum will continue to shoot videos of testimonies and upload them on the internet so long as new survivors can be added to the list.

In fiscal 2019, 4,597 groups visited the museum from throughout Japan on school trips and for other purposes. In fiscal 2020, the museum welcomed 1,125 groups, and in fiscal 2021, 1,775, which is still a long way to travel before recovery. On the other hand, some schools outside of Hiroshima Prefecture have informed the museum of their desire to watch the videos in class as an alternative to actually making the trip to Hiroshima.

“The videos are of survivor testimonies to which people can no longer listen in person. I hope many people choose to access the videos,” said Masuhiro Hosoda, the Peace Memorial Museum’s deputy director. Mr. Hosoda hopes that people can maintain an interest in Hiroshima during the pandemic and visit the city after viewing the videos. Mr. Arai said, “Now anybody can make a video with their smart phones or digital cameras and upload it to the internet. They don’t even have to be good at it. My desire is that each survivor’s testimony can be recorded in any way possible.”

Please access the YouTube channel of the Outreach Division, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum at the following URL:

(Originally published on May 16, 2022)