Former director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum speaks about his experience of the A-bomb

by Hiromi Morita, Staff Writer

Minoru Hataguchi, 62, former director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, was in his mother’s womb when the atomic bomb destroyed the city. Although he has no direct memories of that day, with the A-bomb survivors growing older, he has decided to “hand down” his own experience of Hiroshima. At the same time, he hopes to convey the pain his mother felt in losing his father to the bomb.

After the atomic bomb exploded, Mr. Hataguchi’s mother entered the city center to search for her husband, who had been working at the Hiroshima Railroad Bureau Management Division. As Mr. Hataguchi has no personal knowledge of the devastation--and, even, no image of his father’s face--he hesitated to speak about his A-bomb experience when asked by the Committee for Testimony about the A-bomb Experience, an arm of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organization.

But Mr. Hataguchi reflected on his life--his loneliness due to the absence of his father, his mother’s anguish over digging out her husband’s remains and belongings, his dilemma about accepting the post of director of Peace Memorial Museum when he had avoided talking about the bombing himself--and he thought, “Perhaps I can speak about my own experience related to the atomic bomb.” And so he decided to join the group of A-bomb witnesses.

Since April, on holidays and in the evenings, he speaks to junior high and high school students visiting Hiroshima. On June 10, he spoke to 170 junior high school students from Kanagawa Prefecture. When asked about the difficulty of his testimony activities, Mr. Hataguchi replied, “It’s hard to talk about painful childhood memories, but someone has to or Hiroshima will be forgotten.”

Mr. Hataguchi assumed the post of museum director in 1997 and served in this role for nine years, until his retirement in 2006. Since April 2007 he has been the Secretary General of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Casualty Council.

The Committee for Testimony about the A-bomb Experience has, at present, 33 members, most of them over 75 years of age. As they grow older, they are finding it increasingly difficult to accept testimony engagements at night or at locations some distance away. Kota Kiya, 66, Secretary General of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organization, said, “The survivors who had a direct experience of the atomic bombings will one day be gone so it’s important that others with personal experiences related to the A-bomb speak out, too.”

(Originally published on June 13, 2008)