Smallest number of A-bomb survivors, 32, appointed to communicate A-bombing experiences—Decline of 12 in 10 years, with average age of 86.5

Mikio Saiki, 92, joins as new member

by Minami Yamashita, Staff Writer

For this fiscal year, 32 A-bomb survivors, with an average age of 86.5 years, were appointed by the Hiroshima City government to communicate their experiences in the atomic bombing. The number is the lowest in 10 years, with two people dying last fiscal year and one resigning from the position due to advanced age. Two new members vowed to pass on their memories to future generations ahead of next year’s 80th commemoration of the atomic bombing.

The appointed survivors, ranging in age from 81 to 94, have decreased in number by 12 compared with 10 years ago. On April 23, at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, they received a letter of commission for the work from Takahiro Kagawa, chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. Those commissioned will share their experiences in the atomic bombing and thoughts about peace with members of the public at the museum and at schools to which they are sent to speak. Last fiscal year, such survivors spoke on 1,578 occasions to a total of 110,320 people.

Mikio Saiki, 92, a resident of Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, experienced the atomic bombing when he was a second-year student at Hiroshima First Middle School (present-day Kokutaiji High School). Having been commissioned as a new member after undergoing one year of training, Mr. Saiki is scheduled to speak for the first time on April 24. He stressed, “I’ve always felt guilty about surviving. With all that’s happening including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I want people to understand that nuclear weapons should never be used again.”

On the same day, 22 Family A-bomb Legacy Successors, who are children, grandchildren or other family members of survivors that work to convey the A-bombing experiences and memories of their family members, and 19 A-bomb Legacy Successors, third parties who pass on the memories of survivors by describing their experiences on their behalf, were appointed at the same time. Mariko Higashino, 71, a resident of Hiroshima’s Asaminami Ward who has been speaking to the public as an A-bomb Legacy Successor after learning her mother’s story, became a new Family A-bomb Legacy Successor. “I’ll have more opportunities with the new role. I hope to share my mother’s experiences with more people,” she said with determination.

Starting this year, the term of appointment for such survivors and legacy successors, previously renewed each year, will be indefinite.

Passionate 20-year-old junior at Yasuda Women’s University becomes youngest A-bomb Legacy Successor

Natsumi Masumoto, 20, a junior at Yasuda Women’s University who lives in Hiroshima’s Asaminami Ward, will begin work this year as the youngest ever A-bomb Legacy Successor after undergoing two years of training during her university studies. “I want to go to prefectures where people don’t have many opportunities to hear about experiences in the atomic bombing and speak at venues in all 47 prefectures in Japan,” Ms. Masumoto said enthusiastically.

Her interest in the Hiroshima atomic bombing was fostered starting in elementary school through peace education programs. Upon entering university, she decided to sign up for the A-bomb Legacy Successor training at her mother’s suggestion. “Peace will not be achieved based on wishes alone. We must act.” While attending college classes and working part-time, she met once a month with Hiroko Kishida, 84, an A-bomb survivor who lives in Hiroshima’s Saeki Ward, to listen to her memories of the bombing.

With the hope of becoming an elementary school teacher after graduation, Ms. Masumoto looks forward to also “telling school children about the story.” On April 23, Ms. Kishida visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in the city’s Naka Ward, to see Ms. Masumoto receive the formal letter of commission. Ms. Kishida said happily, “She asked me so many questions every time we met. I could feel her passion for peace and life. I’m glad I was able to pass on my memories to her with peace of mind.”

(Originally published on April 24, 2024)