68 people apply to serve as “memory keepers” to help convey A-bomb experiences

by Masaki Kadowaki, Staff Writer

The second round of training for “memory keepers” of the A-bomb experience, an effort organized by the City of Hiroshima to help convey the accounts of aging A-bomb survivors, began in the East Building of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on July 2. A total of 68 men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 78, are taking part in the program. The participants include a third-generation A-bomb survivor who wants to keep her grandmother’s experience alive and some survivors whose memories of the time are hazy so they wish to study the experiences of other survivors, too. Compared to the first training, the number of applicants for the second training dropped by half and this fact is a symbol of the challenges facing the program in cultivating human resources to communicate the experiences of the A-bomb survivors.

On the first day of the training, a series of lectures were held, totaling about three hours. Kazuhiko Takano, director general of the culture and science department of the Hiroshima City of the Future Foundation, and Kazumi Mizumoto, vice president of the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University, served as lecturers and outlined the historical course that led to the atomic bombing and the horrific consequences of the blast.

The average age of the participants in the second training is 52.8. This is 4.3 years younger than the participants in the first training, which began last year with 137 people. The trainings are designed to last three years. This fiscal year, the participants in the second training will mainly listen to the experiences of A-bomb survivors. In fiscal 2014, the participants and survivors will establish mentor relationships so that the participants can deeply grasp the experiences and sentiments of the survivors. Then, in fiscal 2015, the participants will undergo sessions in public speaking and develop presentations. After completing the training course, they will begin the work of conveying A-bomb accounts to students visiting Hiroshima on school trips and others.

Kae Enokida, 20, is a junior at Hiroshima Shudo University and a resident of Asaminami Ward. Her grandmother is an A-bomb survivor. “I have wanted to help hand down the experiences of A-bomb survivors to the future since I was in junior high or high school,” she said.

Three A-bomb survivors are among the participants of the second training. Hiroaki Kawasaki, 75, a resident of Nishi Ward, was seven when he experienced the atomic bombing. “My memory is fuzzy,” he said. “So I have no choice but to study the experiences of people who have vivid memories in order to convey the sorrow of that time.” This is why he decided to apply for the program.

The average age of the A-bomb survivors is now over 78. Feeling a sense of urgency over handing down their experiences to the future, the City of Hiroshima launched the “memory keepers” program. Among the applicants for the first training, 29 people--about 20 percent of the group--have withdrawn, citing such reasons as “the scheduling is too onerous” and “it’s too upsetting to relate the survivors’ experiences.”

From this point forward, the city plans to strengthen its support for the trainees. Yoshifumi Ishida, the director of the program, said, “If holding the training sessions on weekdays is a problem, we will consider making changes to the schedule. We would like to ask the cooperation of companies and universities so that younger people can take part easily, too.”

(Originally published on July 3, 2013)