Chiharu Tamaki, singer-songwriter: “Passing the baton of peace to the next generation”

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

As we enter the 71st year since the atomic bombings and the end of World War II, handing down the memories of the witnesses to these events, to younger generations, has become a pressing concern. The Chugoku Shimbun asked leaders of younger generations, who have been making efforts to take up “the baton for a peaceful world” from A-bomb survivors and those who experienced the war, to share their hopes for the future.

My impressions of Hiroshima on August 6 are always in my mind. On that day, people of all nationalities, faiths, and cultural backgrounds put their hands together and pray for a peaceful world. This sort of scene is a sight that probably can’t be experienced anywhere else on earth. In the live performances I hold across Japan, I ask my audiences to visit Hiroshima on August 6, just once.

The loss of my father to suicide, when I was 19, underlies my wish for a peaceful world. My father had a strong sense of justice and a kind heart. I was heartbroken at this loss of a precious parent, and I blamed myself for not being able to prevent his death.

After dropping out of college, I experienced a turning point when I came across a Chinese student who was in Japan to study but was unable to rent an apartment in Tokyo. Despite being educated in anti-Japan rhetoric while a student in China, because of the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, she grew interested in Japan and wanted to study abroad here. I thought, if no one helps her, China and Japan will continue to be nations that are close geographically but distant emotionally. This also brought back painful memories of my own college experience, which I couldn’t complete, and so I began to welcome students from Japan, China, and South Korea into my home, serving as their “host mother.”

Living with these young people in my home, I think I was able to create a new kind of peaceful community. It’s difficult for young people to inherit the memories of war and the atomic bombings because they haven’t experienced such things in person. But we can maintain an environment of peace, hoping that the same peaceful day we enjoy today can be repeated again tomorrow. When we live together with others who hold different ways of thinking, this serves as the first informal step toward realizing this aim.

Learning about history is important, too. The late artist Taro Okamoto’s A-bomb mural, “Myth of Tomorrow,” which is displayed along a walkway in JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo, depicts the sorrow of the A-bomb survivors as well as their hopes to carry on for the future. The Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima can tell us about the tragedy of that day and the horror of radiation that has affected the survivors for such a long time. At the same time, the city’s urban area, which has been completely reborn, can give us encouragement. I have taken international students to both of these places. We should not repeat this mistake and risk losing the things that are dear to us.

In 2009, I established a peace activity group called “Each Feelings.” About 40 members are involved in the group, including students and working people in Hiroshima and Tokyo. Each August, a music event is held in Hiroshima to appeal for a peaceful world through music and the arts. We’ve also held concerts in Otsuchi Town and Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture, and invited survivors of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. This year on February 21 we plan to hold a charity concert in Fukuoka to stop stray cats from being killed. Tiny lives are precious, too.

Through our activities, young people can gain the feeling that they’ve done some good, and this feeling can lead them to the next helpful action. Last year I got married and I’m now expecting, which means, as a mother, I have a soul to protect. I want to help create a world where people can experience peace in their own ways and then become a seed of love, making other people around them smile. I hope to hand down a peaceful world like this to the younger generation.

Message to teens

There is something only you can do. You are a seed of love.


Chiharu Tamaki
Born in Higashi Ward, Hiroshima. Graduated from Yasufuruichi High School, then entered Yasuda Women’s University (but did not finish). Moved to Tokyo at 19 and began a career as a singer-songwriter. Served as “host mother” for international students at her home for about 10 years, from the time she was 24, and lived with a total of 36 students. Received “Youth Leader Award” in 2014. Resident of Tokyo.

(Originally published on January 11, 2016)