The Japan Center together with the high school Japan Seminar class and all of grade seven recently developed and participated in a two-day program called “Hibakusha Stories of Survival,” aimed at understanding the impact of the Hiroshima atomic bombing on hibakusha (survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings). The program also served to prepare seventh-grade students for their trip to Hiroshima at the end of January. While the hibakusha survived the immediate effects of the blasts, they suffer from the effects of radiation sickness, loss of family and friends, and discrimination.
On January 17, the first of the two-day program, high school students in Kathy Krauth’s (high school teacher) Japan Seminar class led and taught six seventh-grade classes on how to analyze and interpret atomic bomb art. Students discussed the value of art in expressing the experience of survival and learned how these intimate, powerful works of art, “can speak a thousand words and are stronger than words on paper,” as Anna Armstrong (Grade 7) reflects.
On January 18, Jiro Hamasumi, Director of Japan Confederation of A and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations and the youngest in-utero hibakusha, came to share his personal story of losing his father in the Hiroshima bombing with seventh-grade middle schoolers and high school Japan Seminar students. Following the presentation, they held a roundtable lunch discussion with a number of middle school participants. In spite of Mr. Hamasumi’s difficulties growing up as a surviving victim, he has turned his personal tragedy into a message to promote peace and to create a world free of nuclear weapons. Ai Okura (Grade 7), noted one of Mr. Hamasumi’s statements in particular, “As long as there are nuclear weapons, we can’t rest in peace when it is our time to leave this world.” These words resonated with her deeply as she realized that it will now be her generation’s role to pass this important message to future generations, who will never have the chance to hear first-hand from a hibakusha.
In thinking about the two-day program and Mr. Hamasumi’s visit, Julia Shikuma (Grade 7) says, “He wants to send a clear message that we need peace in the world and the atomic bomb should never be dropped ever again no matter what. When we go to Hiroshima he said that he wants us to look at the difference between now and when the bomb has been dropped. Hiroshima now is beautiful but was once a location of horror and devastation.”