The Stories of Survivors

By special guest blogger:  Oliver Trapnell

Nuclear issues are voiced strongly in Japan, and have had a direct impact on thousands of lives not only in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima but also from cases such as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru (No. 5 Lucky Dragon fishing boat whose story inspired the Godzilla movies).  Despite the sensitivity of the subject matter, many here believe it is important to be aware of the many issues surrounding nuclear weapons and energy that have persisted until today. If anything this importance has increased in recent years as the hibakusha (nuclear bomb survivors) age and their numbers decrease.

At the Social Book Café Hachidorisha (2F, 2-43-2 Dohashi-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi) close to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, there are 3 events every month (6th/16th/26th) at which you can speak to hibakusha. The testimonials  given here allow listeners to gain first-hand experience of the atrocity that occurred in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Patrons can also share their own experiences and ask questions in order to open discussions on difficult topics relevant to Japan and the rest of the world.

The small scale of these events allows the audience to connect on a more emotional level, which in turn provides them with a greater appreciation of this tragic moment in history.

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The café itself is a bright, vibrant place with stunning hand-crafted wooden tables, chairs and even kotatsu. It also contains a variety of relevant non-fiction books, many specifically about Hiroshima. Crossing the threshold, I was warmly welcomed and seated under a warm kotatsu where I enjoyed an exquisitely presented Keema curry made with local organic ingredients, served with fresh Hiroshima vegetables and accompanied by miso soup.

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The owner of Hachidorisha, Erika Abiko, explained to me that nearly 2 million people visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum every year and, while the museum’s exhibits are poignant and insightful, they only allow visitors to read about the experiences. She created Hachidorisha with the intention of giving visitors the ability to discuss issues rather than simply experience them superficially. The café also explores other social issues in Japan and hosts guest speakers who share knowledge about their specialist fields, including some as obscure as retro vending machines!  Erika expounded that the café is a place to expand and share knowledge in the hope that people can learn and empathise with others.

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In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, anti-nuclear sentiments came to the forefront of debates worldwide and reinvigorated the importance of complete nuclear abolition. This importance is only reinforced as tension in North Korea continues to rise. Furthermore it is the hope of many anti-nuclear movements that the dangers regarding nuclear energy and nuclear waste will be addressed, so that incidents such as Fukushima will never befall Japan again.

A few years ago I had the chance to hear a testimonial given by Toshiko Tanaka, who was only 6 years old on that fateful day in 1945. Using the Japanese NGO ‘Peace Boat’, Toshiko has been able to tell her story all over the world, and has been an advocate of ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Her testimony, whilst harrowing, demonstrates the perseverance and bravery of the survivors. She is happy to share her story, knowing that doing so enables future generations to understand the horrors faced by the hibakusha and hopefully to ensure that those horrors never occur again.

© 2018 Jigsaw-japan.com and Oliver Trapnell
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