Anniversary presents chance to hear atomic bomb survivors



By Gail Cetnar Meadows

Acting on a gut instinct, Keiko Ogura’s father kept her home from school the day the atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima. Just 8-years-old at the time, she was outside her house, 1.5 miles away from the center of the blast. She recalls a bright flash that knocked her off her feet, followed by a loud sound, violent wind, darkness and black rain. Climbing a hill by her house after the blast, she was astonished to see the flattened city laid out before her.

Ms. Ogura is one of four hibakusha – atomic bomb survivors – who will tell their stories in English following the atomic bomb memorial in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park on August 6. This year is the 64th anniversary of the bombing.

The testimonies will be given from 10 a.m. to noon in Meeting Room 1 on floor B1 of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. From noon to 1 p.m., there will be an opportunity to meet and speak with the survivors.

The event was organized by the Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace, a non-profit group of volunteer interpreters and guides who aim to spread messages of peace.

While giving her testimony last year, Ms. Ogura told the audience that it’s scary for many hibakusha to speak about their experience because they face discrimination from some Japanese who fear radiation sicknesses could be hereditary or contagious. Despite these concerns, Ms. Ogura said hibakusha speak out to convey their wish that nuclear bombs never be used again.

In addition to Ms. Ogura, offers these descriptions of this year’s other speakers:

  • Isao Aratani – Mr. Aratani was 13 years old when the bomb dropped. He was with his junior high school classmates pulling weeds from a sweet potato field 1.4 miles away from the hypocenter. Mr. Aratani was looking at the bomber plane when the bombing took place. He was hit by the blast and burned.
  • Shoso Hirai – At the time of the bombing, Shiso Hirai was 16 years old. He was in the north end of Hiroshima city and wasn’t injured, but he lost his father, brother and home in the blast. The day after the bombing, he went downtown to look for his family.
  • Sumiko Hirozawa – Sumiko Hirozawa, 17 at the time of the bombing, was in the countryside that day. Her mother was injured by the blast. A few days after the bombing, Ms. Hirozawa went downtown to search for her friends.