Rafu Staff Report
“Hibakushas’ Legacy: Hope for Peace,” a photo and video project by photographer Darrell Miho, opened at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on Sept. 21, International Peace Day, with a program and reception.
Miho — also known for his work on behalf of survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan — is documenting the experiences of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) who were in Hiroshima or Nagasaki on those fateful days in August 1945. To promote world peace, he will be traveling throughout Japan and the U.S. as well as Brazil, Canada and South Korea to interview more than 100 hibakusha.
“We must never forget the suffering that the hibakusha have endured for the past 68 years, nor the tragedies that befell so many innocent lives,” Miho said. “It is now our responsibility to share their stories; to educate the world on how nuclear weapons affect people’s lives; to ensure that no one lese suffers the same pain and heartaches; and most importantly, to carry on their hope for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.”
He hopes to produce a more comprehensive exhibition in time for the 70th anniversary of the bombings in 2015.
Speakers at the opening program were:
• Kikuko Furuta Otake, a retired assistant professor of Japanese, an award-winning haiku, tanka and senryu poet, and author of “Masako’s Story.” Her family was living one mile away from the hypocenter when the Hiroshima bomb was dropped. Then five years old, she, her mother, Masako, and her two brothers barely escaped with their lives; their soldier father was not so fortunate. For nearly 50 years, her mother never talked about her family’s grim experiences. After Masako broke her silence, her story was published in both Japan and the U.S.
• Toshiko Kaneko, who was 14 years old when the A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She was a little over two miles from the hypocenter. Her family was in Arita, Saga Prefecture, so she was the only hibakusha in her family.
• Easter Keiko Noda, a hibaku-nisei or second-generation hibakusha. Her parents both survived the Hiroshima bombing. She discussed the experiences of her father, Mitsuaki, who passed away in 1995.
• Rev. Haruyoshi “Harry” Fujimoto, author of “The Way Down to Gaza: The Autobiography of a Hibakusha Minister.” As a junior high school student, he survived the Hiroshima blast but lost his older sister.
• Junji Sarashina of the American Society of Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors. Born in Hawaii, he was a 16-year-old living in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped.
They related some of the horrific details of the immediate aftermath of the bombings that are not widely known in this country — charred corpses, people so close to the hypocenter that they were vaporized, people hit by hundreds of shards of glass that became projectiles in the blast, people with melted skin hanging from their outstretched hands.
The photographs and descriptions also put a human face on what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of the subjects, Sumiteru Taniguchi, was badly burned as a child and still bears the scars.
Support for the exhibit was provided by the Aratani Foundation, Frank Kawana, the Aurora Foundation, Little Tokyo Service center, and the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors, among others.
The exhibit is on view at the JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until Sunday, Sept. 29. Admission is free.
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Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo