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Editorial: Memories of dreadful suffering from atomic bombings must be preserved

It is the responsibility of Japan, the only country in the world to have suffered atomic bombings, to continue conveying the message of the ravages caused by the bombs and make tenacious efforts for nuclear disarmament.


Hiroshima and Nagasaki mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. The cities recovered from a desperate situation in which it was said immediately after the bombings that no plants would grow there in the next 75 years. It is regrettable that the events for this milestone anniversary are scaled down to prevent infections with the novel coronavirus.


In Hiroshima, a piano that survived the atomic bombing is played. Hopefully, the sound of the hope for peace will be delivered to the world.


Following former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in 2016, Pope Francis visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima last year. Having many people in Japan and abroad learn about the reality of the atomic bombings is the first step toward nuclear abolition. This trend must not be stopped due to the coronavirus disaster.


The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which attracted a record number of visitors in fiscal 2019, was temporarily closed for about three months. Currently, the museum is focusing on distributing videos of lectures by atomic bomb survivors and other projects. It should digitize related materials and make them multilingual in order to make those who have seen them want to visit the bombed areas.


What is important is to prevent memories of the ravages of atomic bombings from fading.


The average age of atomic bomb survivors is over 83. It is an urgent task to collect testimonies, notes and materials related to the bombings, and nurture those who carry on the experiences and memories of survivors, to hand them down to younger generations.


Using virtual reality technology, students at Hiroshima Prefectural Fukuyama Technical High School have created videos that enable viewers to experience the state of ground zero at the time of the atomic bombing. While collecting testimonies from former residents, the students said they actually felt the horror of the atomic bombing more than ever before.


Some other students also use artificial intelligence to colorize black-and-white photos of the everyday lives of people during wartime. If younger generations expand their awareness so they become more familiar with the history of the war, relaying memories will progress steadily.


According to a survey on hibakusha atomic bomb survivors, conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and another organization, about 90% of respondents felt impatient about the scant progress made on nuclear abolition and more than 40% were concerned about the use of nuclear weapons. This can be said to reflect the harsh reality of international politics.


The United States and Russia are competing to improve their nuclear weapons and trying to lower the hurdle for their use. China has refused to participate in nuclear disarmament talks with the United States and Russia, while North Korea is accelerating its nuclear development. The situation runs counter to nuclear abolition.


Some non-nuclear states are frustrated by the stalemate in nuclear disarmament and are seeking an early entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The first priority should be to create a security environment in which nuclear disarmament can be discussed constructively.


As a country that can understand both the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and their role as a deterrent, Japan must act as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear powers.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 6, 2020.

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