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FOCUS: Over 100 Hiroshima students working as voluntary “peace guides”

  • March 15, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 7:30 p.m.
  • English Press

Hiroshima, March 15 (Jiji Press)–A group of more than 100 high school and university students and other people in Hiroshima Prefecture are working as volunteer tour guides at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to help visitors reaffirm the importance of peace.


The public park is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, in August 1945, and to the memories of the bomb’s direct and indirect victims.


“This obeche tree began to show buds the year after the bombing although it was said that no plants would grow for 75 years” in Hiroshima, Misaki Watanabe, a first-year student at Yasuda Women’s University in Hiroshima, said before junior high school students visiting the park from Tokushima Prefecture on a school trip last year.


Located 1.3 kilometers from the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast, the tree had half of its trunk burned and lost all branches and leaves. It was transplanted to the park in 1973 as its prompt budding had encouraged citizens in the western Japan city.


The tree is “a surviving witness” not only to the atomic bombing but also to Hiroshima’s reconstruction, according to Watanabe and three other student guides who also spoke to the students from Tokushima. “I tried to speak in a way so that they could enjoy the visit here,” said Tomoka Nogami, one of the four “peace guides.”


The Hiroshima Peace Guide Club B.P.B., with the last alphabets standing for bright, peace and bridge, was founded in June 2020 to introduce the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, “Genbaku no Ko no Zo” (Statue of Atomic Bomb Children) and other monuments to students who visit the park on school trips from across Japan.


It includes many students from Yasuda Women’s University and Sanyo Jogakuen High School, based in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, and is headed by Masahiko Zamami, 73, who has been serving as a volunteer guide for six years.


Zamami considered it necessary to nurture young guides due to the decreasing number of guides who experienced the atomic bombing. He had seen university students who came to assist guides easily hit it off with younger visitors on school trips.


He thought that such an encounter was important because young visitors would strongly remember “talks about peace from nice people.”


The university and the high school responded to Zamami’s initiative and established the guide club jointly with him.


Sanyo Jogakuen High School is promoting the club as part of its education activities, such as inviting guides as lecturers to teach 31 first-year students in the “future search” course the meaning of monuments in the park and how to lead tours there. Of second-year students in the science and mathematics course, 22 are voluntarily learning how to guide foreign visitors in English.


“I joined the program to learn what I have to know as a citizen of Hiroshima Prefecture,” Kurumi Otsuka, a second-year student, said. “I became interested and started studying why atomic bombs were made and how they work.”


“My grandfather, who died three years ago, was an A-bomb survivor,” said another second-year student, Ai Sasaki.


“With his thoughts in mind, I want to send messages to the world.”


Otsuka and Sasaki plan to debut as guides shortly.


“I want them and others to be able to communicate the importance of Hiroshima and peace,” Zamami said.

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