Number of visitors to “Peace Exchange Space” at A-bomb survivor’s home in Hiroshima surpasses 5,000

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

Toshiko Tanaka opened space in spring 2016 to communicate A-bomb testimony in Japanese and English, and now provides online version

The total number of visitors to the “Peace Exchange Space,” which Toshiko Tanaka, 82, an enamel artist and A-bomb survivor living in Higashi Ward, Hiroshima, created when she remodeled her home, has surpassed 5,000 since the venue opened in April 2016. She receives visitors from Japan and overseas who travel to Hiroshima for peace studies and sightseeing, sharing with them her A-bomb experience. She also started making efforts to offer her A-bomb testimony online last year, after visitor numbers had declined due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In both Japanese and English, Ms. Tanaka speaks of her A-bomb experience at the age of six and the difficulties she faced after the atomic bombing, as well as her thoughts about nuclear abolition. She makes presentations in a room at her home that is hung with large pieces of her wall enamel art depicting the images of a “Nuclear Umbrella” and a “Ring of Peace.” It is said that the message “If you come here, you can meet an A-bomb survivor” spread gradually by word of mouth.

For many years, she avoided speaking about her painful memories of August 6, 1945. A turning point came in 2008, when she joined a round-the-world voyage organized by Peace Boat, a non-governmental organization (NGO). The local mayor of a city in Venezuela in South America urged her on, saying it was her obligation to convey her A-bomb experience. It was then that she began to share her testimony more widely. In the meantime, she was keenly aware that it was becoming more difficult for her to travel as she aged. She thus created a local base for her activities.

She receives encouragement from her visitors. One unexpected young Italian visitor was a student learning Japanese at the University of Pisa, Italy, where Ms. Tanaka had been invited and given a lecture in 2015. Mary Popeo, an American staff member at the Peace Culture Village (PCV), a non-profit organization based in Miyoshi City that offers guided tours of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, often drops by as if she were visiting her Japanese grandmother.

Ms. Tanaka now shares her A-bomb experience online with young people across the world at the request of the PCV and Peace Boat. Her calendar is filled with notes indicating her busy schedule.

Touching on her meetings with the 5,000 visitors, she said, “This is the accumulation of my treasuring every meeting as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime chance.” She added, “As long as I live, I will continue to speak out for the goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons.” She is waiting for the day, after the coronavirus pandemic is over, when she once again has an endless stream of visitors.

(Originally published on March, 16, 2021)