Hiroshima Memo: Peace Volunteers play an important role in passing on the memory of "Hiroshima" 

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

For visitors to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, people donned in green shirts can be readily spotted. On the backs of their shirts are printed the words “Hiroshima Peace Volunteer” in blue. These volunteers have been active for 10 years and have come to be seen as a vital part of the museum’s activities.

When explaining about the materials displayed in Peace Memorial Museum and monuments standing in Peace Memorial Park, accurate information is of prime importance for the volunteers. In addition to having knowledge of the devastating conditions wrought by the atomic bombing, the volunteers must also learn the stories behind the artifacts of A-bomb victims and the monuments. In this way, they are able to offer deeper insight into these artifacts and monuments.

Peace Memorial Museum is visited by a range of individuals and groups of various ages. When asked to give tours of the museum and park, or when posed questions, the volunteers are happy to help the visitors. The difficulty lies in discerning who they should speak to since some people want to look around the museum alone and others may have little time to listen to detailed explanations of the materials on display. Determining who really needs their assistance is quite tricky.

In addition, the volunteers have no way of knowing what sorts of questions they might be asked. And it’s naturally impossible for someone to be able to answer every question that may be posed from the very first day they start work as a volunteer. To respond to as many questions as possible, they have to learn the answers one by one. The fact that the volunteers are working hard to expand their knowledge by sharing their experiences with one another is very encouraging.

The makeup of peace volunteers ranges from A-bomb survivors in their 80s to office workers in their 20s. Their backgrounds may vary, but they all have something in common: The passion to contribute, in some way, to building a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons and war, by educating people on the consequences of nuclear warfare.

One A-bomb survivor, who retired at the age of 63 and has been part of the peace volunteers program since its inception, stressed, “In terms of conveying the consequences of the atomic bombing, there’s no difference between those who experienced the bombing and those who didn’t. As long as they have a sincere desire to pass on the experience of the bombing so it won’t be forgotten, young people can do this, too.”

The number of peace volunteers currently stands at 210. Among them, the number of volunteers in their 60s, a total of 78, well exceeds that of volunteers in their 50s, with 47. This is because many baby boomers, when they reached retirement age, decided to take part in order to add a meaningful activity to their lives and make a contribution to society.

The number of volunteers in their 30s and in their 20s is still comparatively small, with 16 and 7, respectively. However, through their peace volunteer efforts, they will become an important force for passing on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

By compiling the knowledge these volunteers have gained through their experiences, perhaps we could come up with an effective solution for handing down the memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to the next generation. If this knowledge is then conveyed by schools and local communities, we would make further progress in passing on the memory of Hiroshima.

At Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, located near Peace Memorial Museum, there are many other volunteers who recount their experiences of the bombing or read A-bomb-related poetry. Also, at the grassroots level, some peace groups and groups of senior high school students offer tours of Peace Memorial Museum and the monuments in Peace Memorial Park.

I suggest that Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum take up the role of bringing together these diverse volunteers, working hard to communicate the message of “Hiroshima,” to meet and exchange experiences. If the volunteers of each group have a chance to share their successes and setbacks, they would surely gain a new, useful understanding of their work. I encourage the museum to pursue this networking role.

(Originally published on July 6, 2009)

Related articles
Peace Museum volunteers mark 10th anniversary of group’s formation (July 11, 2009)

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