The Gravity of Handing Down the A-bomb Experience

by Hideaki Miyama, president of Hiroshima Telecasting Co., Ltd.

After visiting Hiroshima on assignment, a reporter working for The New York Times allegedly said, “If there is any solace [in the atomic bombing], somehow the blast produced less damage because the hypocenter was not in a residential area, but near a park [Peace Memorial Park].” Hearing this comment, I was just horrified by the false impression that arose with the passing of time.

My article entitled “Visiting the Homeland of Jan Letzel” [the architect who designed the building which eventually became the Atomic Bomb Dome] was posted on the Hiroshima Peace Media Center website on August 4, 2012. Coming across this article while pursuing some research, a 28-year-old man who lives in the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, wrote me a letter and we ended up talking on the phone at length.

In my article, I shared the results of a survey that had focused on the awareness of junior high and high school students in Hiroshima. I wrote: “They are aware of the significance of August 6, but I have to wonder if they are also aware of the significance of August 9.” The young man who wrote the letter told me, “Because I was born in Kokura (in Fukuoka Prefecture), I have stronger feelings for August 9 than I do for August 6.”

He went on to explain, “Since I was a small child, I was told over and over that Kokura, my hometown, was the original target for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. But because of the difference in weather conditions in the two cities that day, Nagasaki was bombed instead.” His explanation made me realize that people view these issues in different ways.

As time passes, the tragedy of Hiroshima, which suffered the first nuclear attack in human history, has slowly, steadily faded from memory. The harsh fact is that this reality, which must never be forgotten, is instead receding. The gravity of handing down the A-bomb experience is very clear.

Hiroshima Telecasting Co., Ltd. marked the 50th anniversary of its founding on September 1, 2012. To commemorate this milestone, for over a year we have aired a variety of special programs and held a number of special events. These activities culminated with the release of a commemorative DVD.

For the past 50 years, Hiroshima Telecasting has conveyed the voices of many, many A-bomb survivors through the documentary programs we have produced. From among well over 100 programs, we chose award-winning work for the DVD, seeking out the needed permissions from those appearing in the programs as well as for pieces of music, literature, and other elements. Ultimately, we compiled four programs for the DVD, which is entitled “Hiroshima o Tsutaeru” (“Conveying the Message of Hiroshima”).

No. 1: “Ishibumi” (“Monument”)
This program looks at the first-year students of Hiroshima Second Middle School (now, Hiroshima Kanon High School), who were in the immediate vicinity of the hypocenter when the bomb exploded, and all of them perished. The program was produced in 1969 by painstakingly gathering accounts of the students from their parents and siblings. Haruko Sugimura [a well-known actress from Hiroshima] narrates the film.

No. 2: “Ieji” (“The Way Home”)
Ikuo Hirayama, a renowned painter who received Japan’s Order of Culture, was a third-year student in middle school when he experienced the atomic bombing. This program, produced in 1977, explores the impact of the bombing on his art as well as his family ties.

No. 3: “Chinchin Densha to Jogakusei” (“Streetcars and Students”)
Toward the end of the war, students from girls’ high schools were driving streetcars in the city because most of the adult males had gone off to war. Despite the devastation of the A-bombing, the private company which ran the streetcars was able to resume its operations just three days after the blast. Produced in 2003, the film is narrated by Sayuri Yoshinaga [a film star and champion of peace issues].

No. 4: “Kieta Machinami karano Messeiji” (“Message from a Vanished Town”)
Broadcast in 2005, this program focuses on former residents of a Hiroshima district, located near the hypocenter, who worked to restore the appearance of their community prior to the atomic bombing via computer animation. If the reporter from The New York Times had seen this film, that ill-informed comment about the hypocenter being close to a park would never have been made.

The DVD contains nearly four hours of material, and Hiroshima Telecast will present copies of the DVD to such places as junior high and senior high schools, universities, libraries in Hiroshima Prefecture, A-bomb survivors associations, the peace museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the National Diet Library, and U.N.-affiliated organizations. On March 12, we donated 100 copies of the DVD to Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui for distribution to city facilities. We also plan to give copies of the English version of the DVD to participants coming from abroad for the world conference of Mayors for Peace, scheduled for this summer in Hiroshima.

More than 67 years have passed since the tragedy. As time slips by, events of old fade into obscurity, resulting in ignorance. This is the harsh reality. In Hiroshima, at 8:15 in the morning of every August 6, people everywhere stop what they’re doing to offer a silent prayer to the A-bomb victims. But one young woman, born and bred in Hiroshima through high school, then attended university in Fukuoka Prefecture and was shocked to discover that the scenes which take place in Hiroshima on that day are utterly absent in Fukuoka. She realized that the people there were indifferent to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. As a result, she contacted the company that had made her a job offer and declined; instead, she decided to become a curator at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Now she is engaged in handing down Hiroshima’s experience to others.

Handing down this experience, however, becomes a tougher task with each passing year. A survivor who was 10 years old at the time of the bombing, with memories of that day, is now 77 years old. Gradually, Hiroshima has no choice but to rely on younger generations to hand down these memories indirectly.

With our DVD “Hiroshima o Tsutaeru,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding, Hiroshima Telecast has produced a firsthand record of footage and sound. If this DVD can help hand down the A-bomb experience, I will be pleased that we were able to meet our obligations as a member of the Hiroshima media. Our activities marking this 50th anniversary will conclude at the end of March, but we have decided to continue our project to convey the facts of the atomic bombing, and promote peace. Called “Piece for Peace,” the idea is the same: making efforts for peace that can add up.


Hideaki Miyama
Born in Toyama Prefecture in 1946, Mr. Miyama is a graduate of Waseda University. Formerly a reporter, a correspondent for Washington, D.C., and chief of the political division at the Yomiuri Shimbun, he assumed his current post in June 2011.

(Originally published on March 19, 2013)