People of August 6: Kenta Uetao, 33, to toll Peace Bell at Peace Memorial Ceremony

by Yusuke Egawa, Staff Writer

On August 6, the 73rd anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Kenta Uetao will take on the important responsibility of tolling the Peace Bell at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. Yukio Maruta and Hisami Maruta, Mr. Uetao’s great grandfather and grandfather on his mother’s side, both experienced the bombing. “Neither of them talked much about their A-bomb experiences,” Mr. Uetao said. What were their feelings as they went on with their lives? With thoughts of his grandfather and great grandfather in mind, Mr. Uetao will serve as the representative of the bereaved families of the A-bomb victims.

Eiko Maruta, 81, Mr. Uetao’s grandmother, has told him about his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s A-bomb experiences, but not much. On August 6, 1945, her father-in-law, Yukio, suffered burns to his back and, after that, was forced to always lie on his stomach when sleeping. Her husband, Hisami, experienced the atomic bombing while riding on a train through Yokohama. According to Eiko, he sometimes said, “If I had taken the previous train, I wonder what might have happened to me?”

When Yukio died at the age of 89 in January 2000, Mr. Uetao heard about his great grandfather’s A-bomb experience for the first time. Until then, Mr. Uetao had thought that his great grandfather had always been healthy. So he was very surprised to learn about this experience involving his great grandfather, a family member who lived under the same roof. At the same time, his grandfather, Hisami, would instantly fall silent whenever someone started talking about the atomic bombing and its aftermath. Mr. Uetao, who always felt well-loved by Hisami, said, “My grandfather was stubborn, so I couldn’t ask him much about his A-bomb experience because I thought he would have gotten angry at me if I had tried.”

This past June, Mr. Uetao was asked by the City of Hiroshima to toll the Peace Bell at the Peace Memorial Ceremony. At that moment, an image of Hisami, who died at the age of 84 in July 2014 flashed across Mr. Uetao’s mind, and he again asked his grandmother, Eiko, about his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s A-bomb experiences. At that point he recognized the deep sorrow that they had experienced and he also felt a sense of deep regret about not having asked them for more detail about their experiences. As the representative of the bereaved families, he appreciates the importance of his duty to help convey the desire for peace to the younger generations.

Mr. Uetao lives in Naka Ward with his grandmother Eiko, his mother, 58, his wife, 31, and his two-year-old son. He operates a business maintaining automatic doors. He heard that some employees of his contractor located in Saka-cho, Hiroshima Prefecture are unable to go to their office because they were affected by the recent deadly storm which hit the western part of Japan. Mr. Uetao said, “These are really desperate times for a lot of people who live in various parts of Hiroshima. My duty to toll the Peace Bell may have some significance, so I will faithfully carry out this responsibility.”

(Originally published on July 12, 2018)