Photo/IllutrationToshiko Saiki, front left, at a dramatic performance of the life story she wrote, in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward in April 2002. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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HIROSHIMA--A hibakusha atomic bomb survivor who visited the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park almost daily for 40 years has passed away. She was 97.

Toshiko Saiki, of the city’s Higashi Ward, routinely visited the site to pray for the 70,000 unidentified or forgotten victims who died from the effects of the atomic bombing of the city 72 years ago.

Saiki suffered a heart attack in a hospital in her home city and died before dawn on Oct. 3. Close members of her family held a funeral service for her on Oct. 4.

“Hiroshima never gets older. For atomic bomb survivors, every day is ‘that day,’” Saiki would say in referring to Aug. 6, 1945, even after collapsing from a stroke in 1998.

She received a Hiroshima citizen’s award in 2005.

Saiki, born in Hiroshima in 1919, was visiting relatives in the outskirts of Hiroshima and traveled into the city right after the atomic bomb was dropped to look for her relatives, exposing herself to radiation. Thirteen relatives, including members of her family, were killed in the attack.

She lived in another city for a while after World War II ended, but moved back to Hiroshima in 1958. Soon thereafter she found out that the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound existed.

From that point on, the iron-willed woman would visit the memorial site to help maintain it and talk to students on school trips about the atomic bomb. She also looked for bereaved families of unidentified victims.

Masaaki Murakami, 24, who gives a tour in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome almost every day, said, “Realistically, all those who experienced the atomic bomb tragedy will have left us soon.

“I need to go on talking about the atomic bomb as a person concerned.”