Photo/IllutrationSumio Tsuchiya points to Niteko-ike pond, a reservoir where Akiyuki Nosaka washed dishes and performed his ablutions. It is also portrayed in the animated feature film adaptation of “Grave of the Fireflies.” (Kazuhiko Matsunaga)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture--Residents here are forging ahead with plans to erect a monument at a site featured in award-winning novel “Grave of the Fireflies” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II next year.

The story centers around ninth-grader Seita and his 4-year-old sister Setsuko, who are forced to live in a bomb shelter and elsewhere after their house was destroyed in the firebombing of Kobe and die of malnutrition.

The novel published in 1967, which won the Naoki Prize, is based on author Akiyuki Nosaka’s wartime experiences.

In the closing days of the Pacific War in 1945, Nosaka, then 14, and his younger sister-in-law lived in a relative’s house and bomb shelters near Niteko-ike pond, which is a reservoir in Nishinomiya’s Manchidanicho district. They frequently endured air raids.

The novel was adapted into an animated feature film directed by Isao Takahata in 1988.

Nosaka died in 2015 at the age of 85.

In 2017, an executive committee was formed to erect a monument after Sumio Tsuchiya, 76, who lives in the district, and others pinpointed the locations of the relative’s house, bomb shelters and other spots described in the novel the previous year.

They were able to do so by visiting Nosaka’s kin and interviewing neighborhood residents.

“We want people across the country to know these locations,” said committee member Ichiro Ninomiya, 70, who worked with Tsuchiya on the research. “We hope they become sacred places for fans and attract visitors.”

The committee plans to erect the monument in the Nishinomiya Earthquake Memorial Park near Niteko-ike pond next June after gaining permission from the city government.

The 2.2-meter-high granite marker, whose base appears like two books stacked together, will be inscribed with the words “Birthplace of the novel Grave of the Fireflies.”

Nosaka’s war experiences and a scene from the animated film will also be featured on porcelain plates.

“The war is being forgotten. It is meaningful to build the monument in a location that served as the starting point for Nosaka,” said Tsuchiya, a fan of the writer’s novels. “I hope people will look at the monument and think about sad wartime experiences as well as the absurdities of war.”

The committee is soliciting donations to cover the costs of the project and has set a target of raising 7 million yen ($66,200).