JAPANESE

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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

So tell me... about Hiroshima
3,353 images of the A-bomb Dome: A Requiem with Paintbrushes
Hiroshi Hara  (male, 83 years old)
Aki Ward, Hiroshima
By Taro Nakazaki (male)

photo Mr. Hiroshi Hara speaks about his A-bomb experiences showing a picture of the A-bomb Dome that he painted. (Naka Ward, Hiroshima)

photo Mr. Hiroshi Hara stands in front of the A-bomb Dome in 1951. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Hiroshi Hara)

Hiroshi Hara, age 83, who lives in Aki Ward, Hiroshima, continues painting pictures of the A-bomb Dome. So far he has painted 3,353 images! "The A-bomb Dome has not been just standing in silence. It has been standing in the hope of abolishing nuclear arms." Showing his watercolor paintings, he gives testimony of the scenes burned into his mind. He leaves with listeners his desire for world peace.

* * *

In the spring of 1945, Hiroshi entered Hiroshima Prefectural Technical School (present-day Hiroshima Prefectural Technical Senior High School) in Senda-machi (present-day Naka Ward, Hiroshima). He thought, "I will study very hard! I want to learn many things from my teachers!" Although he entered the school full of enthusiasm, he studied there for only two months. After that, they were pressed into demolishing buildings and houses to "evacuate" them.

On Sunday, August 5, Hiroshi's class had to work, so they had the next day, August 6, off, instead.

On August 6, a beautiful and cloudless day, Hiroshi had gone to his relative's house on Etajima Island, in Hiroshima Bay. After breakfast, he went to the beach with his six-year-old cousin. On the way there, they were met with a bluish white light, rumbling earth, and strong winds. In a hurry, they returned to his cousin's house. Adults were there pointing at the sky. The clouds in the distance appeared pure white, pitch black, and even orange. Phone calls to Hiroshima City wouldn't go through.

The next morning, Hiroshi went to Hiroshima's urban area on a steam boat carrying a load of oranges. In those days, whenever they were under attack, the students of his school were required to meet at the school. "The first terrible scene I saw was near the pier in Ujina Bay," he said. There were people whose hair and bodies had been burned so badly it was hard to tell whether they were male or female. He saw many with their ears hanging off. "I just followed other people, looking down so I wouldn't have to look at the victims." The town and the rivers overflowed with dead bodies and the injured.

At his school, he was told that his classmates and the teachers leading them, those who had gone to work that day, were all dead. On his way home, he passed through the place where the dead bodies had been burned. He has never forgotten the smell. It was beyond description. The stench seemed to form a clump in his chest, such that he couldn't possibly swallow his rice ball rations.

* * *

After the war, he got a job with the national railways. Since he liked drawing pictures, he joined the painting club. He had little time to draw pictures because of his busy working life, but when he had time, he always drew landscapes or still-life paintings. He didn't think of trying to draw things like the dismal scenes after the atomic bomb or the A-bomb Dome.

The catalyst that inspired him to draw the A-bomb Dome was talking of his experiences to senior high school students on a school trip from Kansai. That was his first experiment of sharing his testimony in public. The students listened to him with tears in their eyes. After that, Mr. Hara and other hibakusha who attended the event started holding events to tell their stories. "Pictures will be helpful to help listeners understand our descriptions," other survivors said. So, he started drawing pictures of the A-bomb Dome.

He has drawn the A-bomb Dome with pen and painted it with pale watercolors. At his home, pictures of the A-bomb Dome are stacked like mountains. When he draws the A-bomb Dome, he dissolves the paints using water from the Motoyasu River, which flows in front of the Dome. This is so his pictures become a requiem for the hibakusha who died crying out for water. In winter, when drawing with a pen the ink gets hard after only 10 minutes, so he draws by warming the ink with the pen-point in his mouth.

* * *

In 1988, Mr. Hara visited the U.S. at the time of the United Nations general disarmament conference. He visited Hanford, Washington, where plutonium was purified for the Manhattan Project. In a town nearby, he and his colleagues organized an event to give testimonies of their A-bomb experiences. Many more people than expected attended the event. When Mr. Hara began talking of his experience, the people in the audience listened earnestly and attentively.

"Dropping an A-bomb is a terribly inhumane act, and is clearly a war crime." The moment he ended his speech with these words, the hall was thrown into commotion with finger whistles and boos. "I wasn't surprised because it was era time when many Americans believed that the A-bombing was the right thing to do."

One man then stood up in the hall and said, "Everyone, Mr. Hara didn't come here to pick a fight. This is the first time for many of us to hear about the horror of the A-bomb. I feel that we Americans need to look again at whether the A-bombings were justified." The hall suddenly became quiet. Mr. Hara felt relief and that it was good that he came.

Now 70 years after the A-bombing, he still musters up all his strength and, relying on his cane, goes to draw the A-bomb Dome or speak at testimony events, because "it's our responsibility as A-bomb survivors." He talks of his experience to about 80 groups a year, mainly students on school trips.

When asked which words he likes most, he says with a smile, "Continuity is powerful!"

* Originally published in Japanese in the series "聞きたかったこと… 広島〜被爆から70年〜 [So tell me… about Hiroshima: 70 years after the A-bomb]," The Asahi Shimbun (Hiroshima morning edition), March 25, 2015.