Age weighs on A-bomb storytellers

The Yomiuri ShimbunMore than half of 100 atomic bombing survivors who work as storytellers feel that advanced age will soon end their activities, according to a joint survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and Hiroshima University’s Center for Peace.

Prior to this year’s 74th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the survey also found that more than 70 percent of the respondents had no one to take over their retelling of their experiences. This highlights the difficulty in passing survivors’ memories on to younger generations.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 145,844 people held an atomic bomb survivor’s certificate as of the end of March, dropping below 150,000 for the first time. The figure represented 40 percent of the peak number of certificate holders — 372,264 in 1981.

The survey was conducted in June and July, covering 100 survivors who work as atomic bombing storytellers at related organizations. Yomiuri Shimbun reporters conducted interviews with them face-to-face.

Asked if they felt they are reaching their limits in such storytelling activities mainly because of their advanced age or health concerns, 27 respondents said they agreed with that statement, while 22 others said they felt that way to some degree. The percentage of people who feel this way will likely increase, as the average age of holders of survivor’s certificates was 82.65 as of the end of March.

An 84-year-old woman in Tokyo who was exposed to radiation in Nagasaki at the age of 10 was admitted to the hospital last year for bleeding in her brain.

“I was asked to be a storyteller next year as well,” she said. “However, all I can say is, ‘I will as long as I’m still alive.”

An 89-year-old survivor in Hiroshima currently suffers from a thyroid condition. “I always think, ‘Today may be my last day to work as storyteller,” she said.

The joint survey asked the respondents if they had anyone to take over their accounts of the atomic bombings or carry on their storytelling activities, and 74 said they did not.

An 88-year-old survivor in Hiroshima Prefecture was among them. She too feels she is nearing the end of her storytelling activities.

“My child would turn away when I tried to tell my stories,” she said. “Even among the children or grandchildren of the survivors, I think only a few of them are willing to take over [their accounts].”Speech

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