Jiji Press HIROSHIMA (Jiji Press) — A piano tuner from Hiroshima is spreading a message of peace with pianos that miraculously survived the U.S. atomic bombing of the city in August 1945.
Mitsunori Yagawa, 67, fixes pianos that endured the bomb blast and travels around the country for music events.
Himself a child of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), Yagawa hopes that his activities will inspire young people to think about the importance of peace.
Yagawa first encountered a bomb-struck piano while he was involved in a project for donating used pianos to hospitals and other institutions.
An owner of the piano contacted Yagawa, asking him to make good use of the instrument.
The piano had been slammed against a wall by the bomb blast and pierced with shards of window glass, but it could be played after Yagawa tuned it.
The piano was used first in a concert on Aug. 6, 2001, the 56th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
Yagawa now has six bomb-struck pianos, which he transports around the country on a four-ton truck and lends to about 150 performances annually.
The pianos have been used at events ranging from chorus performances by junior and senior high school students visiting Hiroshima on school trips, to concerts by schools and organizations inside and outside of Hiroshima Prefecture.
At the events, Yagawa introduces the experiences of the piano owners during the bombing. He also allows visitors to touch the blast damage on the pianos.
Some junior and senior high school students have said that listening to the pianos being played has helped them feel the tragedy of war, while others said the soft timbre of the pianos soothed them.
Once, a performance on one of the pianos moved an elderly hibakusha to speak for the first time about the experience of surviving the bombing.
Yagawa said he feels that more and more children are unaware of the atomic bomb.
“I myself, despite my parents and grandparents being hibakusha, did not take much interest in the issue until I came across the pianos,” Yagawa said. “I want to continue sowing the seeds of peace as long as I can.”
The piano tuner is considering sending a request to Pope Francis, who is set to make his first visit to Japan in November, via the Hiroshima city government to play a bomb-struck piano.
He hopes that Pope Francis’ huge influence as leader of Catholicism, a faith said to have more than 1.2 billion adherents, will help make an impact.
“If the sight [of Pope Francis playing the piano] is spread through the media, I believe people around the world will gain an interest in abolishing nuclear weapons,” Yagawa said.
A movie modeled after Yagawa’s experiences, “Okasan no Hibaku Piano” (mother’s bomb-struck piano), began filming in May.