11/27/2019, 14.18
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Hiroshima survivor talks about the bomb and Japan’s ‘wars’

by Yurie Miyawaki

Katsuzo Ishimaru, a world-famous artist who survived the 1945 atomic bomb, looks at Pope Francis’s visit to Japan. Living with terror has influenced his art, and now he hopes for a "revolution" on the part of young people, who must go back to a life in contact with nature. Artificial intelligence, pollution and global warming are challenges that "must be addressed immediately”.

Hiroshima (AsiaNews) – Katsuzo Ishimaru (picture 1) is an internationally renowned artist and a curator at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. He is also a Hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bomb of 1945 when he was only two years old.

Even though he can’t remember the bombing, the latter cast a terrifying shadow over his entire life. “It is not enough to condemn nuclear power in the face of the many 'wars' that my country is going through,” he told AsiaNews.

With respect to Pope Francis’s trip to Japan, he stressed the importance of addressing the many questions the pontiff raised. One came up when Francis met survivors of Fukushima, and called for fresh ideas about the energy issue as well as social cohesion. Here is Ishimaru’s story.

I was born on 10 August 1943 in Hiroshima, in Nishi Kaniya to be precise (in the north-eastern part of the city, about 2.5 kilometres from ground zero). I was at home with my mother and my older brother. My father was at the factory. The house collapsed in a second, but we managed to escape from under the rubble. Only then did we all meet together again. Being small, I was not yet 2 years old, I don't remember events clearly.

I do remember however something John Paul II said: “War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death.” This much is very clear: the total abolition of nuclear weapons is an absolutely right thing to do.

Thirty-eight years after those words, I wish to go further and developed my thoughts. The world has changed a lot and we cannot only see the problem of what nuclear power can do, but also what artificial intelligence, i.e. technology, can do. Compared to a hundred years ago, a far more frightening world has begun.

There is a very fine line that that we cannot cross. But people today have the ability to cross it easily. Thus, a terrible age has already begun.

People kill, the evil of war exists, but it's not enough just to talk about these issues. There are also other problems that follow from the development of science and technology; for example, the problem of pollution, the problem of CO2, that of the atomic nucleus, the warming of the Earth, genetic manipulation etc ... People go on however, without solving these problems.

I would like to hear a word that concerns not only people, but also animals and plants, that is, nature. I would like to have some guidance as to how we can live in harmony with nature. Because now people live as they wish, live as they wish, instinctively. They seem to live only through their instinct, but evidently this is not right.

I want so much to live in harmony with nature, I want to live, live together with animals and plants. I live using as little energy as I can and I always urge young people to experience being with nature.

I did not experience the atomic bomb through the five senses; I have no memory of it because I was too small. However, I started to fear radioactivity at the age of ten from exposure to media, movies and documentaries that were screened and broadcast.

When movies about the atomic bomb came out, they frightened and traumatised me in ways I can't explain in words. There are many people like me who today have this terror even though they did not experience it with the five senses, without real memories of the atomic bomb. This terror is linked to Fukushima 3.11 (the earthquake of 11 March and the following tsunami), and also Chernobyl, Nevada and Three Mile Island. Terror exists even when it is not seen.

This is truly "the work of man". But can it be stopped? This question is a common thread in my artistic work. I try to include the sense of terror, the importance of things, through a way of life rather than words. Above all, in the past 30 years I have always contributed to the organisation of the Inoko festival (a popular children's festival in Hiroshima). The power of 88 bamboo can lift a big stone towards the sky. People pray for happiness and for children's health (picture 2).

Bamboo symbolises nature, and the movements of the 88 bamboo trunks represent communication between heaven and earth. For this reason, the young people who prepare the bamboo have to go to the mountains to get them and then bring them to the city. Through this, I wish to make young people live in communion with nature.

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