BY YUJI ENDO
NAGASAKI–Japan’s time-honored form of “kamishibai” storytelling picture cards is a good way to capture the memories of atomic bomb survivors, says Hiroshi Suenaga, a 75-year-old former junior high school teacher and resident of the city.
“Anyone, anywhere, can tell the stories of hibakusha (atomic bombing survivors) using kamishibai,” says Suenaga, who has long been active in peace education.
Several sets of cards Suenaga has created based on the experiences of survivors of the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing are on display through Aug. 14 at the Nagasaki Peace Sphere.
Kamishibai (literally, paper drama) storytellers used to perform traditional tales for children, revealing colorful hand-drawn cards one by one as they told the story. The art was popular up until the early 1960s before the spread of television.
On display are three sets of Suenaga’s cards based on the experiences of three survivors: Suenaga and his family, Senji Yamaguchi and Sumiteru Taniguchi.
Suenaga wrote the original stories and a friend who is a painter drew the illustrations.
Suenaga was exposed to radiation when he went from Isahaya in the same prefecture to Nagasaki to find food on Aug. 19, 1945. He saw many burned bodies in the devastated city.
His kamishibai recreates those images, using old photos as well as sketches.
After he began teaching social studies at a junior high school in 1965, he often thought his students could learn about war more effectively and understandably if he told them of his own experiences.
Years later, he started creating kamishibai in 2000, after he was invited to the United States to describe his experience as a hibakusha. He hoped American children would better understand the issue through the illustrated medium.
He also thought that Japan’s younger generations, who have no firsthand knowledge of the bombings, could use the card sets to describe the hibakusha experience themselves in a more understandable way.
He has created five kamishibai stories so far, based on interviews with hibakusha and their own written stories.
“I want to make at least one kamishibai set a year,” Suenaga said.
The museum is closed on Mondays.
Hiroshi Suenaga shows picture cards based on the experiences of Senji Yamaguchi, a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing on Aug. 9, 1945, at the Nagasaki Peace Sphere. (Yuji Endo)