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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Peace Talk with Atomic Bomb Survivor Michiko Harada

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the dropping of the atomic bomb in two cities in Japan, the University of Minnesota was proud to host on September 29, 2015 Ms. Michiko Harada, who travelled for the first time to the United States from Nagasaki, Japan. With the support of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, which was celebrating 60 years of partnership and support between the cities, Ms. Harada was able to take the time to discuss not only her story as a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) but also her motivation behind and work advocating for peace. 

At the Peace Talk, Ms. Harada recounted her story of surviving the blast. At just six years old on August 9, 1945, Ms. Harada lived just over 2 miles from its epicenter. While many people were burned alive from the bomb, Ms. Harada survived with only cuts from broken windows. Her father, who was working just across the city  at the time, was forced by the disaster to travel for over 24 hours through  nearby mountains to get to her and the rest of his family.

In her discussion, Ms. Harada depicted not only in photos and paintings but also through actions what it was like to live through the experience. Wearing a blue-air-raid hat and apron provided to all children in Japan at the time, she showed the audience the protective measures they went through at the time of the explosion. In the coming years, though, Ms. Harada lost many members of her family and friends to radiation poisoning, including her father, and further experienced first-hand the effects through her work in the healthcare field.

To bring attention to the long-lasting effects outside of health and family, Ms. Harada also discussed the bomb’s role in her goals in advocating for world piece. As one of the few survivors who are still living today, Ms. Harada spoke of the importance that telling stories of the event and teaching and remembering what happened have in pushing for world peace. She was supported by Masanobu Chita, director of the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb, who highlighted some of the exhibits from round the world that have taken place in the past 10 years to document and bring attention to what happened 70 years ago.

The event closed with an engaging set of questions and further discussion on the movement for peace and remembering the devastation of the atomic bomb.  We thank Ms. Harada, Mr. Chita, the Sister City Committee, and the other partners for their time and dedication.