ONOMICHI, HIROSHIMA PREF. – Mona Nakanishi, a TV celebrity from Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, believed until she moved to Tokyo that children across Japan came to school every Aug. 6 to offer prayers for victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
The 37-year-old ex-news anchorwoman, formerly known as Mona Yamamoto, said children in Hiroshima were once taught to fear the sound of an airplane flying overhead during summer.
“But I learned that these are peculiar feelings only people in Hiroshima Prefecture have,” said Nakanishi, who at 18 went to a university in Tokyo. She grew up in Onomichi, a city along the Seto Inland Sea about 70 km east of the city of Hiroshima.
During the summer, Nakanishi and her classmates studied about war and peace by looking at photographs and watching videos about atomic bombings, she said.
It was nothing special for children there to gather at school every Aug. 6, in the middle of summer break, to offer silent prayers for A-bomb victims at 8:15 a.m., the exact time the U.S. military dropped the device on Hiroshima in 1945.
But after moving to Tokyo to study, Nakanishi was stunned to find out that outside Hiroshima, children do not even go to school on the anniversary.
Nakanishi had a grandfather who was a reporter for a local newspaper in Onomichi.
He was told to report the situation in Hiroshima the day after the blast. As soon as he got home from his assignment, he went straight to bed without eating dinner.
That was very unusual for him, because he loved eating and drinking at home after work, according to her grandmother.
“He must have seen something extremely dreadful in Hiroshima,” Nakanishi said.
Her grandfather died of gastrointestinal trouble at the age of 47. He had likely suffered some sort of a disease stemming from radiation, but the exact cause remains unknown.
Nakanishi said she finds it unreasonable that the government does not recognize as victims anyone who was beyond a certain distance from where the bomb was dropped that day.
As she hoped to become a journalist, like her grandfather, Nakanishi entered Asahi Broadcasting Corp. in Osaka and had a chance to work on a project about wars there.
“As the generations who have directly heard about the experiences of atomic bomb survivors, we are responsible for passing down their stories at a time when the number of survivors is dwindling,” she said.
Nakanishi also said she has thought a lot about nuclear power ever since the March 2011 disaster started at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station.
She said she is terrified by the fact that humans continue to run nuclear plants even though they have yet to find a way of handling an emergency.
Last year, Nakanishi gave birth to a girl. She said she does not plan to impose her own beliefs or ideas on her daughter, but instead will teach her everything regardless of whether it is good or bad.
“I want my daughter to make decisions on her own about what is right or wrong,” Nakanishi said. “I hope that my daughter’s generation can make Japan a better place 20 to 30 years from now.”
But she also added, “It is our generation’s responsibility to make arrangements to enable them to do so.”