Fukushima students win award for film about WWII balloon bombs


A group of junior high school students from Fukushima Prefecture won recognition in a global video contest for making a short film on bombs attached to balloons by the Japanese military during World War II.

Ten students from Nakoso First Junior High School in the city of Iwaki created the five-minute documentary as part of the Kid Witness News program, initiated by Panasonic Corp.

The company loans video production equipment to schools participating in the program. The goal is for students to be creative and learn communications skills by making their own films.

In their video titled “There Once Was War Here,” the Fukushima students researched a desperate practice toward the end of the war in which bombs were attached to large balloons and released from Japan’s Pacific coast in hopes they would reach the United States and Canada.

The film describes how the 10-meter-wide balloons, called “fusen bakudan,” were made from Japanese paper. It also features interviews with residents who remember when they were launched from an area near the school.

According to the film, more than 9,000 of the balloon bombs were released, of which around 300 made landfall in the United States.

“It made me realize how senseless war is and how wonderful it is to live in a peaceful country,” said Miku Komatsu, 15, one of three students who worked on the piece last year and traveled to Panasonic North America headquarters in New Jersey for the award ceremony on Wednesday.

The group won the Best Witness Award and was one of seven finalists chosen from over 500 participating schools from around the world.

Panasonic launched the program in the U.S. in 1989 and started the global contest in 2008.

A group of junior high students from Germany won the Grand Prize for a film on remembering the Holocaust.

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