Born to parents exposed to radiation from the world’s first atomic bombing — carried out by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945 — Mari Tamba said it is her responsibility to talk about the war to young people even though she did not directly experience it.

Tamba, 65, who lives in Ama, Aichi Prefecture, became a storyteller of the war and the atomic bombings about three years ago in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which was wrecked by the powerful March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In November last year, Tamba spoke before some 30 students at a high school in Nagoya. As usual, she began her speech by conveying her father’s experience with the atomic bomb, as taken from a diary he wrote after the war.

“Numerous citizens were burned so severely that I could not tell whether they were men or women,” he wrote. “They gathered under the shade of trees and other objects. It was a scene from hell. Some helplessly begged for water before dying.”

Tamba’s father was a 22-year-old engineer in the Imperial Japanese Army when a U.S. B-29 dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. He was in a barracks 2 km from the epicenter of the blast, and although he survived, suffered serious leg burns.

The following year, he married a woman who was exposed to radiation while helping the victims. She gave birth to three daughters, Tamba being the second.

Her father was a quiet man, she recalled. But each August, he would talk about his experiences during World War II, and through him, she eventually felt as if she had experienced the war herself.

Tamba became a children’s nurse and then served as a lawmaker in a town assembly in Aichi Prefecture for seven terms. She has engaged in peace activities on several occasions, including a U.N. special session on disarmament in Germany.

She decided to talk about her father’s experiences following the Fukushima nuclear crisis, and is now concerned about the health of her son’s family, who live in Fukushima Prefecture.

“Humans cannot control nuclear energy,” she said. “Atomic bombs and nuclear power plants must be abolished.”

Her father passed away at the age of 75 and her mother is now in her 90s.

“It’s my responsibility to convey what my father experienced,” she said.


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