• Kyodo

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Storytellers sharing the testimony of the hibakusha will get state funding to travel around the nation and overseas starting in April, the government said.

The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by U.S. atomic bombs in the final phase of World War II in 1945. The cities began training hibakusha storytellers in fiscal 2012 and 2014, respectively, and dispatched them throughout Japan, with the host covering their costs.

To ease the financial burden, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has earmarked ¥30 million ($280,000) in the draft fiscal 2018 budget to fund the program. The government will also conduct English lessons for the messengers ahead of overseas trips.

About 100 people — mostly residents who have been trained to pass on the experiences of the world’s sole nuclear attacks — have been assigned by the two cities to give talks in places such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

According to the two museums, there were 180 requests in fiscal 2016 for A-bomb storytellers to appear at universities, schools and other venues.

Around 30 percent came from outside of Hiroshima or Nagasaki prefectures, including Fukushima and Akita.

However, due to the heavy transportation and accommodation fees, one government was forced to cancel its plan to host a storyteller.

Sakuko Sasaki, who is set to become a so-called Hiroshima “A-bomb legacy successor” in April, said, “I want to inherit the activities of the atomic bomb victims, who have continued to share (their experiences) with the next generations while suffering” at the same time.

“I am determined to go anywhere if I am requested,” the 67-year-old said.

The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims and its Nagasaki counterpart will serve as contact points for storyteller requests starting March 1.

The A-bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killed an estimated 140,000 people by the end of that year.

The Nagasaki bombing, which took place three days later, is believed to have killed 74,000 people by the end of the year.

The combined number of hibakusha — people who survived either bombing — stood at 164,621 as of March last year. Their average age was 81.41, according to the ministry.

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