HIROSHIMA – A piano tuner from Hiroshima is spreading a message of peace with a collection of pianos that survived the bombing in August 1945.
Mitsunori Yagawa, 67, fixes the pianos after receiving them from donors and takes them around the country.
Born to a hibakusha family, Yagawa hopes he is making young people think about peace.
He is considering asking Pope Francis to play one of the pianos during his visit to Japan in November.
Yagawa said if Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, is seen playing such a piano, “I believe people around the world will gain an interest in abolishing nuclear weapons.”
Yagawa first encountered a piano from the bombing while involved in a project that donated unwanted pianos to facilities such as hospitals. An owner contacted Yagawa and asked him to take the instrument, which survived the blast somewhat unscathed.
The blast slammed the piano against the wall and pierced it with shards of glass. But when Yagawa tuned it he found it to be playable. That piano was first used in a concert on Aug. 6, 2001, the 56th anniversary of the atomic bombing.
Yagawa now has six pianos from the bombing, which he transports around the country on a 4-ton truck and lends out for around 150 performances annually. Schools often seek the pianos for concerts, and the pianos have been used for choral performances by pupils during their outings to Hiroshima.
The story behind each piano is part of its appeal. Yagawa describes what the owners went through, and he allows visitors to touch the blast damage.
The reception is good. Some school students say the music helps them appreciate the tragedy of war, while others describe the soft timbre as soothing.
Once, a performance of one of the pianos moved an elderly hibakusha to speak for the first time about the experience of surviving the bombing.
Yagawa said he feels that more and more children are unaware of the atomic bombing.
“I myself, despite my parents and grandparents being hibakusha, did not take much interest in the issue until I came across the pianos,” Yagawa said. “I want to continue sowing the seeds of peace as long as I can.”
A movie based on Yagawa’s experiences, “Okasan no Hibaku Piano” (“Mother’s Bomb-struck Piano”), began filming in May. It is slated to be released nationwide next summer, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing.