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Music session from Aug. 7, 1945 to be reenacted at Hiroshima bombing anniversary concert

Hiroshima University graduate school professor and violinist Kenji Takahata, left, and others practice with the instruments made of trees exposed to the atomic bombing, at Hiroshima University in the city of Higashihiroshima, on July 26, 2022, ahead of a concert on the 77th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing on Aug. 6. (Mainichi/Ryota Hashimoto)


HIROSHIMA — On the night of Aug. 7, 1945, the day after an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, an Indonesian student studying in Japan at the time serenaded the bomb-torn city with a violin performance while he took shelter at a university campus. Seventy-seven years later, a concert to relive that moment is scheduled on Aug. 6, using instruments made of trees exposed to the bombing.


Meiko Kurihara, 96, a resident of the city of Hiroshima’s Aki Ward, and the late Chieko Nakamura, who died in 2010 at age 83, were among the few who heard the violin play that night. They both went to what is now Hiroshima Jogakuin University, and experienced the atomic bombing while working at Toyo Kogyo, today’s Mazda Motor Corp., as part of wartime student mobilization.


According to Kurihara’s testimony and writings, Nakamura was on her way home in central Hiroshima on Aug. 7, 1945, when she happened to meet international students from Southeast Asia who had been invited to study in Japan as part of its national policy. That evening, she was also reunited with Kurihara, who had been looking for her father, in front of the main building of former Hiroshima University of Literature and Science in the city’s Naka Ward, approximately 1.4 kilometers from the A-bomb hypocenter. They all decided to camp out on the university ground that night.

A drawing by Hiroshima University research fellow Rebun Kayo based on Meiko Kurihara’s testimony is seen in this photo taken at Hiroshima University in the city of Higashihiroshima, on July 25, 2022. A group of students held an impromptu music session on the rooftop of the former Hiroshima University of Literature and Science building, depicted on the foreground in the drawing. (Mainichi/Ryota Hashimoto)


At around 8 p.m., Kurihara and Nakamura went up to the rooftop of the university building along with a dozen or so international students. The air was filled with a strong smell of burning corpses as bodies brought in from across the city were being cremated around the building.


Amid chaos, possibly trying to soothe the people around him, Syarif Adil Sagala, a student from then Japan-occupied Sumatra, now Indonesia, started playing music including the Indonesian folk song “Terang Bulan” on a violin he had been carrying. The group of students then started singing along Japanese traditional songs such as “Sakura Sakura” and “Hamabe no Uta.”


In her book “Hiroshima kara no Inori” (Prayer from Hiroshima), Kurihara touches on the violin performance and the singalong, writing that it was “such a calming night, and it hardly seemed to be a gathering of those who had been bombed.”

Hiroshima University research fellow Rebun Kayo (Mainichi/Ryota Hashimoto)


The organizer behind the upcoming concert to reenact the night 77 years ago is Hiroshima University research fellow Rebun Kayo, 44. To pass down memories through music, he’s been working since 2019 on creating music instruments using trees exposed to the atomic bombing that have been cut down for road maintenance.


A weeping willow and other trees that had stood near the A-bomb hypocenter have been turned into violins, a viola and cello. Hiroshima University graduate school professor and violinist Kenji Takahata, 49, among others, will play these instruments at the concert. The event is scheduled to start at 12:25 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the university’s Higashi-Senda Campus in the city’s Naka Ward. Admission is only available to those related to the university due to COVID-19 precautions.


(Japanese original by Ryota Hashimoto, Wakayama Bureau)


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