NAGASAKI--Atomic bomb survivor Mitsugi Moriguchi was so shocked after a confrontation with a group of abusive students that he felt like quitting as a "kataribe," or storyteller of the catastrophe that befell the city.
Moriguchi, 77, has spent years recounting his experiences of the Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing and its aftermath while taking visitors on tours of the city.
He recalled the incident last May while he was guiding a group of junior high school students at an elementary school near ground zero. Moriguchi said he came across a boy who was behaving disrespectfully and told him to leave.
A few minutes later, five boys from the same school rushed up to his group shouting, "You … old man who has failed to die!"
While some students he takes on tours get bored or fiddle with their cellphones, Moriguchi had never encountered such rude behavior.
But now he views the experience in a positive light. He said it made him even more determined to continue his efforts to pass down memories of the bombing that killed 70,000 people.
Moriguchi was exposed to radiation when he visited central Nagasaki immediately after the bombing. He retired from teaching at an elementary school 16 years ago and took up storytelling.
Not long after the incident with the five male students, a peace activist in his 20s told Moriguchi a story that became an eye-opener for him.
"When I was a young student, we heard atomic bombing stories. When we were told to write essays on our impressions, I felt I had to write in accordance with how the teacher told us to feel,” the young man said. “Saying no to nuclear weapons and wars may be justice, but forcing that down people's throats can lead them to rebel."
That is when Moriguchi hit upon the idea that he may have been forcing his own ideals on the students.
During another storytelling session for junior high students on Aug. 8, Moriguchi asked a group of eighth-grade students from Okinawa: "Many children, aged 13 to 14 just like you, died here. How would you feel if your life was taken away all of a sudden?"
A small voice answered, "I wouldn't want that."
He told them: "Ask me about anything. You can just tell me how you feel."
Today, Moriguchi tries to get children to freely express their thoughts and opinions through his storytelling sessions.
"The incident became a good chance for me to reflect on how I should convey my message to younger generations," Moriguchi said. "I wish I could sit down and talk with those students who yelled at me. They're just at an age where they can be cocky. I really hope the incident didn't scar them."