We (Naomi Luther, flute, and Martin Zayranov, violin) were selected to fly to Hiroshima to play the series of concerts held there every year to commemorate the atomic bomb attack on that city in the Second World War. This project is organised by the University of Hiroshima, from which a group of students also joined us in performing at the concerts.
The Japanese students and Rebun Kayo, the organiser, had picked us up from the airport, taken us to the rehearsal rooms, and given us the opportunity to sample traditional Japanese food, and they then accompanied us for the rest of the week.
The first concert was held on 7 November 2019 in a nursing home in which the survivors of the atomic bombing attack live (Mutsumien). We played a relatively short chamber music programme that we had rehearsed the previous two days with the local students. The elderly people were very moved and were visibly pleased. We were even filmed by several television stations and shown in the evening news, which illustrates how important this topic still is for the people there.
On the day before the second concert, we visited the Atomic Bomb Museum, which had opened only relatively recently. This museum depicts very impressively and comprehensively what horrible effects the bomb had and still has today. Through small insights into the personal history of the people, one can empathise very well with the horror they experienced. Even though we already knew the history and the facts, it was still very different to learn about the brutality and cruelty right there where it happened.
It was with these images in our heads that we played the second concert the following day, which was held at two different locations in the Peace Memorial Park: the first with a view of the Atomic Bomb Dome and the second in front of the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, which contains the cremated ashes of the victims of the bomb. They were two very emotional concerts, and it was an honour for us to play there in memory of those who died.
Martin played on a very fine violin that was made especially for this occasion and consists partly of wood from the only tree that survived the bomb and the radiation from the attack at that time.
On the last two days of our stay, we visited many sights with our new friends and sampled our way through the Japanese cuisine. We were particularly impressed by Miyajima, an island that is home to Japan’s largest temple.
Overall, it was a very emotional, eventful, and interesting week in which we learned and saw a great deal and made new friendships in a completely unfamiliar culture. For this wonderful opportunity, we would like to thank the mdw and, of course, the University of Hiroshima and the lovely people there!
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