Atomic bomb survivor continues legacy of helping others, striving for peace
HIROSHIMA, Japan -- “I took care of a lot of people,” said Kikuko Shinjo. “They used to mumble and just say ‘it’s painful,’ ‘dad,’ or ‘mom.’ I could not forget that experience, even after 70 years.”
Shinjo, better known as ‘Shinjo-Sensei,’ is an 89 year-old native of Iwakuni, Japan, and a survivor of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima during World War II.
Although Shinjo saw the horrors of the atomic bomb in her country, she holds no grudge and instead encourages the interaction between Americans and the Japanese.
“I want to call for peace in the world,” said Shinjo. “I want all the people around the world to be friends, and I want to make the country peaceful without fighting.”
Shinjo’s journey to make the world a better place rooted from her experiences as a 17 year-old nursing student and volunteer after the atomic bomb shook Hiroshima.
``My job was to help treat people’s burns, but when I went to wipe the wounds the skin came off,” said Shinjo. “Flies would lay eggs in the exposed skin and my job was to remove them with chopsticks.”
Shinjo has come a long way from her time as a nurse. For 10 years now, Shinjo has been a large supporter of the Marine Corps Community Services Cultural Adaptation Program at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. She has brought forth ideas to give station residents opportunities to experience Japanese culture and lifestyle.
On July 15, 2016, Shinjo invited a group of station residents to help donate 1,000 folded paper cranes to the Children’s Peace Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park along with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Shinjo folded the paper cranes herself and prepared special gifts for the station residents who attended the event.
“The paper crane represents peace,” said Mikie Watanabe, a Hiroshima native and MCCS Cultural Adaptation Program specialist. “Shinjo-Senei’s goal is to have a joint community, be friendly and give people from different places the opportunity to meet.”
For some of the station residents, it was their first time visiting the park and experiencing donating the paper cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument.
“The trip was very informative and moving,” said Sarah Kirk, an MCAS Iwakuni resident. “I think it’s really awesome that so many people make the paper cranes.”
After placing the cranes and visiting the museum, the group strolled through the rest of the park seeing other monuments like the Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims, Flame of Peace, Peace Fountain, Rest House, Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students, Monument to Tamiki Hara and Atomic Bomb Dome.
“Bringing the paper cranes to the park was one, big event, and Shinjo-Senei gave us the opportunity for it to happen,” said Watanabe. “The station residents have never had this experience, and I feel like we are closer to each other after this event.”