Shun Sasaki, a 9-year-old third grader from Hiroshima City who is learning English at Novakid online English school, serves as an English-speaking guide for foreigners at the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Peace Memorial Park. Novakid shares his story.
How it all started
In 2021, Shun participated in a video project to introduce his hometown of Hiroshima in English. This sparked his interest in the Atomic Bomb Dome and led him to research the history of the war and the atomic bombing with his mother.
He looked around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, wearing the headphones with translated explanations for foreigners. This helped him learn how to explain things in English. He also studied at home by watching English videos about the bombing on a video-sharing website.
Seeking to put the knowledge and English language skills he had gained into practice, he started as a volunteer giving foreigners a tour of the Atomic Bomb Dome on 6 August 2021, Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Memorial Day.
When he started out as a guide, there were very few foreign tourists due to the pandemic. Doing it once a month, he could only speak to about five tourists. Even so, he continued it every month…
Among other things, Shun was telling visitors about Sadako Sasaki, the model for the Children’s Peace Monument.
‘Why do people go to war?’ was his starting question. Then he saw 1,000 paper cranes. In Japan, there is a custom of making 1,000 paper cranes to wish someone recovery from illness.
He wondered what they were, which led him to learn about Sadako Sasaki, who made paper cranes while in bed suffering from leukaemia, due to exposure to the atomic bomb, until she died.
The fact that Sadako Sasaki was a child around his age at the time of the bombing resonated with him, and he felt compelled to tell everyone about her.
Peace is our treasure
‘At first I was scared of the atomic bombing, but it is important to tell people about it so that the same thing will not happen again,’ says Shun.
His activities are connected to his dream.
‘When I grow up, I want to be a doctor like my grandpa. I want to work to save lives, to help people,’ he says.
His admiration for his grandfather has influenced his activities as an English-speaking guide and led him to think about peace and human lives. In the future, he would like to hear from people who actually experienced the war.
Shun also wants to take part in peace projects, and to be someone who can convey the thoughts and feelings of those with experience of the war, even when none of them are left to tell their story.
Telling the world about Hiroshima
Shun says he hopes to continue giving tours in English to spread his knowledge and let people be conscious about Hiroshima. We asked Shun a few questions about his experience of being an English-speaking guide!
– What is most enjoyable about being an English-speaking guide?
- Being able to talk with people from different countries. It is convenient to speak English, and I am happy people listen to me. I also enjoy exchanging opinions.
– What is the hardest thing about being an English-speaking guide?
- It’s when to talk to people. I don’t want to bother them while they are looking around by themselves, so I wait before I actually talk to them and see that they are not in a hurry and that it’s OK to talk to them. Also, when I talk to them, I say I’m a child tour guide and ask them if they have time.
– Do you have any tips or tricks for giving a tour in English?
- I try to open up with people. When I talk to them, I first introduce myself. And I ask questions like where they come from, if they are tourists, or if they have already tried okonomiyaki (a local specialty in Hiroshima). Such questions help us open up to one another. When people smile, I feel more comfortable talking to them.
English learning with Novakid
Shun has been familiar with English since he was very young, using English learning materials at home, and obtained EIKEN (English proficiency test) Level 3 in his second year of elementary school.
Since regular conversation is difficult with just English learning materials, he joined Novakid to improve his speaking skills through one-on-one lessons with a native-speaking teacher Tim!
Shun says that Tim is his “favourite teacher”.
‘He seems to be having a lot of fun, playing games while speaking English and writing directly on the tablet screen by touching the questions that the teacher presents. He learns new vocabulary. He knows some grammar but makes mistakes, and the teacher corrects him’, commented Shun’s mother.
Novakid supports young talented students and helps them grow, achieve their dreams and make a difference! Recently we shared a story of Ema Hosoi, a young Japanese entrepreneur who launched her own sustainable business project, and a story about Kartal Biljanli, Netflix actor from Turkey.
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