A Week In the Life of a Fulbright Digital Storytelling Fellow

As I spend the next nine months roaming Japan for my Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, a lot of my friends and family have wondered what I do on a weekly basis.

Every week is different, and this one was no exception. It was actually one of my busiest, so I thought I’d give readers a snapshot of my adventures.

Monday, HiroshimaAbomb-Dome

Photographs by Ari Beser

I took this picture from the roof of the Hiroshima Prefectural Tourism Federation. After I filmed Jong Keun Lee giving testimony to a group of students from Yamaguchi Prefecture, he and I were allowed access to the roof to capture this rare glimpse of Hiroshima’s Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome.


Tuesday, Tokyo


Yuji Sasaki, the nephew of Sadako Sasaki, allowed me to interview him for the video portion of my project that will be released later this year. Yuji is donating the original paper cranes of Sadako Sasaki around the world. I wrote a story about the significance of paper cranes to Japanese culture a few weeks ago.


Wednesday, Fukushima


Marie Louise Kambenga Towari is a native of Rwanda but has lived in Fukushima since she escaped the genocide with her family in 1994. She visits displaced communities with volunteers and coffee and tea from Rwanda.  She calls her activity Rwanda Cafe. I will move to Fukushima in January and follow her journey.


Thursday, Tokyo


I was interviewed by NHK World’s Newsroom Tokyo about my project. Listen to the full interview.


Friday, Transit Day


I returned home to Hiroshima on the bullet train. Usually this view includes Mt. Fuji, but it was covered in clouds.


Saturday, Hiroshima


Before interviewing my friend Toshiko Tanaka, 76, I attended her enamel art class. Before she ever spoke about her experience, she would hide messages about the atomic bomb in her enamel works that only she knew existed. She later told me her family survived the bomb because they evacuated the city center early. View her full testimony that I filmed in New York last May.


Sunday, Hiroshima

Yamamoto at Tenmangu

I interviewed Sadao Yamamoto, 84, at Onaga Shrine, the location where he escaped after surviving the atomic bomb of Hiroshima. He was mobilized at the time to demolish the roads, but his work location was changed at the last minute.

“I should have been in the center of the city, but we were closer to Hiroshima Station to the East, a little over a mile away from the hypocenter. Everyone sent to work in the center of the city was killed.”

Ari M. Beser  is the grandson of Lt. Jacob Beser, the only U.S. serviceman aboard both bomb-carrying B-29s. He is traveling through Japan with the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship to report on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Using photo essays, videos, and articles, Beser will give voice to people directly affected by nuclear technology today, as well as work with Japanese and Americans to encourage a message of reconciliation and nuclear disarmament. His new book, “The Nuclear Family,” focuses on the American and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombings.