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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Katsuyoshi Omori (male)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo
1815

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I saw the bomb drop with my own eyes while I was waiting for a train at Koya-ura Station on the Kure Line, which is about 20 minutes from Hiroshima Station. There was a sharp flash of light followed immediately by a huge roar as if the heavens had turned upside down. Then, before I knew it, a billowing cloud with double and triple bulges boiled up on the other side of the verdant mountain range. At times the cloud reflected the hot summer sun, glowing golden at its peak, rising higher and higher up to the heavens. Eventually it became a huge raging pillar, turning in on itself to form a mushroom shape, and as it turned reddish purple, it gradually grew dark as if it were breathing in the ashes.

I learned the true extent of what happened a little after 8 a.m. the following morning when I saw what the area around Hiroshima Station looked like. There was nothing left of the beautiful station or Hijiyama Hill. As far as the eye could see, all that was left was the blackened, burned corpse of what had been Hiroshima. Amidst the stench, the desperate cries of people searching for their loved ones weighed down heavily and the burned and melted skeleton of a wrecked tram car hung down, tangled in the overhead electric lines on the blown out, girderless Enko Bridge. But the child soldier in his second year at the Prefectural Technical School stood there, unmoved, looking at the reality that had happened yesterday under that ash laden, reddish purple sky. The glass-littered floor of Nippon Seiko Steel (formerly the Toyo Boseki Textile Company), where students mobilized for the war worked, was completely covered with victims lying naked with reddish purple burns covered with soot or some other kind of dust, calling out with their last effort in their death throes, "Water." "Please, water."

Still, I didn't feel a thing. All I could think of was that as a good Japanese citizen, as the military had drummed into us, I should be prepared to die an honorable death for my country. It has been 60 years since that time, and now it is almost unbelievable that tiny specks of airplanes fly through beautiful clear skies, leaving white trails, just like that day long ago. It will soon be time for the Chofu Fireworks Festival. Young girls will get together and chat happily, dressed in beautiful summer yukata kimonos and geta sandals, as old women and old men, mothers and fathers, and everyone head excitedly towards the Tamagawa River bank. This happy scene is indeed a symbol of peace. There are no shrill air raid sirens. There are no mandated blackouts. Nor is there a need to fear terror from the sound of explosions from B-29s or Grumman fighter planes. This is truly a snapshot of a happy scene. But somehow I cannot enjoy this from the bottom of my heart like everyone else. Somewhere inside of me lies a feeling I just cannot shake. On the other side of that beautiful burst of fireworks lie the memories I cannot forget -- the sound of the explosion that rent the sky, thoughts of the water that mustn't be drunk trickling into the burned ruins, and the nine scars carved into my body from numerous bouts of cancer. It is not just me.

Now as I reach the age of 80, I think of the 250,000 or more survivors of the atomic bombing who live in Japan and of the 5000 who live in other countries around the world. I think of how they must live from day to day in fear of the radiation that lurks in their bodies. Atomic bombs do not just slaughter in one instant; rather, their cruel radioactivity begins to kill during the hours and days that follow, and if you survive, it returns to haunt you again just as you start to forget about it. Who could have imagined this? The war has not ended for us. I don't want to feel this despair, but somehow I cannot rid myself of it. My wife told me offhandedly, that until I fell ill with cancer, she hadn't realized I was a victim of the bombing. Just as my granddaughter was starting elementary school, she asked, "Grandpa, did you fight in the war?" as if it had nothing to do with us. I thought of those words over and over, and was tormented by a feeling of loneliness at being left behind, alone, with peace something far distant. If I were the only victim, then I would have to accept my fate and give up. But the fact that my family continues to live with the fear of lingering genetic effects from radiation remaining in the environment is a source of pain and sorrow that will remain with me as long as I live. Too, I cannot forgive myself for my coldness as I shrugged off the voices of those in their death throes. I just cannot rid myself of this suffering.

"War is detestable. The Japanese government that acquiesces to the ostensibly righteous American leadership is detestable." Nuclear weapons will be used if there is a war. And history will repeat itself. There was talk in America of using the atomic bomb during the Korean War. This fact is clear proof of the danger. It makes me wonder whether they realize that nuclear weapons are a permanent threat to our planet. I hope for the passage of legislation to honor the three non-nuclear principles, but I am nearing the end of my life. The American style of democracy by brute force, as seen in how they ignore the United Nations Charter, will only bring about another living hell. But we are the only ones who can tell this tale of misery. I have not given up hope. President Obama has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He told the world that although it may not happen in his lifetime, we must continue to try. I will do my part too, however small my contribution may be, for the sake of my family, for the sake of my granddaughter, and for the sake of young people who do not know of war. I am participating in this project in the hopes that even just one person more will come to understand what I am trying to say.
(2010)