The text area starts here.

  • Before reading this site

Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Susumu Nishiyama (male)
'Chokubaku'  3.5 km from the hypocenter / 17 years old at the time / current resident of Fukuoka

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
A horse's head, with its big eyes wide open, stood out from the ruins. Next to that lay two corpses, both burned black, seemingly a mother and a child. They may have been walking. My own soles were burning hot. Children's corpses were here and there, their hands covering their eyes, as if they were playing hide-and-seek. There were more corpses, so many more of them, that I won't be able to write about all of them. People who had been alive, just a moment ago, were now corpses scattered on the ground. Why couldn't the war be stopped until such a horrible thing happened? It's as if I can feel the lingering resentment of the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I am afraid that recently Japan is again going to become a military state and to initiate a war. National representatives and those of the mass media, please do not close your eyes, and please make efforts to help our country be friends with other Asian people, with the whole world, and work to achieve world peace. We should not suppress our history.

Passing on the A-bomb Survival Story.

My boyhood was immersed in war. After the Samurai era, Meiji Japan aimed at economic advancement and strengthening of the military. By building up strong armed forces, Japan was to subordinate Asian countries by force and to accumulate wealth.

In order to achieve this aim, Japan tried to focus on Asia and dominate it by military force. By this time, Japan had already had an experience of conquering other countries by armed force, for example, when Hideyoshi Toyotomi invaded Korea. Beginning in the Meiji period, there was the 1874 invasion of Taiwan, the 1894 Sino-Japanese War, and after that, the 1904 Russo-Japanese War in which Japan fought with Russia over the profit from Northeastern China. Finally, 1937 the War with China; 1941 the Pacific War; and then 1945 the Declaration of Defeat by the Emperor.

I was born in 1928, so my boyhood was a time immersed in various wars.
War is not a natural disaster like earthquakes and typhoons. People make wars. And war does not happen all of a sudden. It requires careful preparation. Those who promote war prepare the circumstances that will smoothly initiate a war.

In Japan, education promoted war. It was an education based on militarism. This militarism-based education permeated every aspect of politics, economics, and culture, seeking to establish a system and ideology that would lead its citizens to participate in the military invasion and domination of other countries. It aimed for the establishment of the military state, the state that dominates other countries by armed force.
Let me give you an example. We were taught "Imperial Rescription on Education," the Emperor's own words, on which education was based. It started with "Our Majesty thinks." It went, "Our Majesty thinks…Our Imperial Ancestors have founded Our Empire…" explicitly claiming the legitimacy of the Emperor's superior political power. And then it went, "should emergency arise,offer yourselves dutifully to Our country."
This sounds like an appropriate thing to do. But, when you say, "serve the country," it is important for one to understand what "the country" means.
In the old Japanese Constitution, the Emperor was defined as God; the Emperor, whose family had been governing the country from the beginning of Japan without interruption, was our God. The war he approved of was a sacred war, a just war, and to die for the Emperor was an honorable thing to do. We were taught things like that since we were young children. This is what we now call, "Mind-control"

And people in our generation are even now not entirely free from the spell, as they continue to make wrong decisions in their social lives.
Because we were raised like that, we boys, after finishing elementary school, went out into the world, and did not hesitate to dedicate our lives for the country. That was the time when even children's picture books, toys, and popular songs were permeated with phrases like "In order to serve our Emperor, why, I do not hesitate to die."
This was how people, who without reserve give their lives for the country, that is, for the Emperor, were produced.
In the military, we were taught that "it was a shame to live and to be held hostage." and military training was a required part of the curriculum when we were in the upper grades.
At that time, boys, after graduation, went on to various paths; some received higher education, worked for the family business, mainly in agriculture, worked in the arsenals, tried to enroll in the military, or became members of the militia that was stationed in the Chinese North East, farming while also watching the Manchuria-Russian border.

I started working as a junior factory intern at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard in 1942. I was supposed to take courses and to learn the practical trade, and eventually become a shipbuilding engineer.
What I really wanted to be was an artist, but that was the time when luxury was considered the enemy, romantic love relationship considered "promiscuity," and even a young man and a young woman walking together were severely scolded by policemen as "inappropriate behavior in the time of national emergency."
In 1941, the attack on Oahu Island, Hawaii, was a great triumph. And immediately after that, Japan invaded South East Asia. One victory followed another until the summer of 1942, and we were intoxicated with victories.

But the shipyard, where I had started working full of hopes and dreams, turned out to be a terrible and hard place. The time of militarism was the time when any expression of opposition or resentment against war caused immediate arrest by the police or military police. Absolute obeisance to the boss was obligatory. No freedom of speech, no freedom of action. And in addition to all these, there was bullying of the weak by the strong.
Absolute obeisance to boss or the elders was always obligatory under any circumstance. Anything could be a cause of physical punishment. Improper salute, looking a superior straight in the eye…anything could cause hitting. We were in the constant state of fear.
Even when the violence led to death, it was secretly dealt with. And the bullies knew at what point to stop, so in most cases, violence stopped before it went too far.
Nowadays, in contrast, people do not know when to stop, how hitting hurts, and how precious lives are. There are too many killings. It is lamentable.