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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
Lecturing about myself at Hitotsubashi University
My eldest daughter, who married in 1989, had a daughter who was named Risa. When Risa was three, she would jump to me saying "Grand-pa!" I grew old enough to be a typical grandfather who receives the granddaughter with my arms fully open, my face beaming with smiles.
The day Risa was to be born, I went to the hospital and found my divorced wife Noriko. I was surprised but not angry. I appreciated her being there.
I remembered the days when my children were small. When I was overwhelmed by the burden of child-caring, others would talk carelessly about Noriko. "I saw her walking with a man," a taxi driver once told me. I was angry then. However, I later learned that there are some important things that only the mother can do for the daughter. However hard a father tries, he cannot completely take over some of the very important things.
I left the hospital soon, saying, "Noriko, you can stay here to help, can't you? I have to go to work." I thought that was the way it should be. Risa sometimes talks about "my grandma Noriko." I accept that. I never mean to retaliate against Noriko because she left all the burden of child-raising to me. I never tell my children and grandchildren not to see her.
In those days, I was acquainted with Professor Hamatani of Hitotsubashi University. His assistant, Ms. Yuki Inoue, was very friendly, and became somebody important to me. She is married but I did not see her husband. Hamatani and Inoue were my friends in Tokyo, and I felt free to talk about anything to them. When Professor Hamatani came to Nagasaki, I always asked him if Ms. Inoue was also coming. I was disappointed when the answer was "No." I think I sometimes said what I should not. They always understood and accepted me.
My son's words, "I wonder what kind of place Tokyo is." paved the way to Hamatani's plot to take me to his university.
"Komine-san, take your son to Tokyo with you. Please speak to my students. I'll be glad to pay for flight and accommodation for both of you."
As a last-minute replacement for someone else, I spoke to two different groups of students about the atomic bomb and my life. Both times were failures. During the lectures, I became overcome with emotion as I retold the events of the day. I ended up crying, which was very frustrating for me.
I thought I would not do a lecture again. Going to Tokyo to talk to high-level university students was out of the question. How dreadful it would be! Unexpectedly, Ms. Inoue agreed with the professor and said, "That would be nice!"
"Come on! Don't scare me. How can I talk to university students? Forget about it, and let's go for a drink or two." I replied.
Professor Hamadan visited me again in October. It was nice drinking with him. He said, "Come to Tokyo, Komine-san. You can manage a class for one hour and a half." I replied, "You are still talking about what I can't do." However, as I was comfortably drunk, I began to think about it positively. He continued, "After visiting my university in Tokyo, you can see Satomi and your newborn grandchild in Tochigi." I was persuaded. I said, "All right. I'll give it a try." Without knowing how hard it was going to be.
My second daughter Satomi is very outgoing. She does what she wants to do. Without any formal ceremony, she married a man she loves and lives in Tochigi, north of Tokyo. She was going to have a baby the next January.
After Professor Hamatani went back to Tokyo, I often felt anxious, expecting his call to confirm the schedule. I had to think about how not to be too emotional during my lecture. I thought it would be necessary to write down what I would talk about, in order to complete my speech to the end. I started to write many essays, one for each topic. It was hard for me to write something long enough for a 90-minute lecture. I sometimes wished I had never seen Hamatani. I believe I lost my hair because of that hard work. It was the longest writing project in my life. I tried to be careful not to embellish old stories. Many people tend to talk too beautifully about the distant past.
Before my lecture, in the fall, I had an occasion to take part in a rally in Tokyo to file a petition to the government. The Hibakusha and their supporters visited dietmen and the Finance Ministry. I was worn out on that short trip, but I learned something very important. I did not know that the government had not voluntarily taken steps to help Hibakusha, including
allowances, medical care, hospitals and nursing homes for Hibakusha. A few Hibakusha persistently demanded action from the government, traveling to Tokyo many times over many years, at their own expense, and finally succeeded in persuading the government. I heard that some of them were poor and wore humble sandals to travel and see highly officials. They ate only noodle soup and sat for hours in front of government offices. While some ignorant Hibakusha may just have benefited from the established systems and said "How lucky we are that we don't have to pay a penny at hospitals!" I believe that we all have to learn about the precious movement.
The network of Hibakusha and their supporters has grown quite big. At first, I did not understand why it involved many people and organizations, including Consumers Co-operations and local groups of women and youth. Are they just feeling sympathy for us? That must be only a part of their motivation to join our movement. In today's world, who can be sure that an all-out nuclear war will never break out? A crazy leader of a nuclear power may push the button to launch a nuclear missile, against the wishes of the people. A drug-addict may carelessly push the button. It is reported that plutonium can easily be brought out from the former USSR. It could be tomorrow, it could be 50 years from now. Therefore, many people earnestly yearn for a world without nuclear weapons.
I know that at least one of the nuclear power presidents believes that it is all right to contaminate outside his territory, though he refuses to have his country attacked. Taking all these factors into account, I cannot afford to remain idle.
In December, I had a call from Professor Hamatani. On January 16, I took a flight to Tokyo. During the flight, three people beside me kept talking. After about an hour, they seemed to have run out of things to talk about. They spoke to me, one after another. It was not like my previous flights, and I did not like it. Then, one of them asked me where I was going. I thought it was the "once in my lifetime occasion " to enjoy feeling superior to others, and replied, "To Hitotsubashi University to give a lecture." They looked me over from top to bottom for a while, then stopped talking to me. It was a relief. If we had kept on talking, they would have learned who I really was.
Two female graduates from Hitotsubashi came to meet me at the airport. I had seen them in Nagasaki a decade before, when they were students. I was so happy to see them again. I had so many things to tell them that I did not know what to talk about first. One of them was married and had a little child. They had not changed much.
On January 17, I had to start my lecture in a lecture theater. I saw all the faces clearly. It was very cold in the room. Before the class, I smoked a lot and drank a lot of tea to calm down. I tried to think that the audience was not much different from my children.
In the beginning of my talk, I felt as if my skull had become all empty, and I was almost lost. I saw my old friends; the former students and the professor. They looked quite calm. Professor Hamatani was recording my lecture with his video camera. I wondered how I looked in the video. In about 5 minutes, I came back to myself. I prayed that nobody would walk away during my lecture, as I had heard that university students were allowed to leave when they did not like the class.
When I finished my lecture, hearing the applause, I wanted to sit down on the floor. Then I had to answer a lot of questions; one of the students asked me several questions. I was relieved when the 90 minutes was over.
Later, I was anxious to know how my lecture was. I could not ask the professor, so I asked one of the former students. "For about 5 minutes, you felt stage fright, didn't you?" she said. I learned that she was listening to me carefully. "I shouldn't have done this lecture." I said to Professor Hamatani.
They invited me to a small wrap-up party, in which 13 people took part. Among them was Professor Emeritus Ishida, who had studied various issues concerning Hibakusha since 1965.
I had seen Mr. Ishida in several meetings of Hibakusha in Nagasaki. When I spoke to him for the first time with a drink, we discussed private issues. I said I had been divorced and raising my three children. He said he had lost his wife. Later, we had several occasions to meet in Nagasaki and in Tokyo. He was always frank.
My mother and brothers were surprised when they knew that I had such a scholar among my friends.
At the wrap-up party, Mr. Ishida hugged me and said, "Well done, Komine-san. We all appreciate your hard work." The location was not like my usual drinking places. Nothing on the drink menu was familiar to me. I asked, "No Japanese sake?" One of the waiters replied that they had some for cooking. I drank that and felt high.
The next day, I left Tokyo for Tochigi. Professor Hamatani saw me off at the station, saying, "I'm going to hand you the students' feedback tomorrow.
In Tochigi, I saw my grandson Masaya for the first time. He was too small to see things clearly, but his eyes moved this way and that way very busily. He was well and very active. I visited snow-covered Nikko, too.
Later, back at Tokyo station, Professor Hamatani said, "Big success, Komine-san." and handed me 135 notes from the students.
"Did I really do well enough?"
What a relief!