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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


Personal values and a person's merit


I gave my second lecture at the university on October 17, 1994. On October 16, Mr. Ishida, Mr. Hamatani and I were having a drink at a Japanese cafe in Tokyo. With a glass of gin in my hand, I said honestly to Mr. Ishida,

"It is very hard for me to speak to university students, as I have only finished junior-high school."

"You shouldn't think about it that way." Mr. Ishida replied. "In Nagasaki, when Mr. Mitsuishi was still alive…"

Mitsuishi was also a Hibakusha. He always suffered from diseases and poverty. "We were at the office of Hibakusha one day. At lunch time, in a nearby restaurant, I invited him to choose from the menu whatever he wanted; he chose just a curry and rice at only 450 yen or so. I suggested that he choose something more expensive, at about double that price. But he declined and said that he didn't want to get into the habit of eating expensive things.

What do you think, Komine-san? Politicians, scholars and presidents, are they 'valuable'? Your speech can be given only by yourself. Nobody else can do it."

Mitsuishi was really somebody. Mr. Ishida had good sense to observe him. I appreciated the story.

After my first lecture at the university, quite a number of the 135 students feedback sheets said something like, "I admire Mr. Komine, particularly because he has overcome desire to kill himself." They were too heavy a burden to me. To a student's question, "Have you thought of killing yourself, while Hibakusha around you committed suicide?" I had replied "No."

They dropped one atomic bomb on Urakami. It killed dozens of thousands of people. Many others were wounded. Many more suffered a lot. Many Hibakusha learned that to keep on living is harder than dying soon. Many people killed themselves. I was one of those who attempted suicide. Luckily or unluckily, I survived. I did not talk about my suicide attempt until I turned 52. However, when I observed the students' sincerity and honesty, I thought I should not keep telling a lie.

In my second lecture, I spoke about my suicide attempt. I noticed my voice was trembling. When I finished the lecture, I saw that one of the former students had just arrived with her little children.

I had a drink with about 30 people, including Mr. Ishida, that night. Mr. Ishida looked happy. I was moved a lot by 181 feedback sheets from the students.

Back in Nagasaki, I wrote a letter to Professor Hamatani, as follows.

Mr. Hamatani,

I learned a lot on this trip to Tokyo.

Many things amazed and confused me; Mr. Ishida's comment on people's merits and values, the zeal and sincerity I noticed among my audience and their big applause after my talk. I haven't figured out what they all mean, but I feel very happy that I have a lot of friends who support me. In my first lecture, I thought that the students' comments were just compliments. This time, I honestly appreciate them. I now see they are really honest. Students - who don't know war - wrote about their desire not to repeat the error of war, what they feel as their mission, and their wish to learn from the sad history.

I'm sorry that I said, "I will never lecture here, again."

I will come back when you and the students need me again. I hope to see you again before long.

That was what I really meant. However, a lecture at a university is still a little too heavy for me. I like the comfortable tension in the lecture hall, though. I feel strange when I hear my voice echoing in the big room.