JAPANESE

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From Asahi Shimbun

'The letters from the Hibakusha'
(1) Letter from Shoo Michigami

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Mr Michigami was 16 years old and 3km from the hypocenter when the Nagasaki bomb fell. Five members of his family were killed and he became the sole survivor. The family home was close to the Roman Catholic cathedral. Nagasaki had been the principal centre of Christianity from the time when it had been visited by Portuguese missionaries in the late 15th century. It was also the only port in Japan that had remained open continuously for international trade since that time. In 1995 Mr Michigami joined the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers in Nagoya where he lived. In addition to participating in international nuclear-non-proliferation conferences, he has given talks about his experience of the atomic bomb to elementary and junior highschools since 2002. Miss Arina Amaya, who was twelve years old at the time, heard one of his talks in 2003 and was so moved by it that she wrote to Mr Michigami. Since that time they have exchanged more than twenty letters about the atomic bomb and the peace process. Mr Michigami cannot talk about his experience of the atomic bomb to his family, but can talk about it to Miss Amaya. She is now a university student specializing in psychology, and she hopes to be a campaigner for peace in the future with Mr Michigami as her guiding light.

Dear Miss Arina Amaya,

In October 1942, the year after the Second World War began, my family and I left our home in rural Okayama where we had lived for six years and moved to Nagasaki to join our father. He had been working there for a year. Our new home was in Ueno-machi, which was only about 70 meters from the red-brick Urakami Catholic Cathedral. I felt as if I had come to a foreign country. I attended Fuchi National Higher Elementary School, and when I graduated from it five months later I entered Nagasaki Municipal Middle School (night school). During the daytime, I helped my father with his work as a specialist in cutting and shaping metals and woods for building construction. Once we were settled, we expected to live there happily as a family for a long time. However, this did not happen. Three years after we moved to Nagasaki, in August 1945, tragedy hit us. I was sixteen years old and was in the third year of middle school at that time.

On August 9, 1945 my father and I left home early to go to his place of work alongside the River Urakami. At about 8 a.m. I went by bicycle on an errand to collect the tickets for the express train to Fukuoka for my father who was going on a business trip later that afternoon. When I passed Urakami Station, the air-raid alarm sounded, and everybody disappeared from the town. We had had a big air raid on August 1. I returned to my father in a hurry, but the B29 flew over Nagasaki and headed in the direction of Kita-kyushu. At about 10 a.m., the air-raid alarm was cancelled, so my father said to me "I'm sorry, but could you go there again?" I replied "Yes, I will", and got on my bicycle. I did not know then that this short conversation would be our last parting.

I collected the train tickets at the Hamaya Department Store at Nishi Hamano-machi. As I was leaving the store, a female shop assistant asked me to deliver a letter to someone in the Army Police. This saved my life. Nagasaki is famous for its steep hills, and although the road from Hamano-machi to the Suwa Shrine where the office of the Army Police was located was not too steep, it was a long slope. I pedalled for ten minutes and wiped away the sweat running down my face with my sleeve somewhere near Konya-machi. Then I heard a faint roaring sound and I knew, because my hearing had been sharpened by the war, that it was the unmistakable sound of a bomb. I jumped off the bicycle and lay down, at which moment a bright bluish white light flashed in front of me. Just before lying down, I also felt the blast. Whilst lying there, it was so quiet that I was trembling and thinking "Something's going to happen, something's going to happen." Several minutes later I got up and was surprised at what I saw around me. There were countless roof tiles that had been blown off nearby houses, any one of which would have instantly killed or severely injured me if it had hit me on the head. The Army Police were so busy helping people to evacuate to the air-raid shelters that I could not find the person to give the letter to.

I hurried home because I was worried about my family. When I passed Nagasaki Station there were more and more wrecked houses, and the roads beyond Mori-machi (1.4km from the hypocenter) were blocked by a large fire. I went to the top of Konpira-yama hill and looked down, and I saw the city in flames for as far as I could see. I wondered what kind of bomb they had dropped to be able to burn the whole city in just in half an hour. I reached my home three hours later. Our house and the other ten houses around it, 0.5km from the hypocenter, were completely demolished, but they were not burning. I called out my mother's and brothers' names at the place where our house used to be, but I could not hear anything, not even a single sound. I looked around and then saw something move slightly in the field ten meters away. I went to see what it was and found my brother, four years and eight months old, dying with burns all over his body. He begged me "Brother, I want some water. Water, water please", but I did not get any for him because I forgot about everything and just wanted to save him. He took his last breath half an hour later. How I regret that now, and think that I should have let him drink even the dirty river water. Why was this four-year-old child alive for three hours in such a horrific condition in the completely burned and destroyed city? I think that he desperately hung on to his life to tell me about the cruelty of the atomic bomb. And I think that this was the starting point for the anti-nuclear activities that I am now engaged in. My mother and five-month-old sister were found in the debris of the house. The body of my other brother, who was in the fifth year of elementary school, has never been found. My father, who was in his work place 0.3km from the hypocenter, was blown away without any trace, and I could not even find a fragment of his bones.

For the four members of my family who were killed in an instant by the atomic bomb, and for my little brother who lived for another three hours, I will continue to carry on my campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have already told you in an earlier letter about the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament Conference in Washington D.C. last year and about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting this year that I participated in. It would be nice if we could see each other and talk about them. I will continue to do my best to tell people what happened. Please support me.

Sayonara.