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From Asahi Shimbun

'The letters from the Hibakusha'
(6) Letter from an anonymous man


This letter was written by a man who, at the time of his death in February 2011, was living in Tokyo. In August 1945, he was 16 years old and working in a factory in Hiroshima. Shortly after the bomb had been dropped, he went to the city center to help to recover the victims. A month later he had a fever and began to shiver and suffer from spontaneous bleeding, and his hair started to fall out. He had become a Hibakusha. Years later, when his second child was stillborn, he blamed himself. Twenty years after the bomb had been dropped he joined the local Hibakusha society where he met many people who were also worried about the effects that the radiation might have on younger generations. As a result of medical research carried out in Japan and the U.S.A., the Japanese government decided not to offer assistance to the descendants of the Hibakusha. He hopes that this letter will help the government to understand the mental anguish that the Hibakusha have carried in their minds for all these years, and their concern for their children and grandchildren. This letter was originally written anonymously because the author, Nori T?hei, had been unable to talk to his wife about their lost child. After his death, his family graciously gave permission for his name to be released as a mark of respect for his suffering and that of the Hibakusha.

My dear nameless daughter,

There are two maternity record books in front of me on my desk. On the cover of one of them there is the date when the book was issued, the mother's name and the child's name. Inside the book, the birth-registration page gives the child's name, the place and date of birth, and the birth certificate issued by the government office. The cover of the other book has the date of issue, four years after the first book, and the mother's name. There is no child's name. Inside the book, the birth-registration page contains no information. The later pages describe the length of the pregnancy with details of the time and dates of the mother's labor pains, bleeding and obstetric surgery, the sex of the child and the name of the doctor in attendance. It states that the labor was abnormal, that the birth was premature at eight months, and under 'life and death of child' that it was girl who was stillborn. She had been fine at the check-up a month earlier.

Looking at the book that was issued fifty-three years ago, the reason why I have decided to write to you, who died without even being given a name, was because I had an operation for cancer several months ago. The operation went well, but I am still on medication and this has had the side affect of waking me in the middle of night from time to time. On these nights I wonder what kind of conversation I will have with you if we meet again on the other side. I will begin by apologising to you because I think that life was denied to you because I was exposed to the radiation. The cancer I suffer from is one that is recognized as an official atomic-bomb disease. I do not know, of course, whether or not my condition influenced your death. Your older sister grew up without any major health problem, has married, and has a child. From the outside we have looked like an ordinary, calm family. However, throughout the last fifty and more years I have been anxious and worried in case I might have been the cause of any illness that she might have had. For example, when she had a nosebleed, did not recover quickly from a cold, or had a problem with an internal organ, I urged her to have a thorough check-up. This made her feel uncomfortable. I do the same with our grandchild. Whenever this happens, I think of you.

Our first daughter, your sister, was born in winter. Your mother entered the hospital during her last month of pregnancy, and I went to see her every day after work with her mother. When the due date passed, your grandmother began to worry in case it might be a breech baby, or if the baby might be strangled by the umbilical cord. I was not concerned about any of these things. I was worried that it might be disabled or damaged in some way. My heart was filled with anxiety about the problems related to the second generation of the atomic-bomb survivors that were much discussed in the media in those days. When I was told "It's a girl", I instinctively asked "What about her legs and arms?" "It's a healthy baby." I collapsed with relief.

I was relaxed about you because your sister was a generally healthy child. Having had regular check-ups at the hospital that showed healthy growth, and this being her second pregnancy, your mother was also calm. In her eighth month I arranged for her to stay in hospital because I worried about her during the hot summer. We did not have air conditioning in those days. After a few days, I had a telephone call from the hospital which said "The pains have begun, the baby will be born today". Your grandmother and I decided to stay at home until you were born. I was busy with work and she was looking after your sister. Later, I received another call that said "The baby has been born, but it is not in good condition". I rushed to the hospital by taxi. You were alone in the incubator, not breathing, just lying there like a doll. I did not know what to do. I was so confused that I asked an aunt who was working for a medical organization to come over, and I consulted her. I wanted to give you a name and hold a funeral for you, but my aunt recommended that it was best to leave such things to the hospital. I agreed to it. The hardest thing was to tell your mother about you. She listened quietly, shedding drops of tears. I wondered if I could be responsible for this, and I stood there filled with anxiety and an uncertainty that I cannot describe in words. My aunt and I were the only ones who had seen you.

After you, we were not blessed with another child. Your sister got married and had a child, just one. My grandchild sometimes says "Because I have no uncle, aunt, cousin, brother and sister, I will one day be all alone." When my grandchild says this, I think of you. If you had lived you would be in your fifty's, have children (my grandchildren) and grandchildren (my great-grandchildren), and we would be able to have enjoyable get-togethers on special occasions such as New Year.

There have been times when I have deliberately tried to forget you. This was out of consideration for you as well your mother. However, I could not forget you because for more than sixty years I have kept seeing the damage caused to the Hibakusha by the atomic bombs. I do not know whether or not your death was influenced by the bomb. Even if my worries about you are only in my imagination, our country needs to know that we are all victims who have spent the last sixty years living in anxiety because of the lack of information about the effects of the radiation on the younger generations.

When your mother and I die, there will be no one who knows about you. My aunt died more than ten years ago. However, you are still alive inside me, and before I see you again, I would like to construct a path that leads to the abolition of inhuman nuclear weapons from the world. I look forward to talking to you about this when I see you. In the meantime, I will continue to make every effort for the rest of my life in trying to realize the dream of "No more Hibakusha".