Hiroshima: 60 Years on. 

  Written and produced by AWR's English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  

Host intro: It's still hard to believe, even 60 years on.  On August 6, 1945, a single bomb detonated 580 meters above the centre of Hiroshima instantly killed 70,000 people -- and within a few months had killed that that many again. Yet there is hope for the future in retelling the stories of the past as Victor Hulbert discovered when he visited Hiroshima this summer.  This is his report.  

Transcript: (Hosting in italics.)

Mrs Sako (pictured on the right) was a 17 year old school girl in August 1945.  As with most other youth she had been seconded to help the military in demolishing buildings to make fire breaks in a city built principally of wooden houses.  That is what she was doing when a few planes flew over the city, but for some reason did not drop any bombs.  Then she heard the noise of one, solitary plane:

I started walking beside the military school.  It was a summer day so I was holding my parasol and had my jacket on my other arm.   

I heard a little hum noise.  A little low noise in the distance.  At that moment I look up. I saw a great flash.  A mixture of blue and orange just flash in front of my eyes.  It was the atomic blast and I was less than 1.5km away from it.  

The blast throw Sako right over a two metre high wall where she landed, blinded by the blast, tucked between the wall and a water tank.  She doesn’t know how long she lay there, but eventually her sight started to return.  

I don’t know how many hours afterwards, but I saw what seemed like dim light and I started crawling out of there.  All the soldiers and the men that were there at the time of the blast were gone.   The houses were just flattened.  There was just nothing.  

Sako was lucky.  Her parents survived the blast and she found them near their flattened home. They made their way to the river and sheltered under a cherry tree.  

By that time I was finding it hard to breathe.  I was really starting to struggle.  I thought I was going to die.  But somehow I wanted to continue living.   

I was choking – and then I passed out.  I must have fainted.  Gradually I started to hear the sound of the water – the rain that was both helping and killing me – and the warmth of the sunshine.   I regained consciousness but then found the burns were starting to show through – on the hand, my arms and neck, also on my face but particularly my ankles.  Where parts of my skin had been exposed to the blast were severely damaged.  They started to ooze puss and fluid and the burns on my forehead oozed over my eyes – that were already bad from the explosion, so that I could not see any more.  

The military set up first aid posts on the edge of the city – not down in the centre – and my father carried me to them.  At each one the soldiers said, “We are busy helping the survivors who have more of a chance.  Your daughter does not have a chance. We can’t care for her.”  

But her father didn’t give up.  He cared for her and a doctor friend provided what treatment he could.  

My arms, my face, everywhere was oozing with puss, and what made it worse was the maggots would feed on the puss.  A thin layer of skin would start to heal but you could still see the maggots underneath.  The doctor would have to cut the skin to remove the maggots.  It was so painful.  I would try not to cry but it hurt so much I would bite my lips and almost bit them off.  It hurt so much.  

The radiation also affected her.  She lost her hair and their was blood in her bowels.  Yet when she finally, after 3 weeks, managed to stand up, she found many people worse off than herself.  

Sako is an A-bomb  survivor. A Hibakusha.  She now tells her story to school children, determined to stop something so terrible ever happening again.  

Since then I really dislike the war.  I hate the war.  I really don’t want my children to experience what I experienced.  I really try to do my best to prevent the thing that happened.  

That seems to be a primary purpose of the whole city of Hiroshima . A city that lost 130,000 inhabitants within 3 months of the A bomb attack.   With its monument filled peace park, its peace foundation, and peace museum, their corporate response to the tragedy is not so much one of anger, as of a resolution to prevent it happening again.  

Katsunobu Hamaoka (on right) is Associate Director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum .  

What we are trying to do is to show the reality of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to as many people as possible and to arouse public sentiment towards nuclear abolition around the world.  

The museum displays stirred my emotions. Panels and pictures showing Hiroshima before and after the bombing.  Explanations on why it happened and the effects on those who survived.  Artefacts and items of clothing.  Glass bottles melted together by the intense heat.  The shadow on a granite step – the memory of a person incinerated.  But the museum don’t just point to the past.  It looks to the future.  

We believe really it has a good effect on the world toward nuclear abolition.  We think it is sometimes really hard to imagine what happened 60 years ago just by reading or watching panels.  So we try to provide people all around the world to listen to the first hand account.  

87 year old Mrs Kino is one of those who tells her story. She lives in a special home for Hibakusha survivors.  

Old as I am I cannot really do much.  But I work with my fingers to make little dolls which I give to people.  It makes them really happy but a lot of my friends have died so I am a bit lonely.   Most months we have four or five visits from schools in Japan who come to comfort us and we tell them what kind of thing happened so that they will protect the future.   

It’s the protecting the future idea that motives the citizens of Hiroshima .  That’s why, for example, the major writes a protest letter every time a nuclear device is tested.  You can see copies of them all in the museum.  But the major has another initiative – and to find out more I talked to Hiro Sakata.  He works in the Majors Office and is Deputy Director of the Hiroshima Peace Foundation.   

This organisation is founded in 1982 when mayor of Hiroshima then made a speech at the special session of disarmament at the United Nations.  And in that statement the mayor of Hiroshima encouraged cities all over the world to make solidarity toward peace.  Now we have more than 600 membership from more than 100 countries.  So I might say it is a kind of world wide network  of local authorities which are aiming at World Peace through intercity solidarity.  

Hiro Sakata talking about Majors 4 peace.  If only that promise could become a reality right around the world.  Yet we live in troubled times – and I wanted to find out how individuals can cope in the midst of devastating trauma.  Mrs Sako:  

With an event like this everything changes.  The ecosystem. The world around me.  But I thought there must be a thing that never changes.  I married when I was 21.  That was risky as you do not know what may happen to the baby of an atomic bomb survivor.  But I married and when I had a son he was OK and I started to think about him.  I looked around different religions, Catholic, Protestant, as well as our traditional Buddhist and Shinto religions.  Eventually a former class mate of mine invited my mother to an evangelistic series.  My mother didn’t go, but I did, and it was in those meetings that I found the thing that did not change. Everything around me may change, but I believe in a God who does not change.  

Mrs Kino was already a Christian when the bomb went off.  Her faith, she claims, helped her through.  

Actually I knew God’s promise in the Bible that although many fall I will save. Indeed, I think, I can feel the promise of that fulfilled for myself. I think many things happen in the world, but I think the most important thing is, just forget about fighting, but if we become close to each other, hand in hand, and believe in peace, I think that will bring a bright future.  

And with that hope of a bright future comes one more final word.  An important word, Forgiveness.  

Definitely I think my faith taught me forgiveness.  My Father was a Buddhist and it is the atomic bomb that led me towards Christianity.  I asked my father if I could become a Christian.  My father said, “Well yes, Christianity teaches love.  Buddhism teaches compassion. There is no objection to me”      

Since then, I have been attending church.  The first time I went to church after the evangelistic series the subject was Genesis.  I fell in love with the story of Genesis, of creation, and especially the idea that we are special.  That we are in God’s image.  That makes all people special to me.  That encourages me.  I really treasure that God is my friend and the church is a support.   

Host Out:  Victor Hulbert reporting from Hiroshima, Japan.

Pictures:  1. Mrs Kino (on left) and Mrs Sako (on right). Two Hibakusha.  A bomb survivors.  2: The A-bomb cenotaph in the Peace Memorial Park.  3. The A-bomb dome.  One of the few buildings to remain standing after the blast.  Now part of the peace park. 4. Victor Hulbert (on left) interviewing Katsunobu Hamaoka, associate director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (translator Natsuki Okita in centre). 5. Hiro Sakata, Director of Mayors for Peace.

 

In the interests of promoting peace and hope for the future this script is made feely available for use  without copyright restriction or cost.  However, we would ask that you give appropriate credit to AWR and Victor Hulbert.

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