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Japan: We will not forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki

64 years ago, on the 6th and the 9th of August, atomic bombs were dropped by the U.S. forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over 200,000 people died and every year, ceremonies are held to commemorate those victims and to remind humanity of the horrors of war and of the use of nuclear weapons.

Some Japanese bloggers reflect on their history and the meaning of this anniversary.

Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. By Flickr user kamoda.

Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. By Flickr user kamoda.

touhen 03, from Hiroshima, tells us the story of the building (pictured above) now become the symbol of the A-bombing and of his memories related to it.

戦前の産業奨励館は大正15年に建てられた、とてもお洒落な建物だったようです。原爆ドームと呼ばれるようになった今でも、よく見ると美しい装飾が、あちこちに残っています。

The Industrial Promotion Hall was built before the war, in the 15th year of Taisho Era [1933] during the Taisho Era, in 1915, and it seems it was a very nice building.
Now that it is called the A-Bomb Dome, some of the nice decorations on the facade can still be seen.

今年も8月6日がやってきました。広島に原爆が落とされた日です。当時、広島市の周辺部、矢野町に住んでいた母は小学生で、校庭で朝礼中でした。大地が一瞬白く透けて見え、町内の自宅近くに爆弾が落ちたと思ったそうです。祖母は同じ町内の海岸で塩作りをしていました。すぐ近くに敵機が来たと思い、曾祖母と手を取り合って夢中で逃げたそうです。そのうち広島市内と隣接した安芸郡府中町の東洋工業(現在のマツダ株式会社)に爆弾が落ちたという噂が流れ、それなら親戚を助けに行かなければという話をしているうちに、東洋工業ではない、広島市内は火の海だという情報が入り、被爆した人達が次々と運ばれて来るようになり、祖母は看護にかり出されたといいます。

This year the 6th of August has come. The anniversary of the day when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
At that time, my mother who used to live in Yano-Cho, a suburb of Hiroshima, was an elementary-school-student and was doing the morning greeting in the school yard. She told me that for a while the atmosphere was colored a transparent white and she believed that the bomb had fallen near her house. My grandmother was at the seaside working as a salt-maker. Thinking that the enemy had arrived, she took my great grandmother by the hand and both ran away as fast as they could. In the meantime a rumor spread, that a bomb had fallen on what at the time was the Toyo Factory (now Matsuda Inc.) in the near village Akigun Fuchu. But when they thought they had to go to help their relatives, the news that Hiroshima was a sea of fire was on everybody's lips. The victims started to arrive one after the other and my grandmother was drafted to help as a nurse.

あの日、8月6日の午前中数時間の経緯を私は繰り返し聞いて育ちました。バスに乗れば、「もうこのあたりだと、大部分の人が死んだ」とか、あの日のことを祖母から聞いたものです。爆心地へ向かうバスの中で聞くと印象が強くて、私は子供の頃ずっと、市内へ向かうバスに乗るたび、生きて帰れない範囲に入ったなと頭の隅で思いましたし、帰りは府中町を通過する頃から微かにホッとする妙な感覚を持っていました。身近な被爆体験、あるいはその周辺の体験はざらにありましたし、学校では昼休みに原爆の体験記が校内放送されていました。昭和40~50年代、広島では原爆が昨日のことのように存在していました。

I was brought up listening to the stories of those hours on that morning of August 6th. Every time I got on the bus I remember my grandmother telling me “look, in that area as many many people died”.
In the bus going to the area where the bomb was dropped I used to listen to these stories which left me with a very strong impression. When I was a kid, every time I was on that bus going to the center of the city, in a corner of my mind, I used to think ‘I have just entered a part of the town from where you cannot come back alive’ and, on the way back, after passing over Fuchu-cho I remember feeling slightly relieved.
I experienced what being a victim of atomic bombing means from close range, plus I heard about it so many times and also at school, during the lunch break. The diary of the A-Bomb experience used to be broadcast in the 60s -70s and in Hiroshima, the dropping of the atomic bomb was remembered as if it had happened only yesterday.

Blogger at ocntoday recalls [ja] one of the most popular works that tells of that tragic event: Hadashi no Gen [Barefoot Gen] by Keiji Nakazawa (Here is the cartoon version [en])

On Atomic Bombing Anniversary Day, Japanese singer Masaharu Fukuyama (福山 雅治), during his radio program, publicly admitted, for the first time, to being the son of two A-bomb survivors.
This made many reflect on the social discrimination that for years the victims of the bomb (被爆者 hibakusha) and their relatives had suffered and which prevented many second generations hibakusha from telling the truth about their family's past.
Here is a blogger's witness.

また、被爆2世、被爆3世であることをずっと言えなかった人もいるだろう。ただし私もそうだったのだが、この発言が大きく報じられたことに違和感を感じたのもある。被爆した方への差別があるという認識はこの広島都市圏には今はないし、少なくとも広島市近傍ではそのような選別は無意味であると考える。今、もしあればそれはただひたすらに悲しい。ただし、被爆が元で健康を害された方が結果的に被爆による健康被害を元に社会から疎んじられたと言うことは正直あるのだろう。被爆者への偏見や、同じ日本人の中でも感じ方に温度差があるなら残念である。

It's possible that there are still a lot of people who never admitted being the descendents of A-bomb victims. It was the same for me and hearing that such experience was announced so publicly made me feel a bit uncomfortable. At present, there is no discrimination against the A-bomb survivors in the Hiroshima area and at least in those neighborhoods such discrimination would be meaningless. If something similar still exists, it is just a very sad affair.
However, it is true that those people who had serious health problems due to exposure to radiation were kept away from society because of the injuries caused by bombing.
Prejudices against the survivors and different attitude against them among the Japanese population unfortunately continue to exist.

核爆弾による被曝では、直接的な外傷のみならず、深刻な外傷が見られなくても脱毛、出血、下痢や嘔吐、慢性白血病、甲状腺がんなど発症する割合が高くなるといわれ、これを原爆症という。被爆者の子は「被爆2世」、その孫は「被爆3世」と呼ばれるが、遺伝的健康障害が現れやすいと言われているもののでも科学的な立証はされていないし、追跡調査も実施中じょうたいらしい。そもそも、これ以前に症例があったとは思えず、原爆症によるメカニズムがわからない時代は、相当これらの誤解などは在ったと思う。

Being exposed to atomic bomb radiation not only causes direct external injuries, it also causes serious internal injuries resulting in loss of hair, bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting, chronic leukemia, and the possibility of developing thyroid cancer. In short, it causes radiation sickness.
The sons of A-bomb survivors are called '2nd generation hibakusha‘ and their children '3rd generation hibakusha’. Although it is said that they have more probability of showing genetic health damage, this is not yet scientifically proven and a follow-up survey is still a work in progress.
Because in the past, there have been no similar cases, the impossibility of fully understanding the mechanisms of radiation sickness let misunderstandings arise.
The Maiden of Peace, in Nagasaki. By Flickr user Kamoda.

The Maiden of Peace, in Nagasaki. By Flickr user Kamoda.

Mindful of the atomic bombing experience, many in Japan support the anti-nuclear policies of the country. Recently, however, the news that in the past Japan had secretly allowed the transit of American nukes in the country aroused the indignation of those who still value the triple non-nuclear principle adopted as a resolution in the 1960s.
Blogger at Canada de Nihongo points her finger at some politicians ambivalent attitude towards Japan's position as a non-nuclear armed country.

日本には非核三原則があり、核兵器を「持たず、作らず、持ち込ませず」と決められている。現在の日本は核兵器を保有していないと信じられているが、法制化されていないため、1年以内に保持国になるのではないかとも言われている。過去、空母ミッドウェーなどの米軍の艦隊によって日本国内の米軍基地の港に持ち込まれたとの疑惑もある。秘密裏に米軍による核の持ち込みを日本政府が許可しているという噂も絶えない。

非核三原則についての考え方も、麻生バカ太郎首相と鳩山代表の間には大きな違いがある。麻生は外務大臣のときにも、日本は核を持つべきだと発言した中川昭一の発言を擁護して、野党から外相としての不信任決議案を提出されたことがある。つまり、非核三原則については否定的な考えを持っているように思える。

In Japan the three non-nuclear principles which rule are: ‘not to possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor to permit their introduction.’ At present it is believed that Japan doesn't have any nuclear weapons but as there is no specific law in this regard some say that within one year it may become a country with nuclear weapons.
There is actually the suspicion that in the past an aircraft carrier of the American Navy carried [nuclear weapons] into the country, in those ports where the military bases are. According to a rumor, the Japanese government would have allowed the American forces to secretly bring nukes in.

Also regarding the anti-nuclear principle, there is a huge difference in beliefs between PM Idio-Taro Aso and the opposition's leader Hatoyama. When he was the Foreign Minister Aso defended Shoichi Nakagawa's position when he stated that ‘Japan should have nuclear weapons'. That is why the opposition party passed a vote of no confidence in him as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In other words, he seems not to appreciate the significance of the triple anti-nuclear principle.

As Hiroseto reports, in this year's Peace Declaration [ja] Mr. Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, declared his support for Obama, referring to the U.S. President's discourse when, in April, he stated that the United States would “take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons.”
These are the last lines of that Declaration. (On Chugoku Shimbun website the entire translated version)

We have the power. We have the responsibility. And we are the Obamajority.
Together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can.

With the aim to “achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world” by 2020, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2008 became the promoters of the joint Hiroshima Nagasaki Protocol [en, pdf], complementary to the Non Proliferation Treaty.

  • http://feinin.blogspot.com/2009/04/emperor-hirohito-self-portrait.html Adele Todd

    Feinin; A study of illusion and reality, parody, humour and humanity

    I like to think what we did was right to protect our navy, America as a whole. But now, I see what I did was wrong, What devastating news, I tremble at it, gasp, the hurt, suffering in others searching to understand what really happen, so chilling. I know, I am forgiven, they look at me with pity, respect and admiration, A minuscule teacher to the dignity that is life, treasure what it gives, Sayonara. Bravery, sweat, stopclock, trigger, afraid, Sinoretta

    That bright morning as I washed my feet in a basin of water, I felt a tingle in my hair racing to my scull, vanishing in thin air. What I know, I do not care, I know I am ashamed of death as it tricked me into sleeping, so quickly, so peacefully upon a table, chair, stool. Where did it come from, who sent to me. Calling him to answer, my sacred dream awakens me at last. Summer, boiling, rage, risk, pandemonium, seaweed.

  • http://minopaper.wordpress.com/category/hiroshima-book/ Richard Bolai

    HIROSHIMA book produced in 2005

    The decision to explode two atomic bombs over a civil population will remain unanswered from the annals of history. Yet the consequences of August, 6th 1945 has demonstrated that for those who lost their lives in this act of war have since tamed the used of the device ever since.

    At the residency in Japan I had anticipated visiting the city of Hiroshima for this very purpose. But financial restraints made it impossible. Although my fellow colleague Christina did visit Hiroshima, I was grateful for the pencil rubbing she made from ruins and these plates are the focal point to the book project.

    HIROSHIMA opened on the centre spread

    With these etchings, I have incorporated in a handmade book called, “Hiroshima”. Constructed in Japan and made with washi paper. The covers of the book were designed by Christina Linderberg and placed within the folds of the washi are the plates of the actual pencil rubbing.

    Modified for the Hiroshima project, 2005, a stand using bamboo rods supports the book, and the centre spread includes printed graphic plates of Japan’s national symbol and a photograph of the atomic bomb, named little boy

    Pencil rubbing from Buddhist temple ruins, Hiroshima, 2002

    Mino Paper Village

    Richard Bolai All Rights Reserved ©2009

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Hi Scilla,

    Can you explain why was there discrimination against the a-bomb survivors? That part surprised me.

  • http://minopaper.wordpress.com/category/hiroshima-book/ Richard Bolai

    Dear Scilla Alecci of Global Voices, you fell into my trap, you neglected to post my http://minopaper.wordpress.com/category/hiroshima-book/
    but used my words http://feinin.blogspot.com/search/label/Hiroshima%20-%20Ground%20Zero
    Global Voice has it own agenda

    Remember me Hiroshima

  • Scilla Alecci

    Solana, in this interview (http://serv.peace.hiroshima-cu.ac.jp/English/dletter/ne2902.pdf) cartoonist Keiji Nakazawa explains why A-bomb survivors were discriminated.
    “The
    discrimination silenced A-bomb survivors about their A-bombed ghastly
    experience. The awful discrimination was so pervasive that nobody could
    raise his/her voice in protest against it. I lived in Takajo-machi, or presentday
    Honkawa-cho, and often heard that female survivors in the
    neighborhood had hanged themselves.
    One of my acquaintances got married with a woman in Tokyo and held
    a wedding party there, only to find that nobody attended the party. Once
    non-A-bomb survivors learned that you were an A-bomb survivor, they felt
    a sense that you were somehow dangerous. [...]”
    In case of marriage, for example, they were discriminated because the consequences of radiation sickness were thought to be hereditary.

  • Dolores Kogelheide

    I was only 4 yrs old when this horror happened and remember news coverage while at the movies in years to follow. I didn’t understand why or where this was happening at the time. Now that I’m 67 years old, I’m appalled and ashamed of humanity. How could such a thing ever have happened? Will mankind never learn? The innocent pay over and over again. I’m amazed that the Japanese people can be so forgiving and have remained so strong and resourceful. Something like this must never happen again and yet we see the the world of today festering again. Peace and love is the only answer or cure for the sickness.

  • john

    We should drop another bomb on those sick fucks… THey didn’t learned the first time

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