Letters from Hibakusha
Takashi Matsubara (Ishikawa)
1. What I Lost on That Day
I was on Etajima Island, in Hiroshima Bay, when the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. In the afternoon, I entered Hiroshima City with other same-year cadets. In the city of chaos after the A-bombing, we rescued the injured and carried away the dead day and night. We did those rescue activities for eight days. Then the war ended on August 15. On September 11, I was discharged before my time, and went back to my hometown. It has been 69 years since then. Over those years, I suffered Type II diabetes with high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, lung cancer, multiple cerebral infarctions and pancreatic cancer, for which I had an operation. I submitted an application to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare through the Ishikawa A-bomb Survivors' Association and was recognized as a sufferer of radiation illnesses.
I got married and had three children. However, my first daughter was crushed to death under a collapsed house in the Fukui earthquake in June, 1948. She was just a baby under one year of age. My third daughter died of lymphoma in November, 2000. Now, I am deeply worried about the health of my grandchild, who is a grandchild of an A-bomb victim. All I can do is pray that he will never fall ill.
2. My Bitterness to Have Kept What I Experienced to Myself for a Long Time
On the third day after the A-bombing, I was providing care to the injured. I applied a wet washcloth on the forehead of an injured person lying down. Even though the water in the bucket from the river soon became warm because of the parching heat of mid-summer, the wet washcloth seemed comfortable enough for his feverish body, and he closed his eyes. When I came back from the river with the bucket filled with the fresh water, I was stunned to find he was sucking the end of the wet washcloth, which I had squeezed tightly. I snatched the cloth from him in a reflexive manner, saying, Stop it! because we were told those people would die if they drank water. His eyes were thin like razor blades because his whole face was swollen up like a dodgeball. He stared up at me reproachfully with those thin eyes. His imploring look was so pitiable, and I felt fierce anger toward the order from the army. The next morning, eating dry bread, I went to see him, and found that he was dead and cold. The washcloth was off his forehead on the floor. His face had turned purple and looked smaller and narrower because his once-ballooned face had shrunk. I heard someone crying loud from some distance. I cried loudly, too. We, caretakers, didn't even know the names of the victims, but I thought that both of the victims and we might understand each other, even though we had attended them only once and for a short time. I should have given him a glass or just half a glass of cold and pure water before he departed for the other world. I wonder why I kept this experience to myself for almost 70 long years. Was it because I had no human heart? But now, I do have one. Please rest in peace. I hated the U.S., which dropped that cruel and inhumane bomb. After I came back to my hometown, which is a small rural town, I suffered discrimination and prejudice there. The only thing I could do to console myself was grumble. I am not sure why I couldn't tell the truth about his death even after 69 years. Probably because I felt that I would desecrate his memory if I told about it, or I was too sympathetic to him.
3. Can We Pass Down the A-bomb Experience to Future Generations?
This is the 69th summer after the A-bombing by the U.S. The bomb ruined the city and took a large number of precious lives indiscriminately. The people who had narrowly survived have suffered discrimination and prejudice as well as many radiation-related diseases. The situation hasn't changed yet. With our own afflictions, we kept speaking out, No survivors again! No nuclear weapons! I believe that we have a responsibility to pass our experience down to following generations. I have devoted myself to the activities of the Ishikawa A-bomb Survivors Association. I would like to help the association go on and approach survivors' children associations, which I hear are increasing in number nationwide, seeking cooperation with each other. However, what about the Japanese government? I can't understand what our government did. It refused to sign the joint statement, which has the phrase, It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances, although more than 70 countries expressed their support. As the only country to have been A-bombed, the Japanese government seems to lack awareness and responsibility. It raised objections to the phrase, under any circumstances, because of inconsistencies that would arise with Japan's national security policy, given that it relies on the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States. I hope that Japan will take the lead in the campaign for nuclear disarmament toward realizing a nuclear-free world, and also give a considerate gaze to the survivors who are still suffering. I want the Japanese government to show the way in the field of world nuclear disarmament by voicing the survivors' thoughts.
4. To the People Who Are Pro-Nuclear-Power
Japan is the first and only nation to have been A-bombed, and I am an A-bomb survivor. Radiation is horrible, and nuclear weapons are inhumane cruel chemical substances. But when it comes to a nuclear power plant, it is a different story. What happened to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant of the Tokyo Electric Power Company is an accident caused by the Great East Japan earthquake. We shouldn't mix it up with the nuclear weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think the use of nuclear power to generate electricity is indispensable for Japan's future with regard to a stable supply of electricity and generating cost. All the nuclear power plants cannot be decommissioned soon, but they should gradually be reduced in number. In the meantime, we should develop some alternatives to nuclear power by our courage and wisdom to rebuild Japan's economy in the course of nuclear abolition.
(This is the letter sent us in 2014.)