Living in the aftermath of tragedy: Finding a parallel in Hiroshima

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/news/20111130p2a00m0na007000c.html

Living in the aftermath of tragedy: Finding a parallel in Hiroshima
Doves fly by the gutted Atomic Bomb Dome, center background, preserved as a landmark for the tribute to the A-bomb attack, following a speech delivered by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to marking the 66th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Saturday, Aug, 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Doves fly by the gutted Atomic Bomb Dome, center background, preserved as a landmark for the tribute to the A-bomb attack, following a speech delivered by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to marking the 66th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Saturday, Aug, 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

I recently attended an exhibition titled “To Live — August 6, 1945 — From That Day Forth,” which is being held in the East Building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum through Dec. 14.

The exhibition questions what kind of atrocities the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II inflicted on people in the latter half of their lives, and how they lived amid such trials. This issue tends to be overlooked, but it is a touching theme.

On display at the exhibition are items such as belongings of those who perished, as well as photographs and video footage. The people featured in the exhibition include a couple who kept the clothes of their only son who died in the atomic bombing but never spoke about it, as well as parents who protected and raised their children after they were exposed to radiation in the womb. Another attraction is a woman who lost 13 relatives and raised her children while suffering the effects of radiation poisoning from the bombing. She was also subjected to prejudice but still found time to take care of the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound for four decades.

The expressions of some of the people in the snapshots are calm, but one can sense the weight of time that they have shouldered.

Also featured in the exhibition are celebrities, scholars, and journalists. Koishi Kimi, a comic storyteller who died this year, experienced the atomic bombing while serving as a soldier near Hiroshima Castle. He was trapped under rubble but rescued, and after receiving emergency treatment he was taken to Ninoshima Island in Hiroshima Bay, where he received medical care.

Kimi hardly ever spoke about his experience in the bombing. He explained the reason for this in a video produced in his later years, saying, “The very fact that I was living while so many others had died made me ashamed.”

Kimi started comic storytelling with his older brother before the war, but after leaving the army and going back to Osaka, he felt he could not resume his comedy act. He said he was reluctant to engage in work that made people laugh. He never applied for an atomic bomb survivor’s certificate.

Another survivor was Masao Maruyama, a political scientist who belonged to the Hiroshima Army Marine Headquarters (commonly known as the Akatsuki Corps). He experienced the atomic bombing during a morning assembly but avoided being hit directly by the flash or blast because he was shielded by a control tower.

The Akatsuki Corps put boats out into rivers to rescue civilians — and in fact my parents and sisters were among those rescued. Maruyama went with a group of reporters to investigate the area around the hypocenter three days after the bombing.

An explanation at the exhibition says that in 1969, Maruyama revealed his experiences in the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper, stating, “Hiroshima is a reality that is occurring daily. It is challenging us with new issues each and every day.”

Yoshito Matsushige, who worked as a photographer at the Chugoku Shimbun, is also featured at the exhibition. Confronted with utter tragedy, he was unable to bring himself to take photos, and snapped just five. I was moved by one showing an officer sitting at a desk outside issuing certificates for victims of the bombing even though he was injured himself, with an apparently bloodstained bandage around his head. Residents needed disaster certificates to receive relief supplies.

Throughout his life, Matsushige worked to preserve photographs showing the aftermath of the atomic bombing.

Since March 11, when Japan was struck by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami and a nuclear crisis that has yet to be resolved, media organizations in Japan have focused on the day-to-day lives and emotions of people in disaster areas, and have presented projects and articles to support them through information. The Mainichi Shimbun’s “Kibo Shimbun” (Hope Newspaper) and similar projects could be viewed as part of these efforts. They represent the certainty of people’s ongoing lives and thoughts. I feel that there is something in common between these things and what I felt when I attended the exhibition. (By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)

Click here for the original Japanese story

(Mainichi Japan) November 30, 2011

Pray for Japan. Evacuate Fukushima.


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