Category Archives: Hiroshima

A 1937 Yearbook, the Atomic Bomb and Hiroshima


(Please see An Atomic Spark and a 1937 Yearbook and Dad Was in the Newspaper for background information.)

There is living proof of forgiveness from a few – and they let out a resounding message of world peace for us.

My son Takeshi, second cousin Izumi and my cousin Masako at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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It was an extreme emotional experience – not just for my oldest son Takeshi and I but for the kind souls who joyfully spent their afternoons with us on a hot September day in Hiroshima.  I was able to finally meet – and thank – the people who were kind enough to seek out my father’s 1937 high school yearbook and thereby give my father a joyous remembrance of his most happiest days of youth in the sunset of his long life.

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Not being a writer, putting this experience into words is an endeavor.  But on September 6, 2012, we were able to meet in person Mr. Tsukamoto, Ms. Kanetou, Ms. Tanaka and Mr. Aramaki.

From left: Ms. Tanaka of the Hiroshima Chugoku Shimbun newspaper, myself, Ms. Kanetou who tracked down my dad’s 1937 yearbook, my cousins Izumi and Masako, Mr. Tsukamoto who first answered my blind email and set things into motion, Mr. Aramaki our guide and my son Takeshi. Messrs. Tsukamoto and Aramaki are survivors of the atomic bombing.

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Any guided tour is exceptional.  A personally guided tour of a peace memorial and museum of a man-made event of unparalleled violence cannot be surpassed. Both gentlemen were severely burned as young children.  With all doctors killed in the city, they had to resort to mashed yam salve to soothe their wounds. (To see a VERY well written piece on their atomic experiences translated into English, please feel free to read it here.)  Imagine doing that yourself as a youngster.

They first pointed out where my father’s beloved high school, Nichuu, was situated in relation to the hypocenter.  It is one thing to see it on your monitor.  It is another thing to see it on a large wall map.  Overwhelming.  I knew it was close but it was not much further than one of my father’s triple jumps in Track and Field.  It ceased to exist – as did over 320 of their young classmates.

Mr. Aratani points to the now vacant square lot that was once his school – and my father’s.

By destiny, both men – young children at that time being forced into laboring for Japan’s war effort – were saved by the decision of their instructor, Mr. Sekimoto.  Mr. Sekimoto decided it would be best for small group of them (which included another one of my relatives) to clear a large parade ground to the southeast (東練兵場) for the next crop of sweet potatoes.  The other classmates were sent to work on building a firebreak near Nichu – which sealed their fate.  They were erased from the face of this earth in a second.

Mr. Aratani and Mr. Tsukamoto point out the Eastern Parade Ground to my cousin Masako where they were to pull weeds that fateful morning. I subsequently learned another relative of mine, Hitoshi Kubo, was also with them. His burns were more severe.

Due to time, we journeyed outside with these two 81 year old gentlemen for further education.  However, without any inference of what was right or what was wrong 70 years ago, just a couple of images from within the Memorial Museum:

My son Takeshi, I believe, was very focused on the many displays. I believe the message of the Peace Museum was completely absorbed into his psyche.

Messrs. Tsukamoto and Aratani guided us to the Nichuu High School Memorial, emblazoned with the 321 fellow students who perished.  As did Mr. Tsukamoto on August 6th, 2012, I offered water; my son Takeshi also without any urging whatsoever left his precious water bottle on that hot and humid day which is a glorious gesture.  There is a reason for the water as will be explained shortly.

Mr. Aratani, Mr. Tsukamoto and myself offer water to the Memorial and a prayer for their young Nichuu classmates and souls.  321 of them.
My son leaves his water bottle for the young souls.

We journeyed towards the cenotaph.  On the way through a park, Mr. Tsukamoto began to cry.  I asked him what was wrong.  He replied, “Your father is very fortunate to have family that think of his well-being.  My soul is now filled with joy.”  We hugged each other under the shade of a tree and cried together.  As it turns out, his father died at a young age; he was never able to thank his father for raising him through a most horrible period.

We arrived at the cenotaph; the inscription was designed and written by Mr. Tsubokawa’s and Aratani’s good friend, Prof. Saika Tadayoshi.  In English, it says, “For to repeat the fault we shall cease for we shall not repeat the evil.”  It was purposely written with no subject.  It is for the reader to decide.  Mr. Tsukamoto subsequently sent this image of the actual manuscript of Prof. Tadayoshi written in calligraphy (brush and carbon ink).

From Mr. Tsukamoto.

The Atomic Dome can be seen perfectly centered through the arch.  He explained the “eternal flame” is not truly meant to be eternal.  It is to be extinguished when all nuclear weapons are abolished.

Cenotaph

Just beyond the cenotaph can be seen a pool of refreshing water.  The water symbolizes all the cries for water from the victims who survived the atomic blast.  Nearly all would perish.  Remember the water we poured on Nichu’s Memorial Stone?

We then walked to the actual hypocenter.  The atomic bomb exploded about 1,900 feet directly above.

The atomic bomb exploded directly above this spot.

There are several rivers flowing through Hiroshima.  We all know through books that the rivers were engorged with corpses and debris.  However, there are no photos in existence as it was when the city was destroyed.  There was no film let alone medical care.  However, before the US scientists came to measure radiation levels about two months later, a huge typhoon hit the devastated city.  While the rain tore through the rivers carrying the corpses out to sea, the rain also largely washed away radiation levels.  Therefore, when the US scientists did measure the radiation levels, it was tremendously lower than what it truly was.  You won’t find that written in any of our school history books.

This river was engorged with victims and were washed out to sea by a huge typhoon. There are no photos of this horrible scene as witnessed by our two survivors.

We returned from the very enlightening tour to join Masako, Izumi, Ms. Kanetou and Ms. Tanaka.  My father was bestowed with many kind gifts one of which was a compilation of years past of Nichu – including images of when dad’s class was digging the pool at the school in the early 30’s.  But lastly, as a small token of peace, fellow blogger Seapunk2 sent me some artistic pieces representing peace and serenity.  One was presented Ms. Kanetou.  I explained it to her that the artist said a sense of peace may be coming “…directly from her actions. You may feel the spirit contained within them.  (I) sat so long and quietly, collecting those tiny pieces, sometimes with tweezers. It’s a beautiful experience, to listen to the shore birds, seals, waves and take in the Pacific while I gather the otherwise unnoticed gifts from the earth and sea. Then, once I got the idea for containing them, that, too, was peaceful and gave me a lovely sense of satisfaction…”

Peace token from seapunk2!

Lastly, in a photo discovery made just a few hours before meeting them, I came across a photo of dad taken in 1937 soon after he arrived back in Seattle after spending ten years in Hiroshima and graduating from Nichu.  He’s sporting his Nichu varsity sweater.  The attendees were overjoyed to see Dad’s pride in Nichu – even across the ocean.

Dad in his pride and joy Nichu varsity sweater taken in Seattle, 1937. You can also see his bent right elbow. That is another discovery story.

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The men were burned severely as children working in a field for their country’s victory.  While their country lost, it was but a moment in their lifetime.  They still attained victory for the world.

More to come on one family, two countries and World War II.

LIFE and GENERATIONS – Backwards and Forward


Life can be fulfilling, emotional, filled with awe…and eerie.  All at once.  In ten short days.  In a country far away.

But life and its generations help you live it backwards and forward.

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Ten great days were spent in Tokyo and Hiroshima with my oldest son, Takeshi.  He is 24 years old.  We had never been on vacation together.  My loss.  I admit to being worried he was not going to enjoy himself.

There is so much to write about for family and friends but jet lag affects more than sleep.  There is a cavernous disconnect between my (normally minimally functioning) brain and my fingers.

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But during this trip…

My son enjoyed his time with my dad’s side of the family immensely – so much so he shed a few tears at a farewell dinner they threw for us.  He even found a new drinking buddy – my cousin’s intelligent and beautiful granddaughter, Yuu-chan:

My son Takeshi and Yuu-chan in Tokyo

With my cousin Toshio Nakano, we saw my father’s station he served in as part of the 8th US Army’s G-2, Military Intelligence Service in Yokohama; because I carried some photos of him in uniform inside, the Public Relations Officer escorted us to a view from the (unrestricted) roof:

Dad’s Army station while in the US 8th Army in Yokohama

Was able to meet my cousin Masako (78) once again and the family – and we were royally treated:

Great fun with family in Hiroshima

Took the cremated remains of my Aunt Shiz (95) for internment; she was my dad’s last living sibling.  He is now the last one:

Ceremony for Aunt Shiz

Saw the most beautiful parts of Japan:

Miyajima’s grand Tori’i

A most EMOTIONAL meeting with those responsible for finding my dad’s 1937 high school yearbook:

A most wonderful meeting of peace-loving people

And the most STARTLING and tear-jerking finds of generations past – including those of my father’s younger brother who was KIA as part of the Japanese Imperial Army:

Unbelievable family discoveries

I hope you’ll stay tuned until this old mind functions again.  Not that it ever did.  Thought it best to say that before someone did.

Dad Was in the Newspaper Yesterday


The main Hiroshima newspaper yesterday ran a story on my Dad and his yearbook – and of international kindness.  Fittingly, it was the anniversary of the atomic bombing.

The main newspaper in Hiroshima (Chugoku Shimbun) ran an article on my father and his 1937 yearbook. (A) Mr. Tsukamoto 塚本, the man who kindly helped locate my father’s yearbook, (B) me 金本光司, (C) my father Koso 康三,
and (D) my father’s beloved Nichuu High School 広島二中.  (Since you all can read Japanese, in this case, it is read top/down, right to left.)

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Hiroshima conducts an annual, somber peace ceremony each year on August 6th.  A peace ceremony.  That’s the message.  Peace.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Just peace.

They are not calling attention to themselves seeking pity or repentance.  While there are still many who feel the Japanese brought this on to themselves, the citizens of Hiroshima have moved beyond forgiveness and are simply seeking to spread a strong global message for peace.

This year, the grandson of President Truman (below) was in attendance.  Ari Beser was there, too.  His grandfather was Jacob Beser – Enola Gay’s bombardier.  Wonderful.

Clifton Truman Daniel (center) lays a wreath during the peace ceremony in Hiroshima. His grandfather was President Truman.

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In my short story, “An Atomic Spark and a 1937 Yearbook“, it tells of how two complete strangers from Hiroshima – without hesitation – sought out my father’s yearbook from 1937.  They miraculously found one, made a digital copy and mailed it to me through my cousin, Masako, who still lives in my father’s childhood home in Hiroshima.  I printed it out and showed it to him a week before Father’s Day this year.

Dad – who is suffering from progressing dementia at 93 years of age – was overjoyed.  He recalled so many things from the most happiest years of his life…including being a track star.  Riding on the train to get to school with his friend Aoki…  The school song.  Dementia was put on the back seat for that morning.

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In a small expression of thanks, I had sent to Mr. Tsukamoto a flask etched with “Nichuu High School, August 6, 1945”.  I also asked he offer a prayer to the students of Dad’s high school on August 6th.  Dad’s beloved high school was but 1,500 yards from the bomb’s hypocenter.

Think about it.  1,500 yards from the hypocenter.  A Marine Corps sniper armed with a Barrett .50 caliber rifle can take out a target over 2,000 yards away.  The school ceased to exist.

As part of the peace ceremonies yesterday in Hiroshima, Mr. Tsukamoto visited the school’s memorial wall.  You can see the stainless steel flask on the black center stone in front of a praying Mr. Tsukamoto.

Mr. Tsukamoto offering a prayer for world-wide peace and in memory of my father’s high school’s students who died that morning in 1945. The flask can be seen directly in front of him.

In this photo, Mr. Tsukamoto is offering a symbolic toast with water from the flask.

Mr. Tsukamoto offers a symbolic toast at the school’s memorial wall during the annual Peace Ceremony.  It was unbelievably hot that day as well.  The newspaper’s white building can be seen in the background.

I will be showing the article to my father this next weekend.

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I wish to thank Mr. Tsukamoto, Ms. Kanetou and Ms. Michiko Tanaka, the reporter who authored this article on international kindness, forgiveness and peace.

To say it is incredible falls short.  1,500 yards short.

塚本様、金籐様、田中様、日本語で完璧に書くことは出来ませんがとても感謝、感動しました。お礼を申し上げる上、世界に平和あるように祈りました。本当に有難う御座いました。金本光司

WWII Military Intelligence Today


Dad is trying to read the name of the young man the Japanese war flag was signed for.  It is not as easy as you may think but the Japanese characters are not only written with a brush and charcoal ink, it is written in an artsy handwriting style.  Further, the characters used by pre-war Japan are largely not used anymore. (ps If you look hard enough, you can make out the bruising under his eye.)

World War II Military Intelligence techniques are still important and in use today – but for entirely different reasons.

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During the war in the Pacific, US military personnel were forbidden to keep notes or diaries in the event they were captured.  Nothing more disillusioning to be captured or killed, then have the enemy read about the ammo dump you just left from.  Especially for your buddies still stationed there.

On the other hand, Japanese soldiers were allowed to keep notes or diaries.  Apparently, the Japanese military saw the diaries similar to “water cooler gossip” at the office.

That was their downfall as Americans like my father translated such documents.  The Military Intelligence Service.  It was from these diaries that the Allies first began to see that the enemy were not the samurai of lore.

They had gripes of their commander – even by name.  They complained of starving, no ammunition, no water.  They also had uncensored letters from home – their families were starving, sick or had no home left for the soldier to come back to.

A mortar crewman wrote of how terrified they were to launch a mortar shell at the Marines as for every round they fired, the Marines would send ten back their way.

The MIS did their job faithfully back then on those hell hole islands.  Their job was to help kill the enemy.

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The flag.

Today, albeit in a roundabout way, MIS veterans like my father are still doing their job.

Last week, a representative of the “Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA.org)” contacted me again to enlist the help of my father.  As mentioned in an earlier short story, Dad was a “kibei“, or an American of Japanese descent who got schooling in Japan.  He was fluent.  More so, he still is fluent in reading the pre-war Japanese writing.  There really aren’t that many left with this ability.  Dad is 93.

Unfortunately, Dad had a bad fall the day the request came in.  He fell flat on his face and shattered his glasses in the process.

Apparently, a gentleman had in his family’s possession a captured Japanese flag.  Presumably, someone in his family brought it back as a souvenir.  Of course, if an Allied soldier brought one home, it may have been removed from a corpse.  In the best case scenario, it was taken from a prisoner.  You just didn’t find them laying around on the battlefield.

Dad on Saturday enjoying a “youkan”, or sweet bean jelly. He has a pretty good sweet tooth.

According to the request, the owner of the flag stated he wanted to return it if possible to the family.  Not an easy task – even for “I Dream of Jeannie”.  These flags were created at the farewell party of a soldier who was going to be dispatched to the war and certain death.  There is usually the name of the person for whom the flag was presented.  If you are lucky, the flag may have a city or town written.  I’m sure my Uncle Suetaro received one.

Even for Dad, the complicating factor is not knowing how to read a Japanese character.  It is HOW it was written.  These were all signed by brush and charcoal ink.  The ink lasts forever since it is carbon.  But have you ever tried reading signatures?  Try your hand at this one:

You get the picture.

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Anyways, Dad – and while his glasses were shattered in the fall – was able to say the person for which the flag was signed was likely for a Mr. Tokio Miyake.  Unfortunately, there was no true town or city named specifically.  Nevertheless, we were able to make out what appears to be “Kurayoshi Mayor”, or the mayor of “Kurayoshi”.

Last night, I did a little reserch and almost unbelievably did find a town named Kurayoshi.  I tracked down the town’s website and sent a blind email (in my broken Japanese) to the mayor’s office and asked if there was a mayor named “Furuya” during the war.

We’ll see.

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While my Dad did not participate in the hostilities, his Nisei unit did their job and greatly shortened the war according to General MacArthur.  The Nisei’s job was a true secret weapon.

Hopefully, this no longer secret weapon can serve some peacetime good and bring two families to peace.

Oh.  That was Johnny Depp’s signature.  Thought you ladies may like that.

Were Japanese Soldiers Frightened?


The last known photo of my Uncle Suetaro. He did not return from Leyte during the final stages of World War II. My Grandmother Kono – having suffered a stroke – is propped up by Japanese “shiki-futon” for the picture. Taken in Hiroshima, 1944.

Yes, a small percentage of Japanese soldiers were anxious to die for their emperor.

But a vast majority was frightened of having to go to war.  My opinion, of course.

Young Japanese boys were drafted from farms and fishing villages – just like we did here in the US of A during that time.  Boys from Parsons, Kansas or from a sea coast shrimping town in Louisiana.

And they all had moms.

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Like all Americans of my age, we were taught that the Japanese soldiers of WWII were fanatics.  That they all were hell-bent to charge into a hail of Allied machine gun fire.  To willingly die.

We were also taught that when a US Marine charged well entrenched Japanese soldiers with a satchel charge, he was a hero.  Not a fanatic.  He was John Wayne or Kirk Douglas. Was Esprit de Corps driving the young Marine to offer his life to save his buddies?

There is no intent to question our American values of valor or honor.  Just a quandary.

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My Hiroshima cousin Masako mentioned in Hawai’i having seen a photo of Uncle Suetaro and Grandmother.  It was taken the day before Uncle shipped out for war (1944).  Masako said Grandmother – having suffered a stroke the day before – was propped up by “shiki-futon”, or Japanese bedding for the picture.  She felt strongly it was the last picture taken of Uncle Suetaro but doesn’t know what happened to it.

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A few weeks ago, my California cousin Janice came across a number of old photos; she had forgotten about them.  She said there were some family photos from Hiroshima.  Her father – Uncle Suetaro’s and my Dad’s oldest brother – had apparently been able to hold on to them through the decades.

I asked Janice if there were any photos of my Dad’s two youngest siblings, Suetaro and Mieko, or of Michie (Masako’s mother).  Janice then described a picture of Uncle Suetaro in a uniform and Grandmother (seen at the beginning of this story).

I was stunned.  Topo Giggio meets Godzilla.  It was the photo Masako vividly recalled seeing decades ago.

Is there an air of fearfulness…of fright?  You can decide.  But as we were led to believe, all Japanese soldiers were fanatics…yes?

War makes fright.