Tag Archives: chugoku shimbun

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.

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