World Conference against A & H Bombs
Komine Hidetaka, Nagasaki Survivor
2015 World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs
A-Bomb Survivor of Nagasaki
I am honored to be given this opportunity to speak to friends from around the world at the International Meeting of the World Conference against A & H Bombs, marking the 70th year of the A-bomb tragedies.
When the atomic bomb exploded, I was on a farm in Nishigo-Karimata, Nagasaki City, some 1.3km from the center of the explosion. I was four years and eight months old. I was burnt on hands, body and both legs. I later learned that a doctor of the medical team who saw me said, “This boy cannot survive”, and turned us away.
I barely survived. In 1947, I entered the Nishi-Urakami elementary school, but my school life was like hell. I was bullied. “Rotten foot”, “Chicken leg”, and ”Gane (swimming crab)” were my nicknames. It made me really sad. For me in those days, there was nothing I could do but put up with the pain of my wounds and heartache. By so doing I was facing up to the fear of death. In the midst of this life, my mother was special to me. Until I reached fourth grade, I often said, “Mom, today I saw many jeeps and trucks with American soldiers passing in front of me. I wanted to throw stones at them.” One day, she said, “Hidetaka, you often say you hate America or GIs, but you should think carefully. What you should hate is neither America nor American soldiers. If you need to hate something, you should hate war and the atomic bomb.”
Such was my mother. She always stood outside our house to see me come home from school, unless there was something exceptionally important. I was grateful, especially in winter. Trudging sideways, it took me almost two hours to come back home. With warm words of appreciation, such as, “Great, you went to school in this cold”, she held me in her arms and took me into the house. She massaged my numbed hands and legs in a warm room, saying, “May Hidetaka’s hands and feet get warm now.” With the warmth of my mother, I felt as if I were in a cradle. “My mom must be a goddess”, I thought.
When I graduated from junior high school, yearning to become a sushi chef, I visited a sushi shop in front of the Nagasaki Railway Station. But my request was simply turned down. “Our business is to sell food. We cannot hire you. You are affected by the A-bomb” were the words given to me.
In 1956, I entered a night course at the Nagasaki prefectural hair-dressing school. Commuting from Sumiyoshi-machi to Suwa-machi every day by tram was like a dream. Three years later, when I finally got a notice saying that I had passed the state examination, it was as if I were on top of the world. It was summer and I was 18 years old. In those days I was not so conscious of myself being a Hibakusha.
In 1966, when I was 25 years old, I became acquainted with a woman. I was joyful every day. Then, I got a call from a man who said, “You should not go around with my daughter. You are a Hibakusha. What a nerve!” I was deeply hurt. I had no energy to go to work. After patience upon patience, then this came. Everything became loathsome, and I took poison to commit suicide, but that ended in failure. Mother said, “Hidetaka, you must not do it again. Even if something hard to bear happens to you again, you must by all means get over it. Even if you have to wriggle over, roll over, or slop over, still you have to live on.” Even now I do not fully understand what she really meant. But I felt from her eyes that she was telling me that I had to live on no matter what. Still I did not want to stay in Nagasaki any longer, so I left for Osaka.
At the time, I was surprised to find that the woman whose parents opposed our close friendship ran away from home to follow me to Osaka. We got married, but on the first evening, when she saw my body she turned her back in surprise. Perhaps she was crying. If she said she would go back, I thought I would let her go. But she did not.
Later, we came back to Nagasaki, opened a small barbershop with two haircut chairs, and were blessed with three children. But some 10 years later, my wife began to talk about getting a divorce. Given the fact that I was Hibakusha with an ugly body, I had no other choice but to accept her decision. I was 36 years old at the time.
It was hard work to bring up three children. My eldest daughter, when she was in the second year of junior high school, meddled with paint thinner. Days of agony and despair continued like a nightmare. I tried to get through it by telling myself, “Don’t give up, Hidetaka. You endured harder times when you were in elementary school.”
In 1956, an organization with the name of “Nagasaki A-bomb Youth and Maidens Association” was launched. I was invited many times but did not join.
In 1982, I at last plucked up the courage to visit the office of Nagasaki Hisaikyo, “Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council”, to say “Hello”. There I encountered the now familiar faces of Yamaguchi Senji, Taniguchi Sumiteru, Hayama Toshiyuki and others. None of them showed the slightest unpleasant expression. My irritated mood dispersed in a moment. There I felt as if I was a different person. Why? Was it because we were all Hibakusha? Was it because each of the lines etched in our faces carried deep untold tragedies? Although 20 odd years had elapsed since I had met them last, they accepted me as if we had been meeting one another every day. Although I did not talk of anything concrete, they looked as if they knew why I had suddenly visited them in their office. It was an air that I had never experienced before, as if I had found my brothers. I told myself, “I am really glad I came here!”
I was not born to suffer from the A-bomb. I wanted to live just like other people. But the atomic bombs harm even our offspring. Recently, my second daughter contracted cancer of the womb and had an operation.
We should not allow any more victim cities, like Hiroshima or Nagasaki, ever to appear on earth. Those who were killed by the bombs were not even allowed to die in dignity, and many are still suffering from diseases in agony. That’s why we Hibakusha want the abolition of nuclear weapons from the bottom of our hearts.