JAPAN | Hibakusha: A-bomb survivor feels overlap with young victims of Fukushima disaster

Posted on August 5, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 5 August 2011

Masahito Hirose. (Mainichi)

Masahito Hirose. (Mainichi)

A-bomb survivor Masahito Hirose, 81, feels an overlap between young people in the areas hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake and himself at that age.

“For a long time, I didn’t laugh,” he recalls as he flips through an old photo album. He was 15 when the bomb fell on Nagasaki. At the time he was at a factory only four kilometers away from the center of the blast.

In 1952, he became an English teacher and began working at Nagasaki Kogyo High School, a technical school. Standing in front of a class of around 40 freshmen, he introduced himself and a novel, “Yoakemae” (Before the dawn), by writer Toson Shimazaki, which is set during the Meiji Restoration that brought back imperial rule.

Hirose, then 22, told his students that “The new nation that the people welcomed with open arms ended up bringing pain to the other people of Asia and having the pitiable end of defeat in war. But we are now before the beginning of a second dawn.” It was a message that he told himself, as well.

Among Hirose’s students there were those who had lost parents and homes, and who commuted to school from far away. On the school’s grounds, the metal frame of a Mitsubishi weapons factory still remained. But, Hirose says, “the sky was truly a clear blue,” and his students’ eyes were bright with hope.

“We lacked enough food and our lives were tough, but we had hope in a future of democracy,” says Hirose. “The students were my support.”

Hirose now serves as a part of “Nagasaki no Shogen no Kai,” an organization that works to spread the stories of Nagasaki A-bomb survivors. He wrote the foreword for a 2011 release by the organization. The foreword’s title is, “Datsugenpatsu ni Mukatte” (toward an escape from nuclear power). Hirose regrets that until now he did not use his position as an A-bomb survivor to provide more support for the anti-nuclear power movement.

He puts forth a strong plea: “After March 11, Japan is once again at the beginning of a new historical age. We need the government to show leadership and put together a vision for recovery that reflects the will of the people.”

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