HIROSHIMA, BY JOHN HERSEY
Chapter Five: THE AFTERMATH
HATSUYO NAKAMURA, weak and destitute, began a courageous struggle, which would last for many years, to keep her children and herself alive.
She had her rusted Sankoku machine repaired and began to take in some sewing, and she did cleaning and laundry and washed dishes for neighbors who were somewhat better off than she was. But she got so tired that she had to take two days' rest for every three days she worked, and if she was obliged for some reason to work for a whole week, she had then to rest for three or four days. She earned barely enough for food.
At this precarious time she fell ill. Her belly began to swell up, and she had diarrhea and so much pain she could no longer work at all. A doctor, who lived nearby, came to see her and told her she had roundworm, and he said, incorrectly, "If it bites your intestine, you'll die." In those days, there was a shortage of chemical fertilizers in Japan, so farmers were using night soil, and as a consequence many people began to harbor parasites, which were not fatal in themselves but were seriously debilitating to those who had had radiation sickness. The doctor treated Nakamura-san (as he would have addressed her) with santonin, a somewhat dangerous medicine derived from certain varieties of artemisia. To pay the doctor, she was forced to sell her last valuable possession, her husband's sewing machine. She came to think of that act as marking the lowest and saddest moment of her whole life.
IN referring to those who went through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Japanese tended to shy away from the term "survivors," because in its focus on being alive it might suggest some slight to the sacred dead. The class of people to which Nakamura-san belonged came, therefore, to be called by a more neutral name, "hibakusha" -- literally, "explosion- affected persons." For more than a decade after the bombings, the hibakusha lived in an economic limbo, apparently because the Japanese government did not want to find itself saddled with anything like moral responsibility for heinous acts of the victorious United States. Although it soon became clear that many hibakusha suffered consequences of their exposure to the bombs which were quite different in nature and degree from those of survivors even of the ghastly fire bombings in Tokyo and elsewhere, the government made no special provision for their relief -- until, ironically, after the storm of rage that swept across Japan when the twenty-three crewmen of a fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon No. 5, and its cargo of tuna were irradiated by the American test of a hydrogen bomb at Bikini in 1954. It took three years even then for a relief law for the hibakusha to pass the Diet.
Though Nakamura-san could not know it, she thus had a bleak period ahead of her. In Hiroshima, the early postwar years were, besides, a time, especially painful for poor people like her, of disorder, hunger, greed, thievery, black markets. Non- hibakusha employers developed a prejudice against the survivors as word got around that they were prone to all sorts of ailments, and that even those, like Nakamura-san, who were not cruelly maimed and had not developed any serious overt symptoms were unreliable workers, since most of them seemed to suffer, as she did, from the mysterious but real malaise that came to be known as one kind of asting A-bomb sickness: a nagging weakness and weariness, dizziness now and then, digestive troubles, all aggravated by a feeling of oppression, a sense of doom, for it was said that unspeakable diseases might at any time plant nasty flowers in the bodies of their victims, and even in those of their descendants.
As Nakamura-san struggled to get from day to day, she had no time for attitudinizing about the bomb or anything else. She was sustained, curiously, by a kind of passivity, summed up in a phrase she herself sometimes used -- "Shikata ga-nai," meaning, loosely, "It can't be helped." She was not religious, but she lived in a culture long colored by the Buddhist belief that resignation might lead to clear vision; she had shared with other citizens a deep feeling of powerlessness in the face of a state authority that had been divinely strong ever since the Meiji Restoration in 1868; and the hell she had witnessed and the terrible aftermath unfolding around her reached so far beyond human understanding that it was impossible to think of them as the work of resentable human beings, such as the pilot of the Enola Gay, or President Truman, or the scientists who had made the bomb -- or even, nearer at hand, the Japanese militarists who had helped to bring on the war. The bombing almost seemed a natural disaster -- one that it had simply been her bad luck, her fate (which must be accepted), to suffer.
When she had been wormed and felt slightly better, she made an arrangement to deliver bread for a baker named Takahashi, whose bakery was in Nobori-cho. On days when she had the strength to do it, she would take orders for bread from retail shops in her neighborhood, and the next morning she would pick up the requisite number of loaves and carry them in baskets and boxes through the streets to the stores. It was exhausting work, for which she earned the equivalent of about fifty cents a day. She had to take frequent rest days.
After some time, when she was feeling a bit stronger, she took up another kind of peddling. She would get up in the dark and trundle a borrowed two-wheeled push-cart for two hours across the city to a section called Eba, at the mouth of one of the seven estuarial rivers that branch from the Ota River through Hiroshima. There, at daylight, fishermen would cast their leaded skirtlike nets for sardines, and she would help them to gather up the catch when they hauled it in. Then she would push the cart back to Nobori-cho and sell the fish for them from door to door. She earned just enough for food.
A couple of years later, she found work that was better suited to her need for occasional rest, because within certain limits she could do it on her own time. This was a job of collecting money for deliveries of the Hiroshima paper, the Chugoku Shimbun, which most people in the city read. She had to cover a big territory, and often her clients were not at home or pleaded that they couldn't pay just then, so she would have to go back again and again. She earned the equivalent of about twenty dollars a month at this job. Every day, her willpower and her weariness seemed to fight to an uneasy draw.
IN 1951, after years of this drudgery, it was Nakamura-san's good luck, her fate (which must be accepted), to become eligible to move into a better house. Two years earlier, a Quaker professor of dendrology from the University of Washington named Floyd W. Schmoe, driven, apparently, by deep urges for expiation and reconciliation, had come to Hiroshima, assembled a team of carpenters, and, with his own hands and theirs, begun building a series of Japanese-style houses for victims of the bomb; in all, his team eventually built twenty-one. It was to one of these houses that Nakamura-san had the good fortune to be assigned. The Japanese measure their houses by multiples of the area of the floor-covering tsubo mat, a little less than four square yards, and the Dr. Shum-o houses, as the Hiroshimans called them, had two rooms of six mats each. This was a big step up for the Nakamuras. This home was redolent of new wood and clean matting. The rent, payable to the city government, was the equivalent of about a dollar a month.
Despite the family's poverty, the children seemed to be growing normally. Yaeko and Myeko, the two daughters, were anemic, but all three had so far escaped any of the more serious complications that so many young hibakusha were suffering. Yaeko, now fourteen, and Myeko, eleven, were in middle school. The boy, Toshio, ready to enter high school, was going to have to earn money to attend it, so he took up delivering papers to the places from which his mother was collecting. These were some distance from their Dr. Shum-o house, and they had to commute at odd hours by streetcar.
The old hut in Nobori-cho stood empty for a time, and, while continuing with her newspaper collections, Nakamura-san converted it into a small street shop for children, selling sweet potatoes, which she roasted, and dagashi, or little candies and rice cakes, and cheap toys, which she bought from a wholesaler.
All along, she had been collecting for papers from a small company, Suyama Chemical, that made mothballs sold under the trade name Paragen. A friend of hers worked there, and one day the friend suggested to Nakamura-san that she join the company, helping wrap the product in its packages. The owner, Nakamura-san learned, was a compassionate man, who did not share the bias of many employers against hibakusha; he had several on his staff of twenty women wrappers. Nakamura- san objected that she couldn't work more than a few days at a time; the friend persuaded her that Mr. Suyama would understand that.
So she began. Dressed in company uniforms, the women stood, somewhat bent over, on either side of a couple of conveyor belts, working as fast as possible to wrap two kinds of Paragen in cellophane. Paragen had a dizzying odor, and at first it made one's eyes smart. Its substance, powdered paradichlorobenzene, had been compressed into lozenge-shaped mothballs and into larger spheres, the size of small oranges, to be hung in Japanese-style toilets, where their rank pseudo-medicinal smell would offset the unpleasantness of non-flushing facilities.
Nakamura-san was paid, as a beginner, a hundred and seventy yen -- then less than fifty cents -- a day. At first, the work was confusing, terribly tiring, and a bit sickening. Her boss worried about her paleness. She had to take many days off. But little by little she became used to the factory. She made friends. There was a family atmosphere. She got raises. In the two ten- minute breaks, morning and afternoon, when the moving belt stopped, there was a bird song of gossip and laughter, in which she joined. It appeared that all along there had been, deep in her temperament, a core of cheerfulness, which must have fuelled her long fight against A-bomb lassitude, something warmer and more vivifying than mere submission, than saying, "Shikata ga-nai." The other women took to her; she was constantly doing them small favors. They began calling her, affectionately, Oba-san -- roughly, "Auntie."
She worked at Suyama for thirteen years. Though her energy still paid its dues, from time to time, to the A-bomb syndrome, the searing experiences of that day in 1945 seemed gradually to be receding from the front of her mind.
THE Lucky Dragon No. 5 episode took place in 1954, the year after Nakamura-san started working for Suyama Chemical. In the ensuing fever of outrage in the country, the provision of adequate medical care for the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs finally became a political issue. Almost every year since 1946, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, a Peace Memorial Meeting had been held in a park that the city planners had set aside, during the city's rebuilding, as a center of remembrance, and on August 6, 1955, delegates from all over the world gathered there for the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. On its second day, a number of hibakusha tearfully testified to the government's neglect of their plight. Japanese political parties took up the cause, and in 1957 the Diet at last passed the A-bomb Victims Medical Care Law. This law and its subsequent modifications defined four classes of people who would be eligible for support: those who had been in the city limits on the day of the bombing; those who had entered an area within two kilometres of the hypocenter in the first fourteen days after it; those who had come into physical contact with bomb victims, in administering first aid or in disposing of their bodies; and those who had been embryos in the wombs of women in any of the first three categories. These hibakusha were entitled to receive so-called health books, which would entitle them to free medical treatment. Later revisions of the law provided for monthly allowances to victims suffering from various aftereffects.
Like a great many hibakusha, Nakamura-san had kept away from all the agitation, and, in fact, also like many other survivors, she did not even bother to get a health book for a couple of years after they were issued. She had been too poor to keep going to doctors, so she had got into the habit of coping alone, as best she could, with whatever ailed her. Besides, she shared with some other survivors a suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the political-minded people who took part in the annual ceremonies and conferences.
Nakamura-san's son, Toshio, right after his graduation from high school, went to work for the bus division of the Japanese National Railways. He was in the administrative offices, working first on timetables, later in accounting. When he was in his mid-twenties, a marriage was arranged for him, through a relative who knew the bride's family. He built an addition to the Dr. Shum-o house, moved in, and began to contribute to his mother's support. He made her a present of a new sewing machine.
Yaeko, the older daughter, left Hiroshima when she was fifteen, right after graduating from middle school, to help an ailing aunt who ran a ryokan, a Japanese-style inn. There, in due course, she fell in love with a man who ate at the inn's restaurant, and she made a love marriage.
After graduating from high school, Myeko, the most susceptible of the three children to the A-bomb syndrome, eventually became an expert typist and took up instructing at typing schools. In time, a marriage was arranged for her.
Like their mother, all three children avoided pro-hibakusha and antinuclear agitation.
IN 1966, Nakamura-san, having reached the age of fifty-five, retired from Suyama Chemical. At the end, she was being paid thirty thousand yen, or about eighty-five dollars, a month. Her children were no longer dependent on her, and Toshio was ready to take on a son's responsibility for his aging mother. She felt at home in her body now; she rested when she needed to, and she had no worries about the cost of medical care, for she had finally picked up Health Book No. 1023993. It was time for her to enjoy life. For her pleasure in being able to give gifts, she took up embroidery and the dressing of traditional kimekomi dolls, which are supposed to bring good luck. Wearing a bright kimono, she went once a week to dance at the Study Group of Japanese Folk Music. In set movements, with expressive gestures, her hands now and then tucking up the long folds of the kimono sleeves, and with head held high, she danced. moving as if floating, with thirty agreeable women to a song of celebration of entrance into a house:
May your family flourish
About a year after Nakamura-san retired, she was invited by an organization called the Bereaved Families' Association to take a train trip with about a hundred other war widows to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo. This holy place, established in 1869, was dedicated to the spirits of all the Japanese who had died in wars against foreign powers, and could be thought roughly analogous, in terms of its symbolism for the nation, to the Arlington National Cemetery -- with the difference that souls, not bodies, were hallowed there. The shrine was considered by many Japanese to be a focus of a still smoldering Japanese militarism, but Nakamura-san, who had never seen her husband's ashes and had held on to a belief that he would return to her someday, was oblivious of all that. She found the visit baffling. Besides the Hiroshima hundred, there were huge crowds of women from other cities on the shrine grounds. It was impossible for her to summon up a sense of her dead husband's presence, and she returned home in an uneasy state of mind.
JAPAN was booming. Things were still rather tight for the Nakamuras, and Toshio had to work very long hours, but the old days of bitter struggle began to seem remote. In 1975, one of the laws providing support to the hibakusha was revised, and Nakamura-san began to receive a so-called health-protection allowance of six thousand yen, then about twenty dollars, a month; this would gradually be increased to more than twice that amount. She also received a pension, toward which she had contributed at Suyama, of twenty thousand yen, or about sixty-five dollars, a month; and for several years she had been receiving a war widow's pension of another twenty thousand yen a month. With the economic upswing, prices had, of course, risen steeply (in a few years Tokyo would become the most expensive city in the world), but Toshio managed to buy a small Mitsubishi car, and occasionally he got up before dawn and rode a train for two hours to play golf with business associates. Yaeko's husband ran a shop for sales and service of air conditioners and heaters, and Myeko's husband ran a newsstand and candy shop near the railroad station.
In May each year, around the time of the Emperor's birthday, when the trees along broad Peace Boulevard were at their feathery best and banked azaleas were everywhere in bloom, Hiroshima celebrated a flower festival. Entertainment booths lined the boulevard, and there were long parades, with floats and bands and thousands of marchers. In the fortieth year after the bombing, Nakamura-san danced with the women of the olk-dance association, six dancers in each of sixty rows. They danced to Oiwai-Ondo, a song of happiness, lifting their arms in gestures of joy and clapping in rhythms of threes:
Green pine trees, cranes and
The bombing had been four decades ago. How far away it seemed!
The sun blazed that day. The measured steps and the constant lifting of the arms for hours at a time were tiring. In mid-afternoon, Nakamura-san suddenly felt woozy. The next thing she knew, she was being lifted, to her great embarrassment and in spite of begging to be let alone, into an ambulance. At the hospital, she said she was fine; all she wanted was to go home. She was allowed to leave.
DR. TERUFUMI SASAKI
DR. TERUFUMI SASAKI was still racked by memories of the appalling days and nights right after the explosion -- memories it would be his life work to distance himself from. Besides his duties as a junior surgeon at the Red Cross Hospital, he now had to spend every Thursday across the city at the University of Hiroshima, to chip away at his doctoral dissertation on appendicial tuberculosis. As was the custom in Japan, he had been permitted to start his practice as soon as he was graduated from medical school. It took most young internes five years of additional study to get their actual doctoral degree; in Dr. Sasaki's case, it was, for various reasons, to take ten.
He had been commuting during that year from the small town of Mukaihara, where his mother lived, about an hour by train from the city. His family had money -- and, indeed, over the years it turned out (as it did for a great many Japanese doctors) that that most efficacious medicine for whatever ailed him would be cash or credit, the larger the dosage the better. His grandfather had been a landlord and had accumulated wide mountain tracts of valuable woodland. His late father, a doctor, had earned good money in a private clinic. During the turbulent time of hunger and crime after the bombing, thieves had broken into two fortlike storage repositories next to his mother's house and taken many valued heirlooms, including a lacquer box given to the doctor's grandfather by the Emperor, an ancient case for writing brushes and ink blocks. and a classic painting of a tiger, alone worth ten million yen, or more than twenty-five thousand dollars.
His marriage was working out well. He had been able to pick and choose. There had not been many such eligible young men as he in Mukaihara, and numerous marriage brokers had sounded him out. He had followed up some of these feelers. One father of an offered bride had received his agent and turned him down. Perhaps this was because Dr. Sasaki had a reputation of having been a very bad boy, a "tomcat," some said, when he was young; and the father may have known about his illegal treatment of patients in Mukaihara in the evenings after his work at the Red Cross Hospital. But perhaps it was also because the father was overcautious. It was said of him that he not only followed the Japanese saying, "Check an old iron bridge well before crossing," he would not cross even after checking. Dr. Sasaki, never in his life having experienced such a rebuff, had decided that this was the girl for him, and with the help of two persistent go-betweens he had eventually won the wary parent over. Now, married only a few months, he was quickly learning that his wife was wiser and more sensible than he.
MUCH of Dr. Sasaki's work as a surgeon at the Red Cross Hospital in the next five years was in the removal of keloid scars -- hideously ugly, thick, itchy, rubbery, copper-red crablike growths that often formed over bad burns that hibakusha had suffered, and particularly those victims who had been exposed to the great heat of the bomb within two kilometres of the hypocenter. In dealing with the keloids, Dr. Sasaki and his colleagues were groping in the dark, because they had no reliable literature to guide them. They found that after the bulbous scars had been removed they often recurred. Some, if they were left unattended, became infected, and others caused underlying muscles to tense up. He and his colleagues eventually came to the reluctant conclusion that they should not have operated on many of the keloids. The scars tended in time to shrink spontaneously, and could then be more easily excised, or be left alone.
IN 1951, Dr. Sasaki decided to quit working for the hospital, with its awful memories, and to set himself up, as his father had done, in a private clinic in Mukaihara. He was ambitious. He had had an older brother, who, according to the custom of Japanese medical families, had been expected to succeed to the father's practice; the second son would have to make his own way, and in 1939, urged by the propaganda of the time to seek a fortune in the vast undeveloped reaches of China, Terufumi Sasaki had gone there and had studied at the Japanese Eastern Medical University, in Tsingtao. He had graduated and returned to Hiroshima shortly before the bombing. His brother had been killed in the war, so the way was clear for him -- not only to start a practice in his father's town but also to withdraw from Hiroshima and, in effect, from being a hibakusha. For the next four decades, he also never spoke to anyone about the hours and days after the bombing.
His grandfather having deposited large sums in the Bank of Hiroshima, Dr. Sasaki went to it confidently expecting a big loan to help him get started. But the bank said that a clinic in such a small town could easily fail, and it put a cap on his credit of three hundred thousand yen, then less than a thousand dollars. So Dr. Sasaki started treating patients in his wife's parents' house. He performed simple surgery -- on appendixes, gastric ulcers, compound fractures -- but he also rather daringly practiced every other sort of medicine, too, except gynecology and obstetrics. He did surprisingly well. Before long, he was getting nearly a hundred patients a day. Some came to him from considerable distances. The bank noticed, and his limit of credit rose to a million yen.
In 1954, he put up a proper clinic building within the compound of his wife's family; it was a two-story structure with nineteen beds for in-patients and a total floor space of two hundred and eighty mats. He financed the building with a loan of three hundred thousand yen from the bank and by selling timber from the lands he had inherited from his grandfather. In the new clinic, with a staff of five nurses and three on-the-job trainees, and working himself without pause six days a week from eighty-thirty in the morning till six in the evening, he continued to prosper.
LONG before this, doctors in Hiroshima had begun to find that there were much more serious consequences of exposure to the bomb than the traumatic wounds and keloid scars that had been so dramatically visible in the early days. The violent symptoms of primary radiation sickness wore off in time in most patients, but it soon became clear that hibakusha were liable to deeper and far more dangerous sequels from the enormous doses of radiation dealt them by the bomb. Above all, it was evident by 1950 that the incidence of leukemia in hibakusha was much higher than normal; among those who had been exposed within one kilometre of the hypocenter, the incidence was reported to be between ten and fifty times above the norm. Over the years, the appearance of "purple spots," tiny surface hemorrhages symptomatic of leukemia, came to be dreaded by hibakusha. And, later on, other forms of cancer besides leukemia, with longer periods of latency, were showing up at higher than normal rates: carcinomas of the thyroid, the lungs, the breast, the salivary glands, the stomach, the liver, the urinary tract, and the male and female reproductive organs. Some survivors -- even children -- were developing what were called A-bomb cataracts. Some exposed children were growing up stunted, and one of the most shocking findings was that some children who had been in their mothers' womb at the time of the bombing were born with heads smaller than normal. Because it was known that radiation affected the genes of laboratory animals, a fear spread among many hibakusha that future descendants of the survivors might be subject to mutations. (It was the late sixties before analyses indeed showed some chromosome aberrations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, and it would, of course, take much longer to tell what, if any, effects there would be on their progeny.) There were several ailments, less life-threatening than the cancers, that were thought by many doctors -- and by most of the people who were subject to them -- to have resulted from exposure to the bomb: several sorts of anemia, liver dysfunction, sexual problems, endocrine disorders, accelerated aging, and the not-quite-really-sick yet undeniable debilitation of which so many complained.
Dr. Sasaki, who had himself suffered nothing but this last, paid little or no attention to any of these revelations. He did not follow them closely in the medical journals. In his town in the hills, he treated few hibakusha. He lived enclosed in the present tense.
IN 1963, wanting to get caught up on the latest developments in anaesthesia, Dr. Sasaki went to the Yokohama Red Cross Hospital to learn about them from its director general, Dr. Tatsutaro Hattori. As chief of surgery at the Hiroshima hospital, Dr. Hattori had been Dr. Sasaki's boss there; he had come down with radiation sickness after the bombing and had moved to Yokohama. Dr. Hattori suggested that Dr. Sasaki might as well have a thorough physical examination, taking advantage of the hospital's up-to-the-minute equipment, while he was there, and Dr. Sasaki agreed. A tomographic scan of his chest showed up a shadow in the left lung. Dr. Sasaki smoked. Without going into what had been learned about the incidence of lung cancer in hibakusha, perhaps supposing that Dr. Sasaki would know all about such things, Dr. Hattori recommended a biopsy. It was done, and when Dr. Sasaki came out of the anaesthetic he found that his entire left lung had been removed.
A few hours after the operation, a ligature of one of the blood vessels into the lung cavity gave way, and Dr. Sasaki suffered severe hemorrhaging for nearly a week. One day toward the end of that time, as he continued to cough up blood and grew worrisomely feeble, there gathered around him what he construed as a deathwatch: his wife, Dr. Hattori, the hospital matron, several nurses. He thanked them, said goodbye to his wife, and died.
Or, rather, he thought he died. Some time later, he regained consciousness and found himself on the mend.
IN later years, Dr. Sasaki came to think of that experience as the most important of his life -- more important than the bombing. Haunted by the loneliness he had felt when he thought he was dying, he now did his best to move closer to his wife and his children -- two sons and two daughters. An aunt startled him one day by aying, "You are lucky, Terufumi. After all, i wa jinjutsu -- medicine is the art of compassion." He had never thought about the meaning of this saying, which is held up before all young Japanese training to be doctors. He determined thenceforth to be calm and composed, and not to leave undone anything he could do for a patient. He would try to be kind to people he detested. He would give up hunting and mah-jongg. His wife said, "You've reached maturity in your forties. I grew up when I was in my twenties.'"
He did not give up cigarettes.
IN 1972, Dr. Sasaki's wife died of breast cancer -- the third crisis of his life. He achieved now another sort of loneliness connected with death, this one nontransient and intense. He threw himself more tirelessly than ever into his work.
His wife's death and his own near-death, together with his realization that he was no longer young, started him thinking about the elderly, and he decided to build a much larger new clinic, where he would practice geriatric medicine. This branch of the compassionate art was attracting some of the ablest Japanese doctors, and it also happened to be growing extremely lucrative. As he put it to friends, who laughed at what they considered his overreaching, everyone after sixty had aches and pains, everyone as old as that needed massage, heat therapy, acupuncture, moxa, and comfort from a friendly physician -- they would come in flocks.
By 1977, Dr. Sasaki's credit with the Bank of Hiroshima had soared, and it granted him a loan of nineteen million yen, or about eighty thousand dollars. With this money he put up on land on the edge of town, an imposing four-story concrete building, with nineteen beds for in-patients and with extensive facilities for rehabilitation, and also with a splendid apartment for himself. He took on a staff of three acupuncturists, three therapists, eight nurses, and fifteen paramedics and maintenance people. His two sons, Yoshihisa and Ryuji, by now both doctors, came to help out in specially busy periods.
He was right about the flocks. Again he worked from eight-thirty to six, six days a week, and he saw an average of two hundred and fifty patients a day. Some came to him from cities as far away as Kure, Ondo, and Akitsu, on the coast, and others from villages all over the prefecture. Taking advantage of huge tax deductions that Japanese doctors could claim, he saved large sums, and as he returned money on his bank loans the bank kept raising his line of credit. He got the idea of building an old-people's home, which would cost two hundred million yen. It would be necessary to get approval for this project from the Takata County Medical Association. He submitted plans. He was turned down. Soon afterward, a leading member of the association built in the city of Yoshida just such a home as Dr. Sasaki had proposed.
Undaunted, Dr. Sasaki, aware that the three foremost pleasures of his elderly patients were family visits, good food, and a relaxed bath time, used the bank's loans to build, on the site of his former clinic, a luxurious bathhouse. This was ostensibly for patients, but he opened it to the townspeople as well, charging more for admission than the usual public bathhouse did; its tubs, after all, were of marble. He spent half a million (deductible) yen a month on its upkeep.
Every morning, Dr. Sasaki met with the entire staff of the clinic. He had a favorite lecture: Do not work primarily for money; do your duty to patients first and let the money follow; our life is short, we don't live twice; the whirlwind will pick up the leaves and spin them, but then it will drop them and they will form a pile.
Dr. Sasaki's own pile grew and grew. His life was insured for a hundred million yen; he was insured against malpractice for three hundred million yen. He drove a white BMW. Rare vases stood on chests in his living room. In spite of the enormous tax deductions allowed Japanese doctors, he had come to be the payer of the highest income tax in Takata County (population thirty-seven thousand), and his tax was among the ten highest in all of Hiroshima Prefecture (twelve cities and sixty-eight towns in fifteen counties; population two million seven hundred thousand).
He had a new idea. He would drill down next to the clinic for subterranean hot water, to fill hot-springs baths. He hired the Tokyo Geological Engineering company to do a survey, and it assured him that if he drilled down eight hundred metres he would get from sixty to a hundred litres of water a minute, at between 79 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. He had visions of a hot-springs spa; he calculated that he could supply water for hot baths in three hotels. He started in June 1985.
DR. SASAKI began to be considered a bit strange by Hiroshima doctors. He was not attracted, as they were, to the exclusive high society of the medical associations. Instead, he went in for such things as ponsoring a Mukaihara contest in gateball, a primitive variant of croquet; he often wore a necktie -- which cost him five thousand yen, or twenty dollars -- with Gate Ball embroidered across it in English script. His principal pleasure, apart from his work, was to take an occasional trip to Hiroshima to eat Chinese food in the basement of the Grand Hotel, lighting up, at the end of the meal, a cigarette of the brand Mild Seven, which had printed on its packet, besides its name in English, this courteous Japanese admonition: "Let's be careful not to smoke too much, for the sake of our health."
He could face Hiroshima now, because a gaudy phoenix had risen from the ruinous desert of 1945: a remarkably beautiful city of more than a million inhabitants -- only one in ten of whom was a hibakusha -- with tall modern buildings on broad, tree- lined avenues crowded with Japanese cars, all of which had English lettering on them and appeared to be brand-new; a city of strivers and sybarites, with seven hundred and fifty-three bookstores and two thousand three hundred and fifty-six bars. If past memories did stir up in him, Dr. Sasaki had come to be able to live with his one bitter regret: that in the shambles of the Red Cross Hospital in those first days after the bombing it had not been possible, beyond a certain point, to keep track of the identities of hose whose corpses were dragged out to the mass cremations, with the result that nameless souls might still, all these years later, be hovering there, unattended and dissatisfied.
FATHER WILHELM KLEINSORGE
BACK IN THE HOSPITAL in Tokyo for the second time, Father Kleinsorge was suffering from fever, diarrhea, wounds that would not heal, wildly fluctuating blood counts, and utter exhaustion. For the rest of his life, his was to be a classic case history of that vague, borderline form of A-bomb sickness in which a person's body developed a rich repertory of symptoms, few of which could be positively attributed to radiation, but many of which turned up in hibakusha, in various combinations and degrees, so often as to be blamed by some doctors and almost all patients on the bomb.
Father Kleinsorge lived this life of misery with the most extraordinarily selfless spirit. After his discharge from the hospital, he returned to the tiny Noborimachi chapel he had helped build, and there he continued his self-abnegating pastoral life.
In 1948, he was named priest of the much grander Misasa church, in another part of town. There were not yet many tall buildings in the city, and neighbors called the big church the Misasa Palace. A convent of Helpers of Holy Souls was attached to the church, and besides his priestly duties of conducting Mass, hearing confessions, and teaching Bible classes he ran eight-day retreats for novices and Sisters of the convent, during which the women, given Communion and instructed by him from day to day, would maintain silence. He still visited Sasaki-san and other hibakusha who were sick and wounded, and he would even babysit for young mothers. He often went to the sanatorium at Saijyo, an hour by train from the city, to comfort tubercular patients.
Father Kleinsorge was briefly hospitalized in Tokyo twice more. His German Jesuit colleagues were of the opinion that in all his work he was a little too much concerned for others, and not enough for himself. Beyond his own stubborn sense of mission, he had taken on himself the Japanese spirit of enryo -- setting the self apart, putting the wishes of others first. They thought he might literally kill himself with kindness to others; he was too rucksichtsvoll, they said-too regardful. When gifts of delicacies came from relatives in Germany, he gave them all away. When he got penicillin from an Occupation doctor, he gave it to parishioners who were as sick as he. (Among his many other complaints, he had syphilis, which he had apparently caught from transfusions in one of his hospital stays; it was cured eventually.) He gave lessons on the catechism when he had a high fever. After he came back from a long hike of pastoral calls, the Misasa housekeeper would see him collapse on the steps of his rectory, head down -- a figure, it seemed, of utter defeat. The next day, he would be out in the streets again.
Gradually, over years of this unremitting labor, he gathered his modest harvest: some four hundred baptisms, some forty marriages.
FATHER KLEINSORGE loved the Japanese and their ways. One of his German colleagues, Father Berzikofer, jokingly said that Father Kleinsorge was married to Japan. Shortly after he moved to the Misasa church, he read that a new law on naturalization had been passed by the Diet, with these requirements: that one live in Japan for at least five years, be over twenty years old and mentally sound, be of good character, be able to support oneself, and be able to accept single nationality. He hastened to submit proofs that he met all these, and after some months of review he was accepted. He registered himself as a Japanese citizen under the name he would henceforth bear: Father Makoto Takakura.
FOR a few months in the spring and summer of 1956, his poor health declining still further, Father Takakura filled a temporary vacancy in a small parish in the Noborimachi district. Five years before that, the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, whom Father Takakura knew well, had begun giving Bible classes to a group of girls whose faces had been disfigured by keloids. Later, some of them had been taken, as so-called Hiroshima Maidens, to the United States for plastic surgery. One of them, Tomoko Nakabayashi, whom Father Takakura had converted and baptized, died on an operating table at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Her ashes were carried to her family when the first group of Maidens returned to Hiroshima that summer of 1956, and it fell to Father Takakura to preside at her funeral. During it, he nearly fainted.
At Noborimachi, he began instructing the female members, a mother and two daughters, of a wealthy and cultured family named Naganishi. Feverish or not, he went to them, always on foot, every evening. Sometimes he would arrive early; he would pace up and down the street outside, then ring the bell at precisely seven o'clock. He would look at himself in a hall mirror, adjust his hair and habit, and enter the living room. He would teach for an hour; then the Naganishis would serve tea and sweets, and he and they would chat until exactly ten. He felt at home in that house. The younger daughter, Hisako, became devoted to him, and when, after eighteen months, his various symptoms grew so bad that he was going to have to be hospitalized she asked him to baptize her, and he did, on the day before he entered the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital for an entire year's stay.
His most disturbing complaint was a weird infection in his fingers, which had become bloated with pus and would not heal. He had fever and flulike symptoms. His white blood count was seriously low, and he had pain in his knees, particularly the left one, and in other joints. His fingers were operated on and slowly healed. He was treated for leukopenia. Before his discharge, an ophthalmologist found that he had the beginnings of an A-bomb cataract.
He returned to the large Misasa congregation, but it was harder and harder for him to carry the kind of overload he cherished. He developed back pain, which was caused, doctors said, by a kidney stone; he passed it. Dragged down by constant pain and by infections that were abetted by his shortage of white cells, he limped through his days, pushing himself beyond his strength.
Finally, in 1961, he was mercifully put out to pasture by the diocese, in a tiny church in the country town of Mukaihara -- the town where Dr. Sasaki was flourishing in his private clinic.
THE compound of the Mukaihara church, at the crest of a steep rise from the town, enclosed a small chapel, with an oaken table for an altar and with space for a flock of about twenty to kneel, Japanese-fashion, on a spread of tatami matting; and, uphill, a cramped parsonage. Father Takakura chose as his bedroom in the parsonage a room no more than six feet square and as bare as a monk's cell; he ate in another such cell, next to it; and the kitchen and bathroom, beyond, were dark, chilly, sunken rooms, no larger than the others. Across a narrow corridor running the length of the building were an office and a much larger bedroom, which Father Takakura, true to his nature, reserved for guests.
When he first arrived, he felt enterprising, and, on the principle that souls are best caught while unripe, he had builders add two rooms to the chapel and started in them what he called the St. Mary's Kindergarten. So began a bleak life for four Catholics: the priest, two Japanese sisters to teach the babies, and a Japanese woman to cook. Few believers came to church. His parish consisted of four previously converted families, about ten worshippers in all. Some Sundays, no one showed up for Mass.
After its first spurt, Father Takakura's energy rapidly flagged. Once each week, he took a train to Hiroshima and went to the Red Cross Hospital for a checkup. At Hiroshima station, he picked up what he loved best to read as he travelled -- timetables with schedules of trains going all over Honshu Island. The doctors injected steroids in his painful joints and treated him for the chronic flulike symptoms, and once he reported he had found traces of blood in his underwear, which the doctors guessed came from new kidney stones.
In the village of Mukaihara, he tried to be as inconspicuous -- as Japanese -- as he could. He sometimes wore Japanese clothes. Not wanting to seem high-living, he never bought meat in the local market, but sometimes he smuggled some out from the city. A Japanese priest who occasionally came to see him, Father Hasegawa, admired his efforts to carry his naturalization through to perfection but found him in many ways unshakably German. He had a tendency when he was rebuffed in an undertaking to stubbornly push all the harder straight for it, whereas a Japanese would more tactfully look for some way around. Father Hasegawa noticed that when Father Takakura was hospitalized, he rigidly respected the hospital's visiting hours, and if people came, even from far away, to see him, outside proper hours, he refused to receive them. Once, eating with his friend, Father Hasegawa declined his host's offer of a bowl of rice; he said he was full. But then delicious pickles appeared, which caused a Japanese palate to cry out for rice, and he decided to have a bowl after all. Father Takakura was outraged (i.e., in his guest's view, German): How could he eat rice plus pickle when he had been too full to eat rice alone?
DURING this period, Father Takakura was one of many people whom Dr. Robert J. Lifton interviewed in preparing to write his book Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. In one conversation the priest hinted that he realized he had achieved a truer identity as a hibakusha than as a Japanese:
If a person says to me that he is weary [darui], if it is a hibakusha who says it, it gives me a different feeling than if he is an ordinary person. He doesn't have to explain. ... He knows all of the uneasiness -- all of the temptation to lose spirit and be depressed -- and of then starting again to see if he can do his job. ... If a Japanese hears the words "tenno beika" [His Majesty the Emperor], it is different from a Westerner hearing them -- a very different feeling in the foreigner's heart from what is felt in the Japanese person's heart. It is a similar question in the case of one who is a victim and one who is not, when they hear about another victim. ... I met a man one time ... [who] said, "I experienced the atomic bomb" -- and from then on the conversation changed. We both understood each other's feelings. Nothing had to be said.
IN 1966, Father Takakura had to change cooks. A woman named Satsue Yoshiki, who was thirty-five years old, recently cured of tuberculosis, and recently baptized, had been told to report for an interview at the Mukaihara church. Having been given the Japanese name of the priest, she was astonished to be greeted by a big gaijin, a foreigner, dressed in a quilted Japanese gown. His face, which was rounded out and puffy (doubtless from medication), struck her as that of a baby. At once, indeed, there commenced a relationship, soon to blossom into one of complete mutual trust, in which her role seemed to be ambiguous: part daughter, part mother. His growing helplessness kept her in subjugation; she tenderly nursed him. Her cooking was primitive, his temper cranky. He had said he would eat anything, even Japanese noodles, but he was sharp with her about his food, as he had never been with anyone else. Once, he spoke of "strained baked potatoes" his real mother had cooked. She tried to make them. He said, "These are not like my mother's." He loved fried prawns and ate them when he went to Hiroshima for checkups. She tried to cook them. He said, "These are burned." She stood beside him in the tiny eating room, her hands behind her gripping the doorjamb so tightly that in time its paint was all worn away. Yet he praised her, confided in her, joked with her, apologized to her each time he lost his temper. She thought him -- under the shortness, which she attributed to pain -- gentle, pure, patient, sweet, humorous, and deeply kind.
Once, on a late-spring day, not long after Yoshiki-san arrived, sparrows alighted in a persimmon tree outside his office window. He clapped his hands to drive them away, and soon there appeared on his palms purple spots of the sort that all hibakusha dreaded. The doctors in Hiroshima shook their heads. Who could say what they were? They seemed to be blood bruises, but his blood tests did not suggest leukemia. He had slight hemorrhages in his urinary tract. "What if I get blood in my brains?" he asked once. His joints still hurt. He developed liver dysfunction, high blood pressure, back pains, chest pains. An electrocardiogram turned up an anomaly. He was put on a drug to ward off a coronary attack, and on an antihypertensive drug. He was given steroids, hormones, an anti-diabetic drug. "I don't take medicines, I eat them," he said to Yoshiki-san. In 1971, he was hospitalized for an operation to see whether his liver was cancerous; it was not.
All through this time of decline, a stream of visitors came to see him, thanking him for all he had done for them in the past. Hisako Naganishi, the woman he had baptized the day before his long hospitalization, was especially faithful; she brought him open-faced sandwiches on German rye bread, which he loved, and when Yoshiki-san needed a vacation, she would move in and tend him in her absence. Father Berzikofer would come for a few days at a time, and they would talk and drink a great deal of gin, which Father Takakura had also come to love.
ONE winter day at the beginning of 1976, Father Takakura slipped and fell on the steep icy path down to town. The next morning, Yoshiki-san heard him shouting her name. She found him in the bathroom, leaning over the washstand, unable to move. With all the strength of her love, she carried him -- he weighed a hundred and seventy-five pounds -- to his bed, and laid him down. For a month, he was unable to move. She improvised a bedpan, and cared for him day and night. Finally, she borrowed a wheelchair from the town office and took him to Dr. Sasaki's clinic. The two men had known each other years before, but now, one living in his monk's cell and the other in his grand apartment in the four-story clinic, they were light-years apart. Dr. Sasaki took an X-ray, saw nothing, diagnosed neuralgia, and advised massage. Father Takakura could not abide the idea of the usual female massager; a man was hired. During the workout, Father Takakura held Yoshiki-san's hand, and his face reddened. The pain was unbearable. Yoshiki-san hired a car and drove Father Takakura to the city, to the Red Cross Hospital. An X-ray on a bigger machine showed fractures of the eleventh and twelfth thoracic vertebrae. He was operated on to relieve pressure on the right sciatic nerve, and he was fitted with a corset.
From then on, he was bedridden. Yoshiki-san fed him, changed diapers that she made for him, and cleaned his body. He read the Bible and timetables -- the only two sorts of texts, he told Yoshiki-san, that never told lies: He could tell you what train to take where, the price of food in the dining car, and how to change trains at such-and-such a station to save three hundred yen. One day, he called Yoshiki-san, greatly excited. He had found an error. Only the Bible told the truth!
His fellow-priests finally persuaded him to go to St. Luke's Hospital in Kobe. Yoshiki-san visited him, and he drew out from a book a copy of his chart, on which was written "A living corpse." He said he wanted to go home with her, and she took him. "Because of you, my soul has been able to get through purgatory," he said to her when he was in his own bed.
He weakened, and his fellow-priests moved him to a two-room house in a hollow just below their Novitiate, in Nagatsuka. Yoshiki-san told him she wanted to sleep in his room with him. No, he said, his vows would not permit that. She lied, saying that the father superior had ordered it. Greatly relieved, he allowed it. After that, he seldom opened his eyes. She fed him only ice cream. When visitors came, all he could say was "Thank You." He fell into a coma, and on November 19, 1977, with a doctor, a priest, and Yoshiki-san at his side, this explosion-affected person took a deep breath and died.
He was buried in a serene pine grove at the top of the hill above the Novitiate.
FATHER WILHELM M.
The fathers and brothers of the Nagatsuka Novitiate noticed over the years that there were almost always fresh flowers at that grave.
IN AUGUST 1946, Toshiko Sasaki was slowly pulling out of the ordeal of pain and low spirits she had undergone during the year since the bombing. Her younger brother, Yasuo, and sister, Yaeko, had escaped injury on the day of the explosion because they had been in the family home in the suburb of Koi. Now, living with them there, she was just beginning to feel alive again, when a new blow came.
Three years earlier her parents had entered into marriage negotiations with another family, and she had met the proposed young man. The couple liked each other and decided to accept the arrangement. They rented a house to live in, but Toshiko's fiance was suddenly drafted to China. She had heard he was back, but for a long time he had not come to see her. When he finally showed up, it seemed clear to both parties that the engagement was doomed. Each time the fiance appeared, young Yasuo, for whom Toshiko felt responsible, would rush angrily out of the house. There were indications that the fiance's family had had second thoughts about permitting their son to marry a hibakusha and a cripple. He stopped coming. He wrote letters full of symbolic, abstract images -- especially butterflies -- evidently trying to express his trembling uncertainty and, probably, guilt.
The only person who gave Toshiko any real comfort was Father Kleinsorge, who continued calling on her in Koi. He was clearly bent on convening her. The confident logic of his instruction did little to convince her, for she could not accept the idea that a God who had snatched away her parents and put her through such hideous trials was loving and merciful. She was, however, warmed and healed by the priest's faithfulness to her, for it was obvious that he, too, was weak and in pain, yet he walked great distances to see her.
Her house stood by a cliff, on which there was a grove of bamboo. One morning, she stepped out of the house, and the sun's rays glistening on the minnowlike leaves of the bamboo trees took her breath away. She felt an astonishing burst of joy -- the first she had experienced in as long as she could remember. She heard herself reciting the Lord's Prayer.
In September, she was baptized. Father Kleinsorge was in the hospital in Tokyo, so Father Cieslik officiated.
SASAKI-SAN had some modest savings her parents had left, and she took in sewing to help support Yasuo and Yaeko, but she worried about the future. She taught herself to hobble without crutches. One day in the summer of 1947, she took the two for a swim at a beach at nearby Suginoura. There she got to talking with a young man, a Korean Catholic novice who was tending a group of Sunday-school children. After a while, he told her that he did not see how she could possibly go on as she was living, responsible for her brother and sister and so fragile herself. He told her of a good orphanage in Hiroshima called the Garden of Light. She entered the children in the orphanage, and a short time later she applied for a job as an attendant there. She was hired, and after that she had the solace of being with Yasuo and Yaeko.
She was good at her work. She seemed to have found a calling, and the next year, convinced that her brother and sister were well cared for, she accepted a transfer to another orphanage, called the White Chrysanthemum Dormitory, in a suburb of Beppu, on the island of Kyushu, where it would be possible for her to receive professional child-care training. In the spring of 1949, she began commuting by train, about a half hour each way, to the city of Oita, to take courses at Oita University, and in September she passed an examination that qualified her as a nursery-school teacher. She worked at the White Chrysanthemum for six years.
Her lower left leg was badly bent, its knee was frozen, and its thigh was atrophied by the deep incisions Dr. Sasaki had made. The Sisters in charge of the orphanage arranged for her to enter the National Hospital in Beppu for orthopedic surgery. She was a patient there for fourteen months, during which she underwent three major operations: the first, not very successful, to help restore her thigh; the second to free her knee; and the third to rebreak her tibia and fibula and set them in something like their original alignment. After the hospitalization, she went to a nearby hot-springs therapeutic center for rehabilitation. Her leg would give her pain for the rest of her life, and her knee would never again bend all the way, but her legs were now more or less equal in length, and she could walk almost normally. She went back to work.
The White Chrysanthemum, with space for forty orphans, stood near an American Army base; on one side was an exercise field for the soldiers, and on the other were officers' houses. After the Korean War began, the base and the orphanage were packed. From time to time, a woman would bring in an infant whose father was an American soldier, never saying that she was the mother -- usually that a friend had asked her to entrust the baby to the orphanage. Often, at night, nervous young soldiers, some white, some black, having sneaked off the base without leave, would come begging to see their offspring. They wanted to stare at the babies' faces. Some of them tracked down the mothers and married them, though they might never again see the children.
Sasaki-san felt compassion both for the mothers, some of whom were prostitutes, and for the fathers. She perceived the latter as confused boys of nineteen and twenty who as draftees were involved in a war they did not consider theirs, and who felt a rudimentary responsibility -- or, at the very least, guilt -- as fathers. These thoughts led her to an opinion that was unconventional for a hibakusha: that too much attention was paid to the power of the A-bomb, and not enough to the evil of war. Her rather bitter opinion was that it was the more lightly affected hibakusha and power-hungry politicians who focused on the A-bomb, and that not enough thought was given to the fact that warfare had indiscriminately made victims of Japanese who had suffered atomic and incendiary bombings, Chinese civilians who had been attacked by the Japanese, reluctant young Japanese and American soldiers who were drafted to be killed or maimed, and, yes, Japanese prostitutes and their mixed-blood babies. She had firsthand knowledge of the cruelty of the atomic bomb, but she felt that more notice should be given to the causes than to the instruments of total war.
ABOUT once a year during this time, Sasaki-san traveled from Kyushu to Hiroshima to see her brother and sister, and, always, to call on Father Kleinsorge, now Takakura, at the Misasa church. On one trip, she saw her former fiance on the street, and she was quite sure he saw her, but they did not speak. Father Takakura asked her, "Is your whole life going to be like this, working so hard? Shouldn't you be married? Or, if you choose not to marry, shouldn't you become a nun?" She thought long about his questions.
One day, at the White Chrysanthemum, she got an urgent message that her brother had been in an automobile accident and might die. She hurried to Hiroshima. Yasuo's car had been hit by a police patrol car; it had been the policeman's fault. Yasuo survived, but four ribs and both legs had been broken, his nose had been caved in, there was a permanent dent in his forehead, and he had lost the sight of one eye. Sasaki-san thought she was going to have to tend him and support him for good. She began taking accounting courses, and, after a few weeks, qualified as a Third Class Bookkeeper. But Yasuo made a remarkable recovery, and, using the compensation he was paid for the accident, he entered a music school, to study composition. Sasaki-san went back to the orphanage.
In 1954, Sasaki-san visited Father Takakura and said that she knew now that she would never marry, and she thought the time had come for her to go into a convent. What convent would he recommend? He suggested the French order of Auxiliatrices du Purgatoire, Helpers of Holy Souls, whose convent was right there in Misasa. Sasaki-san said she did not want to enter a society that would make her speak foreign languages. He promised her she could stay with Japanese.
She entered the convent, and in the very first days she found that Father Takakura had lied to her. She was going to have to learn Latin and French. She was told that when the knock of reveille came in the morning, she must cry out, "Mon Jesus, misericorde!" The first night, she wrote the words in ink on the palm of one hand, so she could read them when she heard the knock the next morning, but it turned out to be too dark.
She became afraid she might fail. She had no trouble learning about Eugenie Smet, known as Blessed Mary of Providence, the founder of the order, who in 1856 had started programs in Paris for care of the poor and for home nursing and had eventually sent to China twelve Sisters she had trained. But, at thirty, Sasaki-san felt too old to be a schoolgirl learning Latin. She was confined to the convent building except for occasional walks -- two hours each way, painful for her bad leg -- to Mitaki, a mountain where there were three beautiful waterfalls. In time, she discovered she had surprising hardihood and tenacity, which she credited to all she had learned about herself in the hours and weeks after the bombing. When Mother Superior, Marie Saint-Jean de Kenti, asked her one day what she would do if she were told she had failed and would have to leave, she said, "I would take hold of that beam there and hold on with all my strength." She did hold on, and in 1957 she took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and became Sister Dominique Sasaki.
By now, the Society of Helpers knew her strength, and it assigned her, straight from the novitiate, to the post of director of a home for seventy old people near Kurosaki, on Kyushu, named the Garden of St. Joseph. She was only thirty-three, and she was the first Japanese director of the home -- in command of a staff of fifteen, five of whom were French and Belgian nuns. She had to plunge straight into negotiations with local and national bureaucrats. She had no books to read on care of the aged. She inherited a decrepit wooden building -- a former temple -- and an institution that had had difficulty even feeding its enfeebled inmates, some of whom had had to be sent out foraging for firewood. Most of the old men were former coal miners from the notoriously cruel Kyushu mines. Some of the foreign nuns were crusty, and their modes of speech, unlike those of the Japanese, were blunt, harsh, and hurtful to Sister Sasaki.
Her hard-earned doggedness told, and she remained fully in charge of the Garden of St. Joseph for twenty years. Thanks to her schooling as an accountant, she was able to introduce a rational system of bookkeeping. Eventually, the Society of Helpers, with support from branches in the United States, raised money for a new building, and Sister Sasaki supervised the construction of a concrete-block structure cut into the brow of a hill. A few years later, a subterranean waterway began to undermine it, and she saw to its replacement with a more modern building, of reinforced concrete, with single and double rooms fitted with Western-style washbasins and toilets.
Her greatest gift, she found, was her ability to help inmates to die in peace. She had seen so much death in Hiroshima after the bombing, and had seen what strange things so many people did when they were cornered by death, that nothing now surprised or frightened her. The first time she stood watch by a dying inmate, she vividly remembered a night soon after the bombing when she had lain out in the open, uncared for, in dreadful pain, beside a young man who was dying. She had talked with him all night, and had become aware, above all, of his fearful loneliness. She had watched him die in the morning. At deathbeds in the home, she was always mindful of this terrible solitude. She would speak little to the dying person but would hold a hand or touch an arm, as an assertion, simply, that she was there.
Once, an old man revealed to her on his deathbed, with such vividness she felt she was witnessing the act, that he had stabbed another man in the back and had watched him bleed to death. Though the murderer was not a Christian, Sister Sasaki told him that God forgave him, and he died in comfort. Another old man had, like many Kyushu miners, been a drunkard. He had had a sordid reputation; his family had abandoned him. In the home, he tried with pathetic eagerness to please everyone. He volunteered to carry coal from storage bins, and he stoked the building's boiler. He had cirrhosis of the liver, and had been warned not to accept the daily ration of five ounces of distilled spirits that the Garden of St. Joseph mercifully issued to the former miners. But he continued to drink it. Vomiting at the supper table one night, he ruptured a blood vessel. It took him three days to die. Sister Sasaki stayed beside him all that time, holding his hand, so that he might die knowing that, living, he had pleased her.
IN 1970, Sister Sasaki attended an international conference of working nuns in Rome and, after it, inspected welfare facilities in Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and England. She retired from the Garden of St. Joseph at the age of fifty-five, in 1978, and was awarded a vacation trip to the Holy See. Unable to be idle, she installed herself at a table outside St. Peter's to give advice to Japanese tourists; later, she became a tourist herself, in Florence, Padua, Assisi, Venice, Milan, and Paris.
Back in Japan, she did volunteer work for two years at the Tokyo headquarters of the Society of Helpers, then spent two years as Mother Superior of the convent at Misasa, where she had taken her training. After that, she led a tranquil life as superintendent of the women's dormitory at the music school where her brother had studied; it had been taken over by the Church and was now called the Elizabeth College of Music. After finishing at the school, Yasuo had become qualified as a schoolteacher, and now he taught composition and mathematics in a high school in Kochi, on the island of Shikoku. Yaeko was married to a doctor who owned his own clinic in Hiroshima, and Sister Sasaki could go to him if she needed a doctor. Besides continuing difficulties with her leg, she had endured for some years a pattern of ailments which -- as with so many hibakusha -- might or might not have been attributable to the bomb: liver dysfunction, night sweats and morning fevers, borderline angina, blood spots on her legs, and signs in blood tests of a rheumatoid factor.
One of the happiest moments in her life came in 1980, while she was stationed at the society's headquarters in Tokyo: she was honored at a dinner to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of her becoming a nun. By chance, a second guest of honor that night was the head of the society in Paris, Mother General France Delcourt, who, it happened, had also reached her twenty-fifth year in the order. Mother Delcourt gave Sister Sasaki a present of a picture of the Virgin Mary. Sister Sasaki made a speech: "I shall not dwell on the past. It is as if I had been given a spare life when I survived the A-bomb. But I prefer not to look back. I shall keep moving forward."
DR. MASAKAZU FUJII
A CONVIVIAL MAN, fifty years old, Dr. Fujii enjoyed the company of foreigners, and as his practice in the Kaitaichi clinic rolled comfortably along, it was his pleasure, in the evenings, to ply members of the occupying forces with a seemingly endless supply of Suntory whiskey that he somehow laid hands on. For years he had had a hobby of studying foreign languages, English among them. Father Kleinsorge had long been a friend, and he used to visit in the evenings to teach Dr. Fujii to speak German. The doctor had also taken up Esperanto. During the war the Japanese secret police had got it into their heads that the Russians used Esperanto for their spying codes, and Dr. Fujii had more than once been questioned closely about whether he was getting messages from the Comintern. He was now eager to make friends with Americans.
In 1948, he built a new clinic, in Hiroshima, on the site of the one that had been ruined by the bomb. The new one was a modest wooden building with half a dozen bedrooms for in-patients. He had trained as an orthopedic surgeon, but after the war that craft was becoming subdivided into various specialties. He had earlier had as a special interest prenatal hip dislocations, but he now thought himself too old to go very far with that or any other specialty; besides, he lacked the sophisticated equipment needed for specialization. He performed operations on keloids, did appendectomies, and treated wounds; he also took medical (and, occasionally, venereal) cases. Through his Occupation friends, he was able to get penicillin. He treated about eighty patients a day.
He had five grown children, and, in the Japanese tradition, they followed in their father's footsteps. The oldest and youngest were daughters, Myeko and Chieko, and both married doctors. The oldest son, Masatoshi, a doctor, inherited the Kaitaichi clinic and its practice; the second son, Keiji, did not go to medical school but became an X-ray technician; and the third son, Shigeyuki, was a young doctor on the staff of the Nihon University Hospital in Tokyo. Keiji lived with his parents, in a house that Dr.Fujii had built next to the Hiroshima clinic.
DR. FUJll suffered from none of the effects of radiation overdose, and he evidently felt that for any psychological damage the horrors of the bombing may have done him the best therapy was to follow the pleasure principle. Indeed, he recommended to hibakusha who did have radiation symptoms that they take a regular dosage of alcohol. He enjoyed himself. He was compassionate toward his patients, but he did not believe in working too hard. He had a dance floor installed in his house. He bought a billiard table. He enjoyed photography and built himself a darkroom. He played mah-jongg. He loved having foreign houseguests. At bedtime, his nurses gave him massages and, sometimes, therapeutic injections.
He took up golf, and built a sand bunker and set up a driving net in his garden. In 1955, he paid the entrance fee of a hundred and fifty thousand yen, then a little more than four hundred dollars, to join the exclusive Hiroshima Country Club. He did not play much golf, but, to the eventual great joy of his children, he kept the family membership. Thirty years later, it would cost fifteen million yen, or sixty thousand dollars, to join the club.
He succumbed to the Japanese baseball mania. The Hiroshima players were at first called, in English, the Carps, until he pointed out to the public that the plural for that fish, and for those ballplayers, had no "s." He went often to watch games at the huge new stadium, not far from the A-Bomb Dome -- the ruins of the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall, which the city had kept as its only direct physical reminder of the bomb. In their early seasons, the Carp had dismal records, yet they had a fanatical following, something like those of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Mets in their lean years. But Dr. Fujii rather mischievously rooted for the Tokyo Swallows; he wore a Swallows button on the lapel of his jacket.
Hiroshima, in its regeneration as a brand-new city after the bombing, turned up with one of the gaudiest entertainment districts in all Japan -- an area where, at night, vast neon signs of many colors winked and beckoned to potential customers of bars, geisha houses, coffee shops, dance halls, and licensed houses of prostitution. One night, Dr. Fujii, who had begun to have a reputation as apurayboy, or playboy, took his tenderfoot son Shigeyuki, who was twenty years old and home awhile from the grind of his Tokyo medical school, out on the town to show him how to be a man. They went to a building where there was a huge dance floor, with girls lined up along one side. Shigeyuki told his father he didn't know what to do; his legs felt weak. Dr. Fujii bought a ticket, picked out an especially beautiful girl, and told Shigeyuki to bow to her and take her out there and do the step that he had taught him on the dance floor at home. He told the girl to be gentle with his son, and he drifted away.
IN 1956, Dr. Fujii had an adventure. At the time the so-called Hiroshima Maidens had gone to the United States for plastic surgery, the year before, they were accompanied by two Hiroshima surgeons. Those two could not stay away for more than a year, and Dr. Fujii was selected to take the place of one of them. He left in February, and for ten months, in and around New York, he played the part of a warm and caring father to twenty-five handicapped daughters. He observed their operations at Mount Sinai Hospital and acted as interpreter between the American doctors and the girls, helping the latter to understand what was happening to them. It pleased him to be able to speak German with the Jewish wives of some of the doctors, and at one reception no less a person than the governor of New York State complimented him on his English.
The girls, staying with American host families who spoke little or no Japanese, were often lonely, and Dr. Fujii devised ways to cheer them up. He was playful and considerate. He organized outings for Japanese food, taking two or three girls at a time. Once, a party was to be given by an American doctor and his wife just three days after one of the Maidens, Michiko Yamaoka, had undergone a major operation. Her face had a dressing on it, and her hands were bandaged and strapped to her body. Dr. Fujii didn't want her to miss the party, and he got one of the American doctors to arrange for her to ride through the city to the party in an open red limousine, behind a police escort with a siren. On the way, Dr. Fujii had them stop at a drugstore, where he bought Michiko a toy horse for ten cents; he asked the policeman to take a picture of the presentation of this gift.
Sometimes, he went out alone to have a good time. The other Japanese doctor, named Takahashi, was his hotel roommate. Dr. Takahashi was a light drinker and a light sleeper. Late at night, Dr. Fujii would come in, crash around, flop down, and break into a sleep-shattering symphony of snores. He was having a wonderful time.
WAS he, nine years later, in Hiroshima, still so happy-go-lucky? His daughter Chieko's husband thought not. The son-in-law thought he saw signs of a growing stubbornness and rigidity in him, and a turn toward melancholy. So that Dr. Fujii could ease up in his work, his third son, Shigeyuki, gave up his practice in Tokyo and came to be his assistant, moving into a house that his father had built on a plot of ground about a block from the clinic. One cloud in the father's life was a quarrel in the Hiroshima Lions Club, of which he was president. The fight was over whether the club should try, through its admissions policy, to become an exclusive, high-society organization, like some of the Japanese doctors' associations, or remain essentially a service organization, open to all. When it appeared that Dr. Fujii might lose out in his fight for the latter view, he abruptly and disappointedly resigned.
His relationship with his wife was growing difficult. Ever since his trip to America, he had wanted a house like that of one of the Mount Sinai doctors, and now, to her chagrin, he designed and built, next to the wooden house Shigeyuki was living in, a three-story concrete home for himself alone. On the ground floor it had a living room and an American-style kitchen; his study was on the second floor, lined with bound books, which Shigeyuki eventually found to be volume after volume of meticulous copies he had made in medical school of course notes by a classmate named Iwamoto, who was brighter than he; and on the top floor were an eight-mat Japanese-style bedroom and an American-style bathroom.
Toward the end of 1963, he rushed its completion, so it would be ready to house an American couple who had been host parents to some Maidens and were coming to visit after the first of the year. He wanted to sleep there for a few nights to try it out. His wife argued against the haste, but he stubbornly moved in, late in December.
NEW YEAR'S EVE, 1963. Dr. Fujii sat cozily on the tatami matting of Shigeyuki's living room with his legs in a kotatsu, an electrically heated foot-warming recess in the floor. Also gathered there were Shigeyuki and his wife and another couple, but not Dr. Fujii's wife. The plan was to have some drinks and watch an annual New Year's Eve television program called "Ko- haku Uta-Gassen," a contest between red (female) and white (male) teams of popular singers who had been chosen for the program by a poll of listeners; judges were famous actresses, authors, golfers, baseball players. The program would run from nine to eleven-forty-five, and then there would be bell ringing for the New Year. At about eleven, Shigeyuki noticed that his father, who had not been drinking much, was nodding, and suggested that he go off to bed. And in a few minutes, before the end of the program, he did -- this time without the ministrations of a nurse who, most nights, massaged his legs and tucked him in. After a while, worrying about his father, Shigeyuki went out and around to the river side of the new house, where, looking up, he saw a light burning in the bedroom window. He thought all was well.
The family had made a plan to meet the next morning at eleven for drinks and the traditional New Year's breakfast of ozoni, a soup, and mochi, rice cakes. Chieko and her husband and some other guests arrived and began drinking. At half past eleven, Dr. Fujii had not appeared, and Shigeyuki sent his seven-year-old son, Masatsugu, out to call up to his window. The boy, getting no answer, tried the door. It was locked. He borrowed a ladder from a neighbor's house and climbed to the top of it to call some more, and still there was no response. When he told his parents, they became alarmed and hurried out, broke a window next to the locked door to get it open, and, smelling gas, rushed upstairs. There they found Dr. Fujii unconscious, with a gas heater at the head of his futon turned on but not burning. Strangely, a ventilator fan was also turned on; the draft of fresh air from it had probably kept him alive. He was stretched out on his back, looking serene.
There were three doctors present -- son, son-in-law, and a guest -- and, fetching oxygen and other equipment from the clinic, they did everything they could to revive Dr. Fujii. They called in one of the best doctors they knew, a Professor Myanishi, from Hiroshima University. His first question: "Was this a suicide attempt?" The family thought not. There was nothing to be done until January 4th; everything in Hiroshima would be shut down tight for the three-day New Year's holiday, and hospital services would be at a minimum. Dr. Fujii remained unconscious, but his life signs seemed not to be critical. On the fourth, an ambulance came. As the bearers were carrying Dr. Fujii downstairs, he stirred. Swimming up toward consciousness, he apparently thought he was being rescued, somehow, after the atomic bombing. "Who are you?" he asked the bearers. "Are you soldiers?"
In the university hospital, he began to recover. On January 15th, when the annual sumo wrestling contests began, he asked for the portable television set he had bought in America, and he sat up in bed watching. He could feed himself, though his handling of chopsticks was a bit awkward. He asked for a bottle of sake.
By now, everyone in the family was off guard. On January 25th, his stool was suddenly watery and bloody, and he became dehydrated and lost consciousness.
For the next eleven years, he lived the life of a vegetable. He remained in the hospital, fed through a tube, for two and a half years, and then was taken home, where his wife and a loyal servant cared for him, feeding him through the tube, changing his diapers, bathing him, massaging him, medicating him for urinary infections he developed. At times, he seemed to respond to voices, and sometimes he seemed to be dimly registering pleasure or displeasure.
At ten o'clock on the night of January 11, 1973, Shigeyuki took his son Masatsugu, the boy who had climbed the ladder to call his grandfather on the day of the accident, now a premedical student of sixteen, to Dr. Fujii's bedside. He wanted the boy to see his grandfather with the eye of a doctor. Masatsugu listened to his grandfather's breathing and heartbeat and took his blood pressure; he judged his condition stable, and Shigeyuki agreed.
The next morning, Shigeyuki's mother telephoned him, saying that his father looked funny to her. When Shigeyuki arrived, Dr. Fujii was dead.
The doctor's widow was against having an autopsy done. Shigeyuki wanted one, and he resorted to a ruse. He had the body taken to a crematorium; then, that night, it was taken out a back way and was delivered to the American-run Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, on top of a hill to the east of the city. When the post mortem had been done, Shigeyuki went for the report. Finding his father's organs distributed in various containers, he had the strangest feeling of a last encounter, and he said, "There you are, Oto-chan -- there you are, Papa." He was shown that his father's brain had atrophied, his large intestine had become enlarged, and there was a cancer the size of a Ping-Pong ball in his liver.
The remains were cremated and buried in the grounds of the Night of the Lotus Temple, of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism, near his maternal family home in Nagatsuka.
THEN came a sad ending to this hibakusha's story. His family quarreled over his property, and a mother sued a son.
A YEAR AFTER the bombing, Hiroshimans had begun repossessing the plots of rubble where their houses had once stood. Many had built crude wooden huts, having scavenged fallen tiles from ruins to make their roofs. There was no electricity to light their shacks, and at dusk each evening, lonely, confused, and disillusioned, they gathered in an open area near the Yokogawa railroad station to deal in the black markets and console each other. Into this zone now trooped, each evening, Kiyoshi Tanimoto and four other Protestant ministers and, with them, a trumpeter and a drummer tooting, and thumping "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Taking turns, the ministers stood on a box and preached. With so little to entertain them, a crowd always gathered, even including some panpan girls, as prostitutes who catered to GIs came to be called. The anger of many hibakusha, directed at first against the Americans for dropping the bomb, had by now subtly modulated toward their own government, for having involved the country in a rash and doomed aggression. The preachers said that it was no use blaming the government; that the hope of the Japanese people lay in repenting their sinful past and relying on God: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. "
Because he had no church into which to lure converts, if there should be any, Kiyoshi Tanimoto soon realized, the futility of this evangelism. Parts of the reinforced-concrete shell of his Gothic-towered church in the city still stood, and he now turned his mind to trying to find ways to restore the building. He had no money. The building had been insured for a hundred and fifty thousand yen, then less than five hundred dollars, but bank funds had been frozen by the conquerors. Learning that military supplies were being allocated for various kinds of reconstruction, he got requisition slips for "conversion materials" from the prefectural government and began a hunt for things he could use or sell. In that time of widespread thievery and of resentment of the Japanese military, many of the supply depots had been looted. Finally, he found on the island of Kamagari a warehouse of paints. American Occupation personnel had made a mess of the place. Unable to read Japanese labels, they had punctured many cans and kicked them over, apparently to see what was in them. The minister got hold of a boat and carried a big cargo of empty cans to the mainland, and he was able to barter them with an outfit named the Toda Construction Company for a tile roof for his church. Little by little, over the months, he and a few loyal parishioners worked on the carpentry for the building with their own hands, but they lacked the funds to do much.
ON July 1, 1946, before the first anniversary of the bombing, the United States had tested an atomic bomb at the Bikini Atoll. On May 17, 1948, the Americans announced the successful completion of another test.
IN correspondence with an Emory University classmate, the Reverend Mr. Marvin Green, who was now pastor of the Park Church in Weehawken, New Jersey, Kiyoshi Tanimoto told of his difficulties in restoring his church. Green arranged with the Methodist Board of Missions an invitation to Tanimoto to visit the United States to raise money, and in October, 1948, Tanimoto, leaving his family behind, embarked for San Francisco on an American transport, the U.S.S. Gordon.
On the sea voyage, an ambitious idea grew in his mind. He would spend his life working for peace. He was becoming convinced that the collective memory of the hibakusha would be a potent force for peace in the world, and that there ought to be in Hiroshima a center where the experience of the bombing could become the focus of international studies of means to assure that atomic weapons would never be used again. Eventually, in the States, without thinking to check with Mayor Shinzo Hamai or anyone else in Hiroshima, he drafted a memorandum sketching this idea.
He lived as a guest in the basement of Marvin Green's Weehawken parsonage. The Reverend Mr. Green, enlisting the help of some volunteers, became his manager and promoter. From a church directory he compiled a list of all the churches in the country with more than two hundred members or with budgets of more than twenty thousand dollars, and to hundreds of these he sent out hand-done broadsides soliciting invitations for Kiyoshi Tanimoto to lecture. He drew up a series of itineraries, and soon Tanimoto was on the road with a set speech, "The Faith That Grew Out of the Ashes." At each church, a collection was taken.
On and between speaking trips, Tanimoto began submitting his peace-center memorandum to people he hoped might be influential. On one visit to New York from Weehawken, he was taken by a Japanese friend of his to meet Pearl Buck, in the office of her husband's publishing firm. She read, and he explained, his memorandum. She said she was impressed by the proposal, but she felt she was too old and too busy to help him. She thought, however, that she knew just the person who might: Norman Cousins, the editor of The Saturday Review of Literature. Mr. Tanimoto should send his memo to Mr. Cousins, and she would speak to him about it.
One day not long afterward, while the minister was touring a rural area near Atlanta with his lecture, he got a telephone call from Cousins, who said he was deeply moved by the memorandum -- might he put it in the Saturday Review as a guest editorial?
On March 5, 1949, the memorandum appeared in the magazine, under the title "Hiroshima's Idea" -- an idea that, Cousins' introductory note said, "the editors enthusiastically endorse and with which they will associate themselves":
The people of Hiroshima, aroused from the daze that followed the atomic bombing of their city on August 6, 1945, know themselves to have been part of a laboratory experiment which proved the long-time thesis of peacemakers. Almost to a man, they have accepted as a compelling responsibility their mission to help in preventing further similar destruction anywhere in the world ....
The people of Hiroshima ... earnestly desire that out of their experience there may develop some permanent contribution to the cause of world peace. Towards this end, we propose the establishment of a World Peace Center, international and nonsectarian, which will serve as a laboratory of research and planning for peace education throughout the world. ...
The people of Hiroshima were in fact, to a man, totally unaware of Kiyoshi Tanimoto's (and now Norman Cousins') proposal. They were, nonetheless, acutely aware of the special role that the city was destined to play in the world's memory. On August 6th, the fourth anniversary of the bombing, the national Diet promulgated a law establishing Hiroshima as a Peace Memorial City, and the final design for the commemorative park by the great Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was revealed to the public. At the heart of the park, there would be, in memory of those who had died, a solemn cenotaph in the shape of a haniwa, an arch of clay, presumably a house for the dead, found in prehistoric tombs in Japan. A large crowd gathered for the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony. Tanimoto was far away from all this, touring American churches.
A few days after the anniversary, Norman Cousins visited Hiroshima. Kiyoshi Tanimoto's idea had been pushed aside in Cousins' mind by a new one, of his own: that an international petition in support of the United World Federalists -- a group urging world government -- should be submitted to President Truman, who had ordered the dropping of the bomb. Within a short time, 107,854 signatures had been gathered in the city. After a visit to an orphanage, Cousins returned to the States with yet another idea -- for "moral adoption" of Hiroshima orphans by Americans, who would send financial support for the children. Signatures for the World Federalist petition were being gathered in the United States as well, and Cousins thrilled Tanimoto, who until then had known very little about the organization, by inviting him to be in the delegation that would present the petition to President Truman.
Unfortunately, Harry Truman declined to receive the petitioners and refused to accept the petition.
ON September 23, 1949, Moscow Radio announced that the Soviet Union had developed on atomic bomb.
By the end of the year, Kiyoshi Tanimoto had visited two hundred and fifty-six cities, in thirty-one states, and had raised about ten thousand dollars for his church. Before he left for home, Marvin Green happened to mention that he was about to give up on his old green Cadillac. His friend Tani asked him to donate it to the church in Hiroshima, and he did. Through a Japanese acquaintance in the shipping business, Tanimoto arranged to have it transported free of charge to Japan.
Back home at the beginning of 1950, Tanimoto called on Mayor Hamai and the Prefectural Governor, Tsunei Kusunose, asking their official support for his peace-center idea. They turned him down. Through a press code and other measures, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the occupying forces, had strictly prohibited dissemination of or agitation for any reports on the consequences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings -- including the consequence of a desire for peace -- and the officials evidently thought that Tanimoto's peace center might get the local governments in trouble. Tanimoto persevered, calling together a number of leading citizens, and, after Norman Cousins had set up a Hiroshima Peace Center Foundation in New York to receive American funds, these people established the center in Hiroshima, with Tanimoto's church as its base. At first, it found little to do. (Only years later, when a Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Memorial Hall had been built in the park, and lively and sometimes turbulent, annual international conferences on peace issues were taking place in the city, could Kiyoshi Tanimoto's early planting of seeds for these things, and his courage in ignoring the MacArthur restraints, be acknowledged by at least some Hiroshimans.)
The Cadillac arrived, and the jubilant minister decided to take the gas guzzler for a spin. As he was climbing the heights of Hijiyama, to the east of the city, he was stopped by a policeman and arrested for driving without a license. It happened that he had recently begun serving as chaplain of the police academy, and when the higher-ups at the police station saw him brought in they laughed and let him go.
IN midsummer of 1950, Cousins invited Tanimoto to return to the United States for a second tour, to raise money for the World Federalists, for moral adoption, and for the peace center, and late in August Tanimoto was off again. Marvin Green arranged things, as before. This time, Tanimoto visited two hundred and one cities, in twenty-four states, over eight months. The high point of the trip (and possibly of his life) was a visit to Washington, arranged by Cousins, where, on February 5, 1951, after having lunch with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he gave the opening prayer for the afternoon session of the Senate:
Our Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for the great blessing Thou hast granted America in enabling her to build in this last decade the greatest civilization in human history ... We thank Thee, God, that Japan has been permitted to be one of the fortunate recipients of American generosity. We thank Thee that our people have been given the gift of freedom, enabling them to rise from the ashes of ruin and be reborn .... God bless all members of his Senate. ...
Virginia's Senator A. Willis Robertson rose and declared himself "dumbfounded yet inspired" that a man "whom we tried to kill with an atomic bomb came to the Senate floor and, offering up thanks to the same God we worship, thanked Him for America's great spiritual heritage, and then asked God to bless every member of the Senate."
THE DAY before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the city, in fear of incendiary raids, had put hundreds of schoolgirls to work helping to tear down houses and clear fire lanes. They were out in the open when the bomb exploded. Few survived. Of those who did, many suffered bad burns and later developed ugly keloids on their faces, arms, and hands. A month after Tanimoto returned from his second trip to the States, he started, as a project of his peace center, a Bible class for about a dozen of them -- the Society of Keloid Girls, he called them. He bought three sewing machines and put the girls to work in a dressmaking workshop on the second floor of another of his projects, a war widows' home he had founded. He asked the city government for funds for plastic surgery for the Keloid Girls. It turned him down. He then applied to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, which had been set up to study the radiation aftereffects of the bomb -- aftereffects that those who made the decision to drop the bomb had utterly failed to foresee. The A.B.C.C. reminded him that it carried on research, not treatment. (The A.B.C.C. was keenly resented for this reason by hibakusha; they said that the Americans regarded them as laboratory guinea pigs or rats.)
A woman named Shizue Masugi now visited Hiroshima from Tokyo. She had led a wildly unconventional life for a Japanese woman of her time. A journalist, married and divorced while young, she had later been the mistress, in turn, of two famous novelists and, later still, had married again. She had written short stories about the bitter loves and bitter solitude of women and was now writing a column for lovelorn women in the big Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. She would become a Catholic before she died, but she would choose to be buried in the Tokeiji Temple, a Zen center founded in 1285 by a monk who felt sorry for women with cruel husbands and decreed that any of them who took asylum in his temple as nuns could consider themselves divorced. On her trip to Hiroshima, she asked Kiyoshi Tanimoto what most needed to be done for women who were hibakusha. He suggested plastic surgery for the Keloid Girls. She started a campaign for funds in the Yomiuri, and soon nine girls were taken to Tokyo for surgery. Later, twelve more were taken to Osaka. Newspapers called them, to their chagrin, Genbaku Otome, a phrase that was translated into English, literally, as A-Bomb Maidens.
IN October 1952, Great Britain conducted its first test of an atomic bomb and the United States its first of a hydrogen bomb. In August 1953, the Soviet Union also tested a hydrogen bomb.
THE Tokyo and Osaka operations on the girls were not altogether successful, and, on a visit to Hiroshima, Kiyoshi Tanimoto's friend Marvin Green wondered whether it might be possible for some of them to be taken to America, where the techniques of plastic surgery were more advanced. In September 1953, Norman Cousins arrived in Hiroshima with his wife to deliver some moral-adoption funds. Tanimoto introduced them to a few of the girls, and spoke of Marvin Green's idea. They liked it.
After their departure, an awkward meeting took place in the Mayor's office, at which distribution to orphans of the moral- adoption funds was discussed. Cousins had brought fifteen hundred dollars, but it turned out that two hundred dollars of this amount had been set aside for six particular children, sixty-five dollars had been allocated to the Maidens, and a hundred and nineteen dollars had been spent by Tanimoto at the Fukuya department store for briefcases to be presented as gifts by Norman Cousins to the directors of six orphanages. This left eleven hundred and sixty-five dollars, or only about two dollars and seventy cents for each of four hundred and ten orphans. The city officials, who thought they were in charge of the project, were furious about the sums Tanimoto had deducted. In a report of this meeting, the Hiroshima paper Chugoku Shimbun reported, "Rev. Tanimoto responded, 'I was following Mr. Cousins's instructions in this, not my own wishes.'"
Tanimoto had lately been getting used to criticism. His long absences from his church for trips to America had earned him the nickname of A-bomb minister. Hiroshima doctors had wanted to know why the Maidens were not operated on in Hiroshima. And why just girls? Why not boys? Some people thought they saw the Reverend Mr. Tanimoto's name in the paper too often. The enormous Cadillac had not gone down well, even though it had quickly turned out to be a dog and had had to be junked.
ON March 1, 1954, the Lucky Dragon No. 5 was showered with radioactive fallout from an American test at Bikini Atoll.
NORMAN COUSINS had gone to work in New York on the Maidens idea, and in late 1954 Dr. Arthur Barsky, the chief of plastic surgery at both Mount Sinai and Beth Israel hospitals, and Dr. William Hitzig, an internist on the Mount Sinai staff and Cousins' personal physician, arrived in Hiroshima to cull from among the Maidens those whose prospects for transformation by surgery were best. Of the many disfigured girls in the city, only forty-three presented themselves to be examined. The doctors chose twenty-five.
On May 5, 1955, Kiyoshi Tanimoto took off with the girls from Iwakuni Airport in a United States Military Air Transport plane. As the girls were being settled in host homes around New York, he was hustled off to the West Coast for the start of yet another fund-raising tour. Among other appointments on his itinerary was one for the evening of Wednesday, May 11th, at the NBC studios in Los Angeles, for what Cousins gave him to understand would be a local television interview that would be helpful to the project.
That evening, somewhat fuddled, he was seated before bright lights and cameras on a living-room-like set. An American gentleman he had just met, named Ralph Edwards, beamed and, turning to the camera, addressed an estimated forty million Americans he attracted every Wednesday night: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to "This Is Your Life." The ticking you hear in the background is a clock counting off the seconds to 8:15 A.M., August 6, 1945. And seated here with me is a gentleman whose life was changed by the last tick of that clock as it reached eight-fifteen. Good evening, sir. Would you tell us your name?"
"And what is your occupation?"
"I am a minister."
"And where is your home?"
"And where were you on August 6, 1945, at eight fifteen in the morning?"
Tanimoto had no chance to answer. The ticking grew louder and louder, and there was an uproar from kettle-drums.
"This is Hiroshima," Edwards said as a mushroom cloud grew on the viewers' screens, "and in that fateful second on August 6, 1945, a new concept of life and death was given its baptism. And tonight's principal subject -- you, Reverend Tanimoto! -- were an unsuspecting part of that concept. ...We will pick up the threads of your life in a moment, Reverend Tanimoto, after this word from Bob Warren, our announcer, who has something very special to say to the girls in the audience."
The fateful clock of doom, now unheard, ticked off sixty additional seconds as Bob Warren tried to remove Hazel Bishop nail polish from a blonde's fingernails -- an effort that was unsuccessful, even though he resorted to using a metal scouring pad, with which he had succeeded in removing rust from a frying pan.
Kiyoshi Tanimoto was totally unprepared for what followed. He sat there, torpid, sweating, and tongue-tied, as, after the manner of the famous program, his life was sketchily reviewed. Through an archway came Miss Bertha Sparkey, an elderly Methodist missionary who had taught him in his youth about Christ. Then came his friend Marvin Green, with a joke about life in divinity school. Then Edwards pointed out in the studio audience some parishioners Tanimoto had had just after his ordination, during a brief temporary pastorate in the Japanese-American Hollywood Independence Church.
Next came the shocker. In walked a tall, fattish American man, whom Edwards introduced as Captain Robert Lewis, copilot of the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima mission. In a shaky voice, Lewis told about the flight. Tanimoto sat there with a face of wood. At one point, Lewis broke off, closed his eyes, and rubbed his forehead, and forty million watchers across the land must have thought he was crying. (He was not. He has been drinking. Years later, Marvin Green told a young journalist named Rodney Barker, who was writing a book on the Maidens, that Lewis had panicked the show people by failing to turn up that afternoon for the rehearsal of all the participants except Tanimoto. It seemed that he had expected to be given a fat check for appearing on the show, and when he learned that he would not, he had gone out bar crawling. Green said he had found the copilot in time to get a cup of coffee in him before the show. )
Edwards: "Did you write something in your log at that time?"
Lewis: "I wrote down the words, 'My God, what have we done?'"
After that, Chisa Tanimoto trotted onstage with clipped steps, because she was wearing what she never wore at home -- a kimono. In Hiroshima, she had been given two days to uproot herself -- and the four children she and her husband now had -- and get to Los Angeles. There they had all been incarcerated in a hotel, kept strictly away from their husband and father. For the first time on the show, Tanimoto's expression changed -- to surprise; he seemed to have become a stranger to pleasure. Next, two of the Maidens, Toyoko Minowa and Tadako Emori, were presented in silhouette behind a translucent screen, and Edwards made a pitch to the audience for money for the Maidens' operations. And, finally, the four Tanimoto children -- daughter Koko, who had been an infant in the bombing, now ten; son Ken, seven; daughter Jun, four; and son Shin, two -- came running out into their father's arms.
EMBASSY-USIS SHARE WASHINGTON CONCERN LEST HIROSHIMA GIRLS PROJECT GENERATE UNFAVORABLE PUBLICITY. ...
TANIMOTO IS LOOKED UPON HERE AS SOMETHING OF A PUBLICITY SEEKER. MAY WELL TRY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRIP TO RAISE FUNDS FOR HIROSHIMA MEMORIAL PEACE CENTER, HIS PET PROJECT. DO NOT BELIEVE HE IS RED OR RED-SYMPATHIZER, BUT HE CAN EASILY BECOME SOURCE OF MISCHIEVOUS PUBLICITY
By diplomatic pouch:
The Reverend Tanimoto is pictured as one who appears to be anti-Communist and probably sincere in his efforts to assist the girls. ... However, in his desire to enhance his own prestige and importance he might ignorantly, innocently, or purposefully lend himself to or pursue a leftist line. ...
RALPH J. BLAKE
UPON getting back East after the show, Robert Lewis, who had resigned from the Air Force and was working as personnel manager of Henry Heide, candy makers, in New York, was called to the Pentagon and given a heavy chewing out by the Defense Department.
THE whole Tanimoto family remained in the United States through the rest of Kiyoshi's speaking tour, which took him to a total of a hundred and ninety-five cities, in twenty -six states. The television show had brought in about fifty thousand dollars, and he raised ten thousand more. Chisa Tanimoto and the children stayed through a glorious summer in a guesthouse on Pearl Buck's farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
On August 6th, the tenth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Tanimoto placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. On that day, in Hiroshima itself, far away from him, a genuine Japanese peace movement, riding the anger over the Lucky Dragon incident, got under way. Five thousand delegates attended the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs.
The Tanimotos returned to Japan in December.
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KIYOSHI TANIMOTO had been swept out of the mainstream into an eddy. On his American speaking tours, he had displayed an energy that was remarkable for a hibakusha, speaking night after night after night on the weary circuits. But the reality was that for some years now he had been hurled along on the white water of Norman Cousins' ferocious energy. Cousins had given him heady experiences that fed his vanity, but he had also now taken out of the minister's hands the control of his own undertakings. Tanimoto had started the whole effort for the Maidens, but he discovered that even though the money raised by "This Is Your Life" would pay the Maidens' expenses, all but one thousand dollars of the money he had raised on his tour was also to be controlled by New York. Cousins had bypassed the peace center in Hiroshima and dealt with the city government; Tanimoto had begged to have the moral-adoption project put under the center's wing, but his role had turned out to be that of a shopper for briefcases. The crowning blow came when the ashes of the Maiden named Tomoko Nakabayashi, who had died under anaesthesia at Mount Sinai, were returned to her parents in Hiroshima and he was not even invited to the funeral, which was conducted by his old friend Father Kleinsorge. And when all the Maidens had come home and, astonishingly, found themselves the objects not only of public curiosity but also of envy and spite, they resisted his publicity-minded efforts to form them into a "Zion Club," and fell away from him.
Nor did he have any place in the Japanese peace movement, for he had been out of the country at crucial moments in its development, and, besides, his Christian outlook made him suspicious of the radical groups that were on the cutting edge of antinuclear activity. While he was away on this last trip, a national organization called Nihon Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, had come into being, and there had been a surge of activity pushing the Diet for medical care for hibakusha. Like many hibakusha, he was repelled by the growing political coloration of these doings, and he stayed away from the mass meetings in Peace Park on the subsequent anniversaries.
ON May 15, 1957, Great Britain conducted its first hydrogen-bomb test, on Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean.
KOKO, the daughter who as an infant had experienced the bombing, had been taken almost every year to the American-run A.B.C.C. for a physical checkup. On the whole, her health had been all right, although, like many hibakusha who had been babies at the time of the bombing, her growth was definitely stunted. Now, an adolescent in junior high school, she went again. As usual, she undressed in a cubicle and put on a white hospital gown. When she had finished going through a battery of tests, this time she was taken into a brightly lit room where there was a low stage, backed by a wall marked with a measurement grid. She was stood against the wall, with lights in her eyes so glaring she could not see beyond them; she could hear Japanese and American voices. One of the former told her to take off the gown. She obeyed, and stood there for what seemed an eternity, with tears streaming down her face.
Koko was so frightened and hurt by this experience that she was unable to tell anyone about it for twenty-five years.
ONE day toward the end of August, 1959, a baby girl was left in a basket in front of the altar of Kiyoshi Tanimoto's church. A note attached to its diaper gave the baby's name, Kanae, and its birth date, April 28th, and went on to say, "I am afraid I can't keep her at the moment. God bless her, and will you look after her in my stead?"
In the summer on Pearl Buck's farm, the Tanimoto children had played with the dozen orphans, mostly Oriental, that the American author had taken under her wing. The family had been impressed by Mrs. Buck's generosity, and now they decided to keep and raise the child who had been entrusted to them.
ON February 13, 1960, France tested a nuclear weapon in the Sahara. On October 16, 1964, China carried out its first nuclear test, and on June 17, 1967, it exploded a hydrogen bomb.
KOKO went to the States with her father in 1968, to enter the Centenary College for Women, in Hackettstown, New Jersey. Tanimoto had previously been back to America in 1964-65, when he visited his alma mater, Emory University, and then traveled home by way of Europe; and in 1966, when he received an honorary degree from Lewis and Clark College. Koko eventually transferred to American University, in Washington, D.C. There she fell in love with a Chinese-American and became engaged to marry him, but her fiance's father, a doctor, said that because she had been exposed to the atomic bomb she couldn't bear a normal child, and he forbade the marriage.
Back in Japan, Koko took a job in Tokyo, working for an oil-drilling firm, Odeco. She told no one she was a hibakusha. In time, she found someone she could confide in -- her boyfriend's best friend. He turned out, in the end, to be the man she married. She had a miscarriage, which she and her family attributed to the bomb. She and her husband went to the A.B.C.C. to have their chromosomes checked, and though nothing abnormal was found they decided not to try again to have a child. In time, they adopted two babies.
THE Japanese antinuclear movement had begun to split up in the early sixties. Gensuikyo, the Japan Council, was dominated at first by the Japanese Socialist Party and by Sohyo, the General Council of Trade Unions. In 1960, it had tried to block revision of the United States-Japanese Security Treaty, on the ground that it encouraged a renewed militarism in Japan, whereupon some more conservative groups formed Kakkin Kaigi, the National Council for Peace and against Nuclear Weapons. In 1964, a deeper division came about, when Communist infiltration of Gensuikyo caused the Socialists and the trade unions to pull out and form Gensuikin, the Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. For Tanimoto, as for most hibakusha, these quarrels reached the zenith of absurdity when Gensuikin argued that all nations should stop testing, while Gensuikyo argued that the United States was testing to prepare for war and the Soviet Union was testing to insure peace. The division persisted, and year after year the two organizations held separate conferences on August 6th. On June 7, 1973, Kiyoshi Tanimoto wrote the "Evening Essay" column in the Hiroshima Chugoku Shimbun:
These last few years when August 6th approaches, voices are heard lamenting that this year, once again, the commemorative events will be held by a divided peace movement. ... The sentence inscribed on the memorial Cenotaph -- "Rest in peace, for the mistake shall not be repeated" -- embodies the passionate hope of the human race. The appeal of Hiroshima ... has nothing to do with politics. When foreigners come to Hiroshima, you often hear them say, "The politicians of the world should come to Hiroshima and contemplate the world's political problems on their knees before this Cenotaph."
ON May 18, 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test.
As the fortieth anniversary of the bombing approached, the Hiroshima peace center was nominally still in place -- now in the Tanimoto home. Its principal project in the seventies had been to arrange a series of adoptions of orphans and abandoned Japanese babies, who had nothing particularly to do with the atomic bomb. The adoptive parents were in Hawaii and the mainland United States. Tanimoto had made three more speaking trips, in the mainland States in 1976 and 1982, and in Hawaii in 1981. He had retired from his pulpit in 1982.
Kiyoshi Tanimoto was over seventy now. The average age of all hibakusha was sixty-two. The surviving hibakusha had been polled by Chugoku Shimhun in 1984, and 54.3 per cent of them said they thought that nuclear weapons would be used again. Tanimoto read in the papers that the United States and the Soviet Union were steadily climbing the steep steps of deterrence. He and Chisa both drew health-maintenance allowances as hibakusha, and he had a modest pension from the United Church of Japan. He lived in a snug little house with a radio and two television sets, a washing machine, an electric oven, and a refrigerator, and he had a compact Mazda automobile, manufactured in Hiroshima. He ate too much. He got up at six every morning and took an hour's walk with his small woolly dog, Chiko. He was slowing down a bit. His memory, like the world's, was getting spotty.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Hersey was born in Tientsin, China, in 1914 and lived there until 1925, when his family returned to the United States. He studied at Yale and Cambridge, served for a time as Sinclair Lewis's secretary, and then worked several years as a journalist. Since 1947 he has devoted his time mainly to writing fiction. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, taught for two decades at Yale, and is a past president of the Authors League of America and past Chancellor of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is married and has five children and three grandchildren.