NAGASAKI -- Atomic bomb survivor Sakue Shimohira, 81, lay in a hospital bed here May 4. She was taken to the hospital after feeling lightheaded and becoming immobilized two weeks before, and canceled her packed schedule of giving speeches to field-trip students about her experiences with the A-bomb.
"No matter how much time passes, the A-bomb never leaves me alone," she says.
Due to aftereffects of her exposure to the bomb, Shimohira had her uterus and ovaries removed, and six years ago she developed cirrhosis. Her vision has been reduced by cataracts, and she is prescribed around 15 types of medicines. She has at least one artificial bone in her hip joints and cannot move her body the way she wants. Still, her energy to tell her story to the young generations has not diminished.
"As a survivor, it is my responsibility to tell young people that they mustn't make war again," Shimohira says. She plans to resume her talks after she recovers.
U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Hiroshima on May 27, and Shimohira has something she wants him to know. "(Just like in Nagasaki) under the ground Mr. Obama will walk on are the bones of many whose remains could not be retrieved."
When the Nagasaki bomb fell on Aug. 9, 1945, the area around Shimohira's home some 300 meters from the blast hypocenter was reduced to ruin. After some time had passed, Shimohira, her adoptive father and surviving residents were picking up the bones of victims there. While they were in the middle of this, vehicles from the occupying U.S. military approached and began construction of an airfield over the area. Protests by the locals that they were still picking up the remains and to stop the construction were ineffective.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park stands on the pre-bomb site of Hiroshima's main commercial area and, Shimohira says, there remain bones there as well that were never picked up.
On the day of the Nagasaki bombing, Shimohira was in an air raid shelter some 800 meters from the blast hypocenter. She had been told that morning by her cousin who she called "brother" to not leave the shelter even after the air raid sirens sounded. She tried to leave the shelter anyway after the sirens ended, but her little sister stopped her. Her cousin who had warned her was exposed to the bomb and died shortly afterward. Her little sister suffered from illness and discrimination, and killed herself 10 years later.
Shimohira has long thought that she, her cousin and her sister were all denied a normal life or death. Hit by various diseases, she even now sometimes wonders whether she was fortunate or not to have survived. Still, she says, "It's enough for our generation to have suffered. I want the younger generations to live normally."
Her message to today's children is, "Peace is made when one understands other people's pain. Human lives outweigh the earth. I want you to inherit the mission of peace." (Sayo Kato, Nagasaki Bureau)
(This is part 3 of a series)