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Hibakusha: "I want to live to be 100"

Kimie Kishi (Mainichi)

Kimie Kishi, a resident of Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture, who suffers from atomic bomb microcephaly, looks younger to me than I have ever seen her before.

    Sporting a striped white cut-and-sewn top in lavender, her favorite color, with a dark blue tunic over it, Kishi -- who is now 70 -- says that the ensemble was a present from her eldest daughter, who is 40.

    Relations between Kishi and her daughter have always been strained. Kishi herself attributes this to her own fears that her illness might be passed down, which led her to take a controlling and interfering attitude toward her daughter's life.

    Kishi's mother was three months pregnant with her when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She was at home, about 1.2 kilometers from the hypocenter. Kishi was consequently born with atomic bomb microcephaly -- a condition characterized by a small head, as well as multiple physical and mental handicaps. One effect of the illness is dislocated hip joints, which she has had since birth.

    In childhood, Kishi was in such poor health that others bullied her, taunting her as a "sickness wholesaler."

    After marrying and having two children, Kishi did not want them to face the same experience as she had. What happened in the end, however, was endless fighting between mother and children.

    And after her husband passed away at an early age, Kishi lived on her own for more than 10 years.

    During the summer of 2014, Kishi moved into a welfare facility after it was suspected that she had dementia. Her daughter, who had been living in another part of Hiroshima Prefecture at the time, moved home -- and her son also began paying her visits with his family.

    When her children were small, Kishi took them every year to the Aug. 6 Hiroshima Peace Memorial remembrance ceremony.

    "I myself experienced the atomic bombing, and my father also died (as a result of it)," she commented. "Many people died, in fact."

    While Kishi's daughter was never told directly about her mother's atomic bomb microcephaly, she once found her mother's hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) health record notebook. Only then did she realize that her mother's poor health was due to the effects of the atomic bombing.

    Even though the two constantly fought, Kishi's daughter must have felt very deep anxiety about her mother.

    Kishi's daughter began renting a large apartment near the family home in April this year, which she selected so that her mother would be able to relax when she came over to visit. She also bought a new car that would more easily accommodate her mother's wheelchair.

    "I feel very grateful that both of my children grew up without suffering from serious illness," Kishi said -- her expression conveying calm.

    Looking at her daughter sitting next to her, Kishi then said quietly, "Now, I am happy."

    When I interviewed Kishi in the summer of 2005, she had said to me, "I have never been happy in my life -- not once."

    Faced with this individual in front of me whose body was wounded -- and her life damaged -- by the atomic bomb and the resulting radiation even before she was born, the enormity of this violation rendered me speechless.

    Struggling with loneliness, Kishi also told me during the interview that she threw herself into a life of speaking about her experience due in part to a feeling that she was "being carried along by life" rather than living by her own wishes.

    "I want live to be 100," she said.

    Clearly, the spring of Kishi's life has just begun. (By Hiroko Tanaka, Osaka Cultural News Department)

    (This article is the fifth and last in a series.)

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