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Letters from Hiroshima: A-bomb survivors write to President Obama, Part 1

Sadao Yamamoto in Hiroshima. (Mainichi)

During his visit to Japan for the May 26 and 27 G-7 Summit in the Ise-Shima region of Mie Prefecture, United States President Barack Obama is to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. The Mainichi Shimbun's Hiroshima Bureau has asked atomic bombing survivors and other related individuals to write letters to Obama with their thoughts.

    The first letter we are introducing is from Sadao Yamamoto, 84, of Higashi Ward, Hiroshima, who has spoken in the U.S. about his experiences with the A-bomb. At the time Yamamoto wrote his letter, Obama's visit to Hiroshima had not yet been decided.

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    Dear Mr. President,

    My name is Sadao Yamamoto. I was hit by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima 71 years ago. At the time I was a 14-year-old student in my second year of junior high school, but now I'm an old man, set to turn 85 this June. Please allow me to present to you this first letter of mine.

    Mr. President, I have a request to make. When you attend the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit on May 26 and 27, please visit Hiroshima and see the reality of the bombing, witnessing the actual conditions there and listening to the voices of A-bomb survivors. In Prague on April 5, 2009, you stated that "as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act" and mentioned "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." I would also like you to carry this position to Hiroshima, where a nuclear weapon was used, to declare your "commitment to making the path to eliminating nuclear weapons a certain one, and to making world peace and safety everlasting."

    Hiroshima's desire is for the leaders of the world to come into contact with the reality of the bombing, and ensure a certain path to eliminating nuclear weapons. We atomic bomb survivors are growing old and do not have much time left. The human misfortune we experienced must never again be repeated on Earth.

    If you, Mr. President, come to Hiroshima and come into contact with the reality of the atomic bombing, then both the leaders of nuclear powers and countries that do not possess nuclear weapons will surely also visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It will rouse global public opinion and a big swell moving toward the elimination of nuclear weapons will rise up. Seventy-one years ago, I saw with my own eyes the massive fireball from the atomic bomb. I now hope that a big swell will rise up in the world toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

    Mr. President, Hiroshima has just one wish: everlasting world peace and safety. If you come to Hiroshima, the citizens will together offer you a big welcome. And if you come and see the reality of the atomic bombing and listen to the voices of those of us who survived it, we couldn't be happier. It is my sincere wish that you visit Hiroshima. Thank you.

    Yours sincerely,

    Sadao Yamamoto

    * * * * *

    Sadao Yamamoto

    At the time of the Hiroshima bombing, Yamamoto was a second-year student at Hiroshima Daini Junior High School, which is now Hiroshima Kanon High School. He was around 2.5 kilometers from the blast hypocenter at a military training facility for the Imperial Japanese Army, and around half of his face was burned. About 320 first-year students from his school who were involved in different work close to the hypocenter all died.

    "I've always felt guilty toward those younger students," says Yamamoto. Since four years ago he has been registered as a speaker for his experiences with the Hiroshima A-bomb.

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