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Letters from Hiroshima: The people of an A-bombed city write to President Obama, Part 4

Fumie Takahashi talks about her late husband, Akihiro Takahashi, who served as director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. (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 fourth letter in this series is from Fumie Takahashi, 79, the widow of Akihiro Takahashi, an atomic bomb survivor who served as director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum between 1979 and 1983. Akihiro was 14 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Being about 1.4 kilometers from the hypocenter, he was thrown some 10 meters, sustaining severe burns all over his body. From his right index finger that had pieces of glass stuck to it from the blast, a black, irregularly shaped hard nail continued to grow throughout his lifetime. During his days as Peace Memorial Museum director, he would guide foreign dignitaries inside the museum, and after retirement, he continued to write letters to world leaders, including President Obama, asking them to visit Hiroshima. Now, Fumie thinks it's her mission to convey her husband's wishes to the world.

    * * * * *

    Dear Mr. President,

    Your visit to Hiroshima, which we have longed so much for, is now about to be realized. With much expectation, I'm writing this letter to you.

    My husband sent you letters a total of four times, between the time you took office as president until he died in 2011. If you have read them, perhaps you may remember him.

    He strongly wished for your visit to Hiroshima. Since he experienced the atomic bombing at age 14, his life had been filled with tremendous hardships. His life was apparently dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, including his years serving as director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

    It is, above all, unfortunate that my husband passed away before he could see the day when you visit Hiroshima. If he was alive, how happy he would have been to welcome you here in this city.

    Although I'm not strong enough to take action by succeeding my husband's will, I can at least convey his lifelong wishes to you.

    The following is a part of my husband's letter to you.

    "I have lived my life while hating the United States. But, having met so many people with good conscience, I have been able to overcome my hatred toward the U.S. I have come to believe that peace can never be achieved as long as hatred persists, but that peace will be in wait where hatred has been overcome. I'm hoping that your visit to Hiroshima will usher in a new era for all mankind and will serve as a strong first step forward toward nuclear weapons abolition. The reason I ask you to visit Hiroshima is not to accuse the U.S. for its action, but for us to overcome past hatred and achieve reconciliation by letting you know the realities of the atomic bombing. I once again ask you to pledge nuclear arms abolition here in Hiroshima and strive to lead the world to achieve that goal."

    My husband died while hoping that his wishes would one day be fulfilled. He may have been so regretful to leave this world before achieving his goal, but today I'm grateful that I've been given the chance to convey his wishes to you on his behalf. I couldn't be happier if you could visit Hiroshima, and could understand my husband's wishes if only a little. I'm wishing for your good health and further success from Hiroshima.

    Yours sincerely,

    Fumie Takahashi


    Fumie Takahashi

    Fumie Takahashi is the widow of Akihiro Takahashi, a former director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. "It's a major homework that my husband gave me, that I accept interview requests and speak on behalf of him," Fumie, a resident of Hiroshima's Nishi Ward, says. Among the letters her husband wrote to world leaders asking them to visit Hiroshima were four letters to President Obama -- three in 2009 and one in 2010. "Perhaps my husband thought President Obama may understand," Fumie surmises. "No one could see the Peace Memorial Museum without being moved and touched. It may be difficult (for the president) to say something, but I hope he will take what he sees and feels to his heart and remember such in his activities in the future."

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