Following the passing of Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor (hibakusha) Shuntaro Hida in March this year, two friends and fellow hibakusha reflect on their respective relationships with the man.
"I've lost a good friend," Susumu Nishiyama, 89, says poignantly, as he looks through a stack of postcards Hida sent him over the years, before passing away at the age of 100.
In August 1945, during World War II, both Hida and Nishiyama were victims of the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hida was working as a military doctor in Hiroshima at the time, and Nishiyama was working at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shipyard in Nagasaki.
Thirty-four years later, in 1979, the two men crossed paths for the first time. By that stage, Nishiyama was working as a manga artist in Tokyo, and had released a manga series in a newspaper connected to the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations. Meanwhile, Hida was operating in an executive role within the confederation, and the two men became acquainted.
Nishiyama reflects on their first ever meeting: "I quickly noticed that Hida's face was easy to depict in manga form" -- referring to Hida's friendly, smiley expression.
Subsequently, the relationship between the two men deepened, and Nishiyama would often draw pictures for books written by Hida. Before long, the two friends were exchanging postcards, and sometimes Nishiyama would receive correspondence from Hida from lecture venues across the country, and even from overseas.
In April this year, Nishiyama placed a eulogy for Hida in his "Manga Shimbun" newspaper, which he published himself. "Hida left this earth without seeing the abolishment of nuclear weapons or a halt to nuclear power. However, the resolve of my good friend will definitely continue to live on in the future. Please watch over us from heaven," wrote Nishiyama.
Hida's death in March also had a significant impact on 92-year-old Sunao Tsuboi, also a hibakusha. "Hida was the kind of man who could speak his mind. I could freely consult with him, and it's really sad that he's passed away," Tsuboi says.
Hida took Tsuboi under his wing, like a master would with a disciple, and the pair often drank together in Hiroshima while eating oysters. However, Hida was also a "hardheaded man," capable of engaging in intense, intelligent discussion.
In 1999, while the two men were drinking in London during a hibakusha-related visit, Hida told Tsuboi -- who at the time was somewhat resentful toward the U.S. over the atomic bombs -- "You need to broaden your outlook, Tsuboi. We must aim to abolish nuclear weapons for the benefit of the entire human race."
(This is the final installment of the latest Hibakusha series.)