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Death of family, friends drives Nagasaki survivor to pass on horror of nukes

Satoshi Kamozawa is pictured prior to a ceremony to mark the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at Peace Park in the city on the morning of Aug. 9, 2017. (Mainichi)

NAGASAKI -- A survivor of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki is striving to pass down the horror of nuclear weapons to future generations, after seeing his relatives and friends die at a young age years after the bombing.

Satoshi Kamozawa, 77, was exposed to the atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945, when he was at his home about 3 kilometers away from the hypocenter. Then a 5-year-old boy, he had just come back from a nearby river when the sky flashed and a blast sound reverberated, sending shivers through his body. Although he was unscathed, he saw a glass window of his home shatter.

His father, Emitaro, and elder brother, Hisashi, headed to the hypocenter to search for their relatives and friends. When they returned home several days later, they recounted the devastation they saw in Nagasaki, telling Kamozawa, "Bodies were laid on each other as they were cremated" and "It looked as though tears were flowing out from the bodies."

Four years later, his father died of stomach cancer, at age 57. Devastated, Kamozawa clung to his father's body as he slept the night before the body was to be cremated. He was only a third grader at the time.

After graduating from high school, Kamozawa went on to study at a university in Kyoto. When he was a third-year student, he heard that a former fellow member of his high school rugby club had passed away suddenly at age 20. The deceased man, who was younger than Kamozawa, had been exposed to the atomic bomb near ground zero, but had become a stalwart forward in the rugby team. Kamozawa trembled with fear that he may, too, die young.

About 30 years after the atomic bombing, his brother died of liver cirrhosis, at age 47. When Kamozawa attended a junior high school reunion some 20 years ago, he found that many of his former classmates had already passed away, even though he was only in his 50s at the time. The menace of radiation from the atomic bomb tormented him.

After retirement, Kamozawa joined a group of "hibakusha," or A-bomb survivors, in the city of Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, where he currently resides. He now contributes to the group's newsletter published three times a year. In the upcoming edition, he plans to write about a peace ceremony held in Nagasaki to mark the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing, which he attended, and his thoughts about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was just adopted at the United Nations last month.

The international treaty, which is joined by some 120 countries and whose preamble contains the term "hibakusha," outlaws the development and use of nuclear weapons, as well as the threat of using such weapons.

"It was hibakusha's earnest wish to see the treaty adopted," Kamozawa noted.

"Our group is just a small, regional one, but we'd like to continue passing down stories about the existence of A-bomb victims and survivors and call attention to the horror of nuclear weapons," he said. "We must eliminate nuclear weapons through civilian power."

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