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Nagasaki A-bomb survivor nun continues diary of experience as prayer for peace

Sister Misako Michiwaki, 90, is pictured at the monastery of Mizunoura Church, in Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Aug. 3, 2018. (Mainichi)

GOTO, Nagasaki -- As the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki approaches on Aug. 9, 90-year-old nun Misako Michiwaki prepares to once again record her memories of "that day," praying that no one will have to experience such tragedy again.

"I don't want to recall the memories, but it must not be forgotten," says Sister Michiwaki, preparing herself to write down what her 17-year-old self witnessed on Aug. 9, 1945.

Born on Fukue Island, part of the Goto Islands, Michiwaki was at the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Arms Factory Ohashi Plant, where she had begun working in 1943, when the bomb was dropped on the city. She was inspecting a small lead bullet when she glimpsed a blue flash through the window shortly after 11 a.m. The factory was only about a kilometer away from the hypocenter, and when Michiwaki fled to a bomb shelter containing important items, she temporarily lost consciousness after a crowd of people flooded into the confined space.

Fortunately, she was almost completely uninjured. But when she went out to the streets gripping her rosary, she found herself surrounded by a sea of fire. She ran toward a nearby tunnel, while a colleague implored her, "I'm not going to make it, so go ahead!"

The diary of Sister Misako Michiwaki detailing her experience of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, to which she adds every year on the anniversary of the attack, is seen on Aug. 7, 2018, in Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture. (Mainichi)

Since the tunnel was said to be dangerous, she climbed up a hill close by and saw the city of Nagasaki engulfed in red flames. She finally reached home on Aug. 15 after traveling by train and boat. Near the Mizunoura Church by her home, she saw a soldier who had heard the Emperor's radio address run toward the mountains saying, "Japan has lost (the war)."

After her return home, Michiwaki joined the monastery of Mizunoura Church and began a nun. It was not until roughly 20 years ago that she began seriously writing down her experiences as an atomic bomb survivor, or "hibakusha" in Japanese.

She has carefully recorded all the scenes in her memories -- the name of her close colleague, the hunger she felt due to a lack of food, the voices of those pleading for help -- over and over again.

In her annual entry on the anniversary of the bomb two years ago, she wrote, "Why am I still alive even now when I should have died in the atomic bombing?" When asked about the diary, she said, "I came to write this as a prayer, because I don't want this to happen to anyone today."

The August entry penned on A5-sized paper finished with an invariable wish: "An event this tragic must never happen again."

(Japanese original by Shotaro Asano, Nagasaki Bureau)

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