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Hibakusha: 91-yr-old A-bomb survivor shares horrific Hiroshima experience for 1st time

Keiko Kimura shares her experience of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in Sawara Ward, Fukuokae, on April 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Takeshi Noda)

FUKUOKA -- "Just one atomic bomb kills so many people. How scary it was," explained 91-year-old Keiko Kimura from Fukuoka's Sawara Ward in western Japan, as she shared for the first time her experience of surviving the A-bomb in the city of Hiroshima.

Kimura expressed sorrow over the current global situation where efforts are still lacking to abolish nuclear weapons, more than 70 years after the bombings. She spoke in front of four people including a housewife and a university student on April 3 in an interview for a collection of accounts by hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, issued annually by a local consumers' cooperative.

On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Kimura, 17 at the time, saw bright lights from the window after visiting a chapel at her school, Hiroshima Jogakuin. She had been standing behind someone and miraculously avoided injury. However a friend who was directly hit by the light through the window suffered burns.

She fled from the city, where most buildings had collapsed, and met her mother and three of her older sisters at a relative's home. However, her oldest sister who was working at a manufacturer of army uniforms in the city and her junior high school brother who was demolishing buildings were nowhere to be found.

When Kimura visited the factory a week after the bombing, she found her 27-year-old sister's name written next to words describing that she died immediately after the bombing. Her younger brother had also died at a medical aid station. "More and more bodies were found which were buried and quickly burnt. I was sad but I couldn't do anything about it," she recalled.

Kimura's mother showed symptoms of radiation sickness and died following much suffering, two years after the end of World War II. Family members gradually passed away and she also suffered from food shortages after the war. But she remembered her mother's advice to "get some kind of certification," and went to school while receiving financial support from her three older sisters. Kimura worked as a teacher for some 20 years.

About 60 years ago, she moved to the city of Fukuoka due to her husband's family situation, but no one in the neighborhood knew what happened on Aug. 6, 1945, and she never had a chance to share her experiences as a hibakusha.

However, she decided to pass on her horrific memories in the booklet titled "Tsutaete kudasai Ashitae ..." (Please pass down the experiences for tomorrow), when asked to help the FCO-OP consumer cooperative in the town of Sasaguri, Fukuoka Prefecture.

The 91-year-old has increasing concerns about the government, which not only has failed to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but is making further efforts to strengthen the Japan Self-Defense Forces by introducing fighter aircraft and other equipment in response to the rise of China.

"The desire to deprive or to conquer leads to war, in which lives are lost and family members are ripped apart. If there is peace, there's no war and we don't need fighter planes. People who have experienced war have bitter feelings (towards war)." Kimura urged that this be known to younger generations who have never experienced war.

Joichiro Kaneko, a 24-year-old graduate student of Kyushu University, who had been taking notes of Kimura's testimony in silence, replied, "Young people like me will pass on your experience, and your strong feelings for peace will be handed down." The 91-year-old smiled gently at Kaneko's response.

(Japanese original by Emi Aoki, Kyushu News Department)

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