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Hibakusha: Man who hid Hiroshima experience from son writing book for next generation

Morimasa Takei is seen at home in Kumatori, Osaka Prefecture, on July 19, 2019, showing the atomic bombing material he compiled while he talks about his experiences in the Hiroshima blast. (Mainichi/Sakae Toda)

KUMATORI, Osaka -- A Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor who poured his efforts into nurturing a local orchestra he established in the city of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, is writing a book on his memories of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, and its aftereffects.

Although the bombing led Morimasa Takei, 92, to hide the truth about his experiences out of fear for being shunned by potential marriage partners and out of consideration for his children and grandchildren, he is now committed to writing about what happened. "It is beyond the imagination of people today. If I write it down, it'll become an opportunity for someone to think about these things," he said and turned toward a computer.

Originally from the city of Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, west Japan, Takei enrolled at the Hiroshima Higher Technical School (Now Hiroshima University) in spring 1944.

During the final stages of the Pacific War in 1945, Takei was working in rocket artillery manufacturing at Mitsubishi Machinery Works in Hiroshima as a part of student mobilization efforts.

On the morning of Aug. 6, Takei was on his way to work when he realized he'd forgotten the manufacturing plans he needed. The atomic bomb fell when he was in his dormitory room some 2.7 kilometers from the blast's hypocenter.

"There was something like a shot of lightning from the window. Actually, no. Lightning is just for an instant, but this light lasted for a long time. Then, this great, terrible sound and a blast came rushing forward. Many shards of glass pierced the top half of my body," he said.

Fortunately his wounds were not fatal. When he left the dormitory, he found himself in a living hell. He saw people whose skin was hanging from their bodies, others whose faces had swollen up from burns, and corpses.

"There were so many women and children. I saw the bodies of children lined up in the schoolyard of an elementary school, too. They were caught in the blast during a morning assembly. The men had gone off to the battlefield. It was so cruel," Takei said.

After the war he suffered with a number of ailments due to the effects of his exposure to radiation from the atomic bomb. But he kept them hidden, and worked at a shipyard.

His father had been a soldier and was passed over for employment in postwar Japan due to attitudes about the military's involvement in the country's loss. The situation meant Takei couldn't avoid looking for work, and he ended up moving his mother and two younger sisters from their hometown to provide for them.

After a series of experiences including the bankruptcy of the Hiroshima-based company he worked for, Takei started a job at a textile spinner manufacturer in the city of Izumisano in 1952.

At this job, he also hid his hibakusha status. "I worried that my employer would think of me as the kind of person who could fall ill," he said.

He had several meetings with potential marriage partners, but said, "When it came to marriage, I would let them know implicitly I was affected in Hiroshima. They all refused me. They didn't say outright that it was because I'm a hibakusha, but ..."

Due to his injuries from the atomic bomb, he couldn't move his ring and mid finger on his left hand well. To rehabilitate them he took up guitar practice, and ended up getting absorbed in music, going on to self-teach himself instruments including the violin.

It led him to help establish a local citizens' orchestra. Eventually he and a female co-worker at the factory started a family together. But he didn't tell their only son about his experiences in Hiroshima. He was afraid that he would worry about the irradiation's potential effects on his genes.

One day his son, who now works as a teacher in the local area, came to learn about his father's past. Around 15 years ago the son asked Takei to come to elementary and junior high schools to tell young people his story.

From then, Takei began to participate in testimonial activism, and some years ago he began to write down his experiences in a handbook.

"When you leave the truth in writing, you still only communicate some small part of it. The experiences of the hibakusha are like that. But, even so, I am happy to continue getting the message out," Takei said.

(Japanese original by Sakae Toda, Osaka Bureau)

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