HIROSHIMA -- Yoshiaki Minoo, who often spoke about what he saw here after entering the city following the atomic bombing, never went anywhere near the bomb site again before he passed away in 2016 at the age of 87. But his 61-year-old son, Mitsuyoshi, a representative of the bereaved families of A-bomb victims in Wakayama Prefecture, took part in the peace memorial ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing for the first time this year.
"I will carry on and pass down the experience that my father passed down to me," he said.
A 16-year-old aspiring military physician at the time of the bombing, Yoshiaki was a student at Kamo Kaigun Eisei Gakko, a school that produced nurses, doctors and other health professionals for the Imperial Japanese Navy, located in what is now the western Japan city of Higashihiroshima. Several days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Yoshiaki was dispatched by his school to the city center in a truck, where he took part in the rescue of those who suffered injuries, and in the process was exposed to radiation from the bomb.
Following the war, many of his fellow classmates became doctors, but Yoshiaki returned to his home prefecture of Wakayama, also in western Japan, and started a seal shop, which Mitsuyoshi now runs. Mitsuyoshi recalls that whenever relatives got together at the family home in Wakayama, Yoshiaki talked about what he saw on his rescue missions.
"It was so painful to try to return internal organs that had fallen out back into the belly," Yoshiaki would say, or "When I raised a person's arm to treat them, their wounds were teeming with maggots."
Having heard the same stories over and over again, Mitsuyoshi would sometimes stop his father in the middle of a story and tell him that enough was enough. He was never over-excited to hear his father's stories, but now when he looks back on it, he's able to entertain the possibility that his father's sense of helplessness in Hiroshima had led him to make a career choice that he had not originally intended.
About six years before Yoshiaki passed away, he suddenly started to say that he wanted to go to Hiroshima. The entire family participated in a tour that went around war relics across Japan. In the Hiroshima Prefecture city of Etajima, they visited a former naval academy, which must have jogged Yoshiaki's memory, for he nostalgically started singing a marching song.
However, Yoshiaki had no interest in going to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. An invitation to the Aug. 6 peace memorial ceremony in Hiroshima arrived at their home every year, but he showed no interest in that, either.
Yoshiaki never explained why he didn't want to go anywhere near the bomb site, but Mitsuyoshi has a hunch. "He may have been fearful that the sights he saw shortly after the bombing would come rushing back to him," he said. And maybe that's why he at least wanted to let his son know what he had seen in those days after the bombing. Eventually, Mitsuyoshi began to believe that his father had entrusted his A-bomb experience to him.
This year, Mitsuyoshi attended the peace memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 with a photograph of his father and a flag made by his father's classmates at the Kamo kaigun eisei school.
"I'm so glad to have been able to attend with my father's soul," Mitsuyoshi said. "I want to pass down my father's experience to the next generation without changing it, as much as possible, not just to my family, but to others."
(Japanese original by Azusa Hinata, Hokuriku General Bureau)