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Hibakusha: Ex-baseball star Harimoto recalls mom's silent grief after Hiroshima A-bomb

Isao Harimoto is seen speaking about his family, with an image labeling some of its members in the foreground, in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2020. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

To start the Hibakusha 2020 series, which looks back on the lives of people affected by the U.S. military atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the Mainichi Shimbun spoke first with former professional baseball player and commentator Isao Harimoto, 79, about how his family was affected by the Aug. 6 Hiroshima atomic bombing.

"There are people who may want to hold onto things, to remember and feel nostalgic. They tear up. But my mother wanted to forget. I think she wanted to completely erase her memories of that day," he said, looking back on the effect the bombing had on his mother.

Harimoto, a second-generation Korean-Japanese, was just 5 years old when he was caught up in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. From his current home in Tokyo, he recounted his memories while back on his sofa and looking up into space.

Isao Harimoto is seen speaking about his life in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2020. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

A black and white photograph of his family stood on a table by his side. In the photo next to Harimoto, who is seen wearing a baseball cap and was then attending elementary school, is his mother Pak Sun Bun, who is dressed in a traditional Korean chima jeogori.

Pak Sun Bun, who died in 1985 aged 83, grew up in the Korean Peninsula under Japanese rule. She crossed the sea to Japan just before she turned 40. The loss of her husband to illness and eldest daughter to the atomic bomb made her work hard for her three remaining children.

A photo of Isao Harimoto's family and a friend taken after the war is seen in this image provided by Isao Harimoto. Counter clockwise from left sits a young Isao Harimoto, his mother Pak Sun Bun, his older sister Aiko Kobayashi and his older brother Seye Ol.

Talking about his older sister, who attended a contemporary form of junior high school at the time of the bombing, Harimoto said, "She was fair-skinned and tall. We were proud of our big sister." But his mother burned all the photos of her daughter, and not a single strand of her hair remained to remember her by. She remained silent about her until the end.

In the photograph, taken after the war, his mother is surrounded by her children, and a smile plays on her lips. Harimoto said, "My mother suffered. She looked after us all by herself, burdened with such painful memories."

(Japanese original by Tetsuya Hirakawa, Hiroshima Bureau)

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