ISHIKAWA -- Hiroaki Naito, a 37-year-old Tokyo resident, was surprised to learn from a Mainichi Shimbun article about his grandfather's story as an A-bomb survivor, and took to Twitter to describe his reaction. Now, Hiroaki has spoken to the Mainichi Shimbun about how it felt coming to terms with realizing for the first time that he is a third-generation survivor of the atomic bombing.
Hiroaki's grandfather, Yoshiji Naito, 95, was born in Tsurugi (present-day Hakusan), Ishikawa Prefecture. Following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he was assigned to corpse recovery duties for the military. He was 19 at the time. After the war, Yoshiji helped form the Ishikawa prefectural atomic bomb survivor's association, but he later withdrew from its activities and has not spoken publicly about his experiences.
For Hiroaki, who left his parents' home in Tsurugi when he entered high school and now works in Tokyo, the atomic bombing was something distant from his life. He only ever heard once directly from Yoshiji about his A-bomb experience. When Hiroaki was in the upper grades of elementary school or junior high school, he and his older sister were called into the living room, and Yoshiji talked about mourning the dead and rescuing the injured in the aftermath of the atomic bombing. Hiroaki also remembers seeing part of his grandfather's memoirs from that time.
"I thought it was a little scary to think that my grandfather was actually there mourning the dead. I felt that it (the atomic bombing) had really happened," Hiroaki said.
In November 2020, Hiroaki's mother told him about the article on Yoshiji that had been posted online. He found out things he didn't know through the news story, such as that Yoshiji was a member of an A-bomb survivors' organization but later distanced himself from the group to protect his family from prejudice. The A-bomb experience was never a topic of conversation in his family, and he was not actually aware that his grandfather was an A-bomb survivor. It was his first time encountering the term "third-generation A-bomb survivor," and that he was one of them.
Hiroaki wrote on Twitter, "I didn't know he was a member of an A-bomb survivors' association," and " I learned the details from the news, which I wouldn't have known if I had missed it. The family probably wouldn't want to talk about it though, so it can't be helped."
A friend who read the tweet and whose relative was exposed to the atomic bombing in Nagasaki replied to Hiroaki that they had never been told about the experience of the bombing.
"I didn't know that there was prejudice (against A-bomb survivors) in Ishikawa until I read the article. I thought he was protecting his children and grandchildren by not talking," Hiroaki wrote.
He was hesitant to write about his family's experience of the atomic bombing on Twitter, where he had mainly enjoyed writing anonymously about his hobbies. He felt that he might become a target of discrimination.
"I was concerned that by sending out the information, the discrimination that had been contained would reappear," Hiroaki said.
Despite his anxiety, he tweeted, "Because not many people are aware of the war, I want everyone to know that these things actually happened."
Due to the coronavirus, Hiroaki has not been able to see his grandfather for over a year. Once the infectious disease is under control, he plans to return to Tsurugi, and hear about what Yoshiji saw in Hiroshima and what happened afterwards.
(Japanese original by Chinatsu Ide, Hokuriku General Bureau)