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Double A-bomb survivor attends peace ceremonies with deep emotion for 'last time'

Kinuyo Fukui places her hands together in tribute after the end of the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)

NAGASAKI -- Kinuyo Fukui, a 90-year-old "double hibakusha" who survived the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, attended the Nagasaki peace memorial ceremony on the 76th anniversary of the bombings on Aug. 9. Just three days earlier, she had joined the Hiroshima ceremony for the first time as the bereaved sibling of her late brother Kuniyoshi Aikawa, who also survived both bombings before passing away in 2017 at the age of 84.

    "This will be my last time," Fukui said, reflecting on her trip from her home in the northern Japan prefecture of Aomori to the two A-bombed cities.

    Kinuyo and Kuniyoshi were born in Nagasaki and after their parents divorced, they moved with their father to Hiroshima. When he went to war, they began living by themselves.

    On Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Kinuyo was aged 14 and her brother was 12. They were exposed to the bomb while staying at the home of a friend of their father. The siblings wandered about as flames engulfed the city, and they spent the night among countless corpses and wounded people. With nowhere to turn, they decided to head to their hometown of Nagasaki, and got on a train at Hiroshima Station. They arrived in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, only to experience the second atomic bombing. They passed near the hypocenter and saw hellish scenes similar to those they had witnessed in Hiroshima three days earlier, before taking refuge at a relative's house.

    After the war, Kinuyo's father was demobilized. After living with him and others in Tokyo, she moved to Aomori, where her husband's hometown was located. Fearing discrimination and prejudice, she hid the fact that she had been exposed to radiation from the bombings. But following the deaths of her husband and Kuniyoshi, she came to face her memories.

    Following the memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 this year, Kinuyo visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. There she saw for the first time a sketchbook in which Kuniyoshi had portrayed his experiences in the bombing. "They were brutal memories that we siblings didn't want to recall. But I became painfully aware of the feelings of my brother who was compelled to keep records of us surviving with all our strength," she said. She was unable to hold back tears when she saw the sketchbook on display.

    At the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony on Aug. 9, Kinuyo placed her hands together in tribute at 11:02 a.m., the time the atomic bomb exploded over the city, and shook in grief.

    "It was my third time to participate in the ceremony so I thought I'd be all right. But all in all, it's tough." In her mind, she saw images of Kuniyoshi, who got lonely easily. "I'll probably go to be with him soon," she said. "When that happens we two siblings will start bickering again."

    (Japanese original by In Tanaka, Nagasaki Bureau)

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