TOKYO -- A picture book based on the experience of a woman who lost her father and older sister in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 77 years ago has been created by her friend following the woman's death in 2018.
In creating the book, children's author Minako Mieda, 55, a resident of the Nagano Prefecture town of Ikeda, fulfilled a promise to Eiko Ono, who was 6 years old at the time of the bombing.
"The scars of war are not limited to getting injured directly. I want people to feel how deeply it scars the lives of ordinary people," Mieda said.
The book published in August is titled "Saigo no Asa Gohan," or the last breakfast. It is based on the last breakfast that Ono, who had been engaged in storytelling activities in Chiba Prefecture after the war, had with her family on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945 -- the day the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The story follows the protagonist and her mother on the morning of the bombing and the aftermath -- "After finishing breakfast, I was playing in the water bath at home when I saw the flash of the atomic bomb. I was hit by the blast and trapped in the rubble, but was soon rescued. The next day, however, my mother left me behind and went out to look for my older sister Yoko who had gone to school and my father, as if I were not there. When my mother learns of their deaths, she heads for Miyajima, the island Yoko had wanted to visit."
The story is based on "Memoir of Flames," which Ono compiled and published from the journals of her mother, Nobuko Yamamoto, a second-generation Japanese American immigrant born in Hawaii. Yamamoto wrote her memoir in English two years after the atomic bombing to let people around the world know about the devastation of Hiroshima. She was reportedly going to send her compilation to the U.S. magazine Time. After her mother's death, Ono found this memoir among her belongings, and in order to fulfill her mother's wish, she made a booklet of it and distributed it at international conferences and other occasions.
Yamamoto's memoir described her struggles. Out of regret for having survived, she headed to Miyajima with Ono to be with her husband and elder daughter. She tried to kill herself and her daughter by getting into the sea, but when she saw her daughter playing in the water, "I felt she had as much right to live as any other child." She also wrote of the pain that her beloved U.S., where she was born and raised, took her family's life, and her hatred for the atomic bombing.
Mieda, who has created works on such themes as Minamata disease, was asked by Ono to produce a picture book about her. In addition to Yamamoto's memoir, Mieda interviewed Ono about her A-bomb experience and decided to reconstruct the story from her perspective as a young child. When the book was released online last August, it received about 50,000 hits and eventually was published as a printed book.
According to Ono's 52-year-old daughter, Ono's A-bomb testimony focused on her older sister's story, and there were few opportunities to pay attention to the feelings of her young self. However, the daughter said that even as a young child, Ono was aware of Yamamoto's attempt to take her own life.
Ono's daughter said, "I think my mother wanted people to understand how she felt as a young girl. I am glad that (Mieda) realized the pain she had been carrying and gave it shape."
"The mother made an effort to survive, but she continues to think about Yoko, who passed away, and in the book she and Ms. Ono do not face each other," Mieda said. "I want people to know that the survivors also suffered."
The picture book is priced at 700 yen (about $5) including tax, excluding shipping. It can be purchased at the online store Creema at https://www.creema.jp/item/14405884/detail (in Japanese). Yamamoto's memoir is available on its website at https://honoo-no-memoir.themedia.jp/
(Japanese original by Kayo Mukuda, Tokyo City News Department)