Aug. 6, 1945 is a day that will live on in the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child in Japan. This day is forever remembered in history as the day the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Sept. 15, the USF community learned the stories of two women, Junko Kayashige and Yano Miyako, both survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. They are traveling throughout the United States to speak about their courageous survivals and to spread support of disarming nuclear weapons.
Kayashige and Miyako relate their stories in an attempt to raise awareness about the horrifying consequences of using nuclear weapons. Miyako wrote in her statement, “I believe that A-bombs were dropped not on Hiroshima and Nagasaki alone, but on the entire humanity. We have no choice but to abolish nuclear weapons, which can be used only for wars.” The two women shared their testimonies with the USF community on Sept. 15, ultimately hoping to gain support with their petitions to for eliminating nuclear weapons throughout the world.
Kayashige was the first survivor to speak about her experience with the bombing. She was born in 1939 in the second district of Yokogawa town in Hiroshima City, one of six children. Before the bombing, Kayashige, her mother, and her four sisters left the city to join an acquaintance in a rural area to avoid the air raids. Even though they tried to avoid the air raids, they were still affected by it.
On Aug. 6, 1945, Kayashige and her family were warned of the air raids that were taking place. Her mom and her eleven month old baby sister went to visit a relative’s home in the town of Itsukaichi, while her twelve-year-old sister Michiko was sent to get ice for the home refrigerator. The rest of her family was in different parts of the city when the bomb was dropped.
Kayashige was knocked unconscious with the impact of the bomb. She said that she awoke on the soil of her uncle’s floor, and that everything was destroyed. Fortunately, her Uncle’s house managed to stay upright, but the houses around them had collapsed. Kayashige’s face, neck, and right arm were burnt from the heat of the atomic bomb. When Kayashige and her sister stepped outside of their home, they saw an old woman crying for help because she was trapped under a fallen stone wall. Her daughter-in-law tried to help her escape, but the wall was too heavy for one person to lift. Kayashige and her sister were directed by their aunt to stay while she found something to use to tie a child on her back, but Kayashige was so terrified of the other houses catching fire that she ran away.
The sister who was working at the construction site for school in Fuchu-cho was found by the father and brought home on a board by bicycle. Her back was badly burned and she was exposed to radiation as well. Maggots fed on the sister’s back and pressed against the nerves. Kayashige’s mother and other sisters picked the maggots by hands until she died.
The family still does not know where Michiko, the twelve-year-old sister, died. Since they had no idea where to find her, Kayashige’s mother kept saying “I did a pitiful thing to her” for the rest of her life.
At sixty nine years old, Kayashige still has marks from the atomic bomb blast on her body. A couple of years ago, there was a time where she lost her voice and was unable to do simple chores such as chop vegetables in the kitchen. She got examined by her doctor and the doctor found that the hormone level was low in her thyroid. She decided to submit a claim, and the Japanese government admitted that the disease was a result from experiencing the bombing.
Yano Miyako was fourteen years old when the atomic bomb hit. On that morning, she felt sick and stayed at home, which was four kilometers south of the epicenter. When she was on the first floor of her house with her family, they saw a flash of light in the sky. The rest of the family except for Miyako (who stayed in the house), ran in the air raid shelter.
Miyako was blown off the mat she was sitting on. She describes that after the blast, she saw a brilliant red circle. She described the mushroom cloud as mixture of “red, yellow, orange, and purple.” She added that the sky became really dark and hot which resulted in black rain pouring down.
The injuries that Miyako suffered during that atomic bombing include shards of broken glass in her legs, which she could not feel during that time because she was in panic. She had three pieces removed from her right leg a few years later, but there are still fragments in her left leg.
Hearing about these devastating accounts affected students like Alice Mielke, who after attending the lecture said, “It is very important to see first–hand views of people that were actually there during the bombing. The radiation that was spread from the atomic bomb is still living with those people today, and people in the United States need to become fully aware of this.” Mielke, like others who attended the lecture, was able to get a small glimpse into the lives of these survivors.
The goal of this lecture was to expand the discussion of nuclear war, its devastating impacts and the threat that it continues to pose. Jackie Cabasso, coordinator of Mayors for Peace North American, spoke out about the dreams of living in a nuclear weapon-free world. Cabasso presented ideas and options for involvement to stop the world from being infested with nuclear weapons. She pointed out, “Nearly 26,000 nuclear weapons still threaten our lives today.” It is the work of people such as Cabasso, Kayashige and Miyako that heighten awareness about nuclear warfare. For more information and how to get involved, visit these suggested websites: