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The worst and the best times of hiroshima

By Vibeke Venema 24 July 2014 Shinji Mikamo lost everything when the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, except his father's watch. He did not blame the Americans for the cataclysm though - and later, when the watch was stolen, he showed his daughter once again his powers of forgiveness. As a child, when the family bathed together, in the Japanese way, Akiko Mikamo never asked about her father's missing ear or the scars on her parents' bodies.

But Akiko grew up listening to her father's stories of that day, which she has now collected in a book. Above all, he always taught her it was wrong to hate: People's unwillingness to understand those with different values - that's to blame.

'Is There Anyone Alive?': 7 Stories From Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The last half hour Summers in Hiroshima were suffocating, and the morning of 6 August 1945 was no different from any other - hot and humid. Shinji Mikamo had taken the day off from his work as an apprentice electrician in the army to help his father clear their home, which was soon to be demolished. Months of air raids had caused devastating fires in cities across Japan, so the government had decided to create firebreaks.

The Mikamos' house was one of those to be flattened. Shinji's mother, Nami, who was gravely ill, had been evacuated to the countryside, and his older brother Takaji was fighting in the Philippines. So 19-year-old Shinji and his father were living alone in the city. Before long Shinji himself was due to end his apprenticeship and join the army, so he too would most likely move away. They set to work after the usual war-time breakfast of millet the worst and the best times of hiroshima barnyard grass porridge.

Shinji climbed up to the roof to remove the clay tiles. Neighbours had offered the homeless pair a room, but there was no toilet. They needed the tiles to make a roof for an outhouse. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. From his vantage point Shinji looked out over the gleaming city. Down in the yard, Fukuichi called up to his son not to day-dream. Shinji quickened his pace. It was at least five times bigger and 10 times brighter than the sun.

It was hurtling directly towards me, a powerful flame that was a remarkable pale yellow, almost the colour of white. I was surrounded by the loudest thunder I had ever heard. It was the sound of the universe exploding. In that instant, I felt a searing pain that spread through my entire body. It was as if a bucket of boiling water had been dumped over my body and scoured my skin.

  • Looking out to sea, they were looking directly towards Japan;
  • He felt it contained a part of his father's soul;
  • It is, after all, difficult to distinguish a single drop of rain in the midst of a hurricane.

He became aware of his father's voice calling, coming closer. Although he was 63 years old, Fukuichi was strong - he pulled his son from under the rubble and put out the flames that were licking his body. Shinji's chest and the right side of his body were completely burned. The raw flesh underneath was a strange yellow colour, like the surface of a sweet cake his mother used to make. After the apocalypse "My father and I looked at each other, frozen," Shinji says.

The city around them had disappeared, reduced to ash and rubble. Shinji couldn't understand what had happened. Had the sun exploded? His father guessed the real cause immediately. There was no time to stand and talk, though. The ruined city was now on fire and they had to take refuge.

Shinji and Fukuichi headed through the unfamiliar post-nuclear landscape to the river. While there, as bodies floated past face-down, they soon witnessed another strange and terrifying phenomenon. The many fires across the city had created storm-force winds which now combined in a tornado - "a dark monster", remembers Shinji - that sucked up everything in its path.

It picked the worst and the best times of hiroshima and threw down parts of collapsed houses, furniture, even water from the river. As it approached, people clung to whatever they could for safety. This new world was hard to understand, but once the fire and tornado had died down, Shinji and his father set off across a bridge in search of shelter. Walking was agony, not only because of his burned flesh, but because of the large numbers of dead and dying bodies on the ground.

  1. It is an important measure of nuclear threats. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Henry Stimson because of its religious and symbolic importance.
  2. Two days later, soldiers came to take Shinji to a field hospital.
  3. When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they sliced through what had once been an elite army and many Russian units only stopped when they ran out of gas.

Every step or so, I would unintentionally hit an arm or a leg and hear the person below me wince in pain.

I felt like a vulture. Crossing that bridge, and leaving all those wounded people behind to die," Shinji says. I did my best to follow exactly in my father's footsteps, hoping and believing he would know the path to save us both. Out of its 45 hospitals only three still functioned. There was no help. Fully exposed on the roof, Shinji had been only three-quarters of a mile from the epicentre of the explosion.

Shinji attributes his survival mostly to his father's strength.

  • Just a bit more to go;
  • To get out into the yard, we were treading on the shattered glass barefooted;
  • Although their verbal report was delivered to the military on Aug;
  • Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on Aug;
  • Strategic significance If the Japanese were not concerned with city bombing in general or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in particular, what were they concerned with?
  • The watch was his only link to a family that had been wiped out.

Whenever he wanted to give up, Fukuichi scolded him. When they were too weak to walk, he and his father would crawl instead. It took hours to cover short distances. He pleaded with his father to let him die - but Fukuichi was resolute: Don't say that word so lightly. As long as you stay alive, you will recover one day. The day will come.

Just a bit more to go. Returning again to the district where they had lived, they were recognised by Shinji's friend and fellow army apprentice, Teruo. As a civilian employed by the army, Shinji had some privileges, so Teruo was able to start pulling strings to get him evacuated for treatment. As he and his father had made their way down from the Toshogu Shrine, two soldiers had barred their way, and told them to go back up the steps - an agonising prospect. When Fukuichi protested, one of the soldiers spat in his face and told him to go to hell.

  • Four days later and four more cities have been attacked;
  • Our brother was in another room.

In a society where the elderly were revered, this was deeply shocking, and yet Fukuichi had held in his anger and turned away - staying alive was more important. Steps at the Toshogu Shrine, Hiroshima present day It took them hours to make their way out through the back of the shrine, down a slope covered in prickly bushes and the splintered remains of wooden gate-posts.

Shinji cursed the soldiers with every painful step. Shinji just couldn't understand how the soldiers could have treated them like that. Consumed with anger and hatred, he turned to his father for an explanation. Maybe even worse than the American bombers. No wonder we see demons. Shinji was forced to accept that goodness still existed. He fell asleep that night with tears of relief in his eyes, imagining the face of the Buddha.

Two days later, soldiers came to take Shinji to a field hospital. Father and son had survived for five days wandering together through post-apocalypse Hiroshima, but now they had to part. Hiroshima bomb victims, 1945 When Shinji arrived in the hospital, the wounds on his leg were now badly infected and needed draining of pus and maggots. His greatest pain, however, came from bed sores caused by days of lying on the ground.

One morning, a hospital volunteer noticed him wincing, and promised she the worst and the best times of hiroshima bring him some pillows from home. The hope he felt at her promise soon turned to anger and despair as he waited all day for her return. But she did come back, late in the evening, with the promised pillows - she had been unavoidably delayed. He became determined never to make that mistake again. It was 16 August, a week after a second atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki.

Japan had surrendered on 14 August. The war had ended. Fragment from the past Shinji was released from hospital in October 1945.

The man who survived Hiroshima:

A month earlier he had managed to send a postcard to his mother to let her know he was still alive. Now he went in search of his father.

He found the ruins of their old home - identifiable thanks to the distinctive patterns on the family's shattered rice bowls. Sifting through the charred remains, he made a heart-stopping discovery - a familiar round disk, caked with dirt and soot.

I recognised our house key chained to it. I turned the watch face up. The glass had been blown off, as had the watch hands. The metal was rusted and burned.

The unimaginable intense heat that reached several thousand degrees Fahrenheit from the blast had fused the shadows of the hands into the face of the timepiece, slightly displaced, leaving distinct marks where the hands had been at the moment of the explosion. It was enough to clearly see the exact moment the watch stopped. The thought hit him "like another atomic blast", he says.

Standing on the ruins of his home, wearing someone else's clothes, he thought of the beautiful photographs taken by his father, a professional photographer. These were now ash beneath his feet.