11 Visiting the UK

In 1999, I sent my picture taken in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims to Keiko Holmes with the greetings of the New Year. A few days later, I got a fax from her, which said that some members of a British-Japanese grassroots exchange group would come to the UK and meet with former British prisoners-of-war and their families in May. She asked me to come with them and talk about my experience of the A-bombing. I could not immediately make up my mind to go. However, when I remembered the people walking quietly around the Cenotaph in Hiroshima whispering to each other, “Quietly. Quietly with care…,” I wanted to meet them again.

I met Koshi Miyagawa, a leader of the exchange group, for the first time at Narita Airport on June 29. He explained the details of how the group members have kept up exchanges with former British POWs. Only I had no experience as a member. Although I felt anxious, I decided to tell about Hiroshima and got on the plane. I folded paper cranes with traditional Japanese chiyogami paper all the way in the airplane.

When we arrived at Waterloo Station on the evening of July 1, I saw the Union Jacks flapping among high-rise buildings. In 1943, when I started to go to elementary school, this Union Jack pattern was repeatedly shown when we were told that America and Britain were brutal. I got rigid and painfully understood Asian people’s hatred toward the flag of the Rising Sun.

On opening the heavy door of the Union Jack Club, the group members found their old acquaintances and started talking. I was alone. A gentle-looking old lady came to me and said, “Oh dear, you read the poem for us in Hiroshima, didn’t you?” She took my hand and said, “My father was a POW taken by the Imperial Japanese Army, but I changed my view toward Japan after I went to Hiroshima. I stopped hating Japan.”

As the program did not go as planned, I could not get a chance to talk about Hiroshima. But I could fully realize that Keiko Holmes was trying hard to make a chance for me.

During the reconciliation service, a veteran said, “Keiko, as a member of the Allied Forces, I feel responsibility for having dropped the A-bombs. Please forgive us.”

All the people there held hands with each other and started singing. “Amazing Grace” echoed, mingling in the dome of the basilica.

(Meeting with AGAPE members in Waterloo)


12 Speaking one-on-one

The purpose of our grass-root delegation to the U.K. was mutual understanding and exchange. I therefore believed it would be better to refrain from anti-war messages or speaking about the abolition of nuclear weapons in public. Ms. Keiko Holmes, however, had been devoting herself to transforming the views of the British people who had been abused by the former Japanese Army from one of victimization to one of forgiveness, thus leading to our joint search for the path to world peace.

Being in such a large group, it was not easy for me to approach Keiko about my own personal mission. I was frustrated because I had come to the U.K. to convey the message of Hiroshima.

The chance to tell her my true desire came rather unexpectedly. She had been invited to a party at the Japanese Embassy and asked for my help in putting on her kimono for the occasion. I jumped at this chance and hurried to her room.

I told her that my trip would be in vain if I did not get a chance to convey the message of Hiroshima, and that I wanted at least to hand out the written English version of my A-bomb experience testimony to the British people.

Through this conversation, I came to understand that Keiko was even more frustrated than I was with the situation.

My first name is also Keiko, so the people I met easily remembered my name and called me “another Keiko.” Furthermore, they gradually learned that I was an A-bomb survivor.

Day by day, more and more people spoke to me, calling me “another Keiko.” They asked, “Is it true you experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima? If you don’t mind, would you please tell me your story?” Before coming, I had thought that I would be able to tell of my A-bomb experience in front of a large audience. However, I learned that it is also important to talk with people one-on-one and decided to start carrying my written A-bomb testimony with me at all times.

After meals or during teatime, while on buses or walking in the park, I had a lot of chances to talk about my experience.

After I came back to Japan, I received many letters saying, “I read your A-bomb testimony. Britain was one of the allied countries which dropped the atomic bomb. Those who wage war are criminals” or “Thanks to you, I learned that the suffering of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was more tragic than that of POWs. Through our reconciliation, I hope to continue to live out the rest of my life in peace.”

(To British Embassy with Keiko Holmes)

13 The UK

The Letter from a Former POW

I received a letter from England about a month after returning from the UK.

The letter read:

“I was a British soldier taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army. I was forced to do laborious work in the Kingdom of Thailand by the Army. In the final days of the war, I was moved to a prison camp in Fukuoka, Japan. Soon after the A-bombing on Hiroshima, I was sent and made to work to clear the burned city. The city was burned ruins as far as I could see and people were wounded. Everything was too horrible for words. Several days later, Japan surrendered and we were released from hard work. However, on orders from the American Occupation Forces we were forcibly taken to Okinawa to have examinations of X-ray, blood, stool and urine. We were examined thoroughly, but never told that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was an atomic bomb. Coming back to England one year later, I got to know that it was an A-bomb. I had forgotten about the A-bomb until I read your memoir, because I had no physical problems. I am also a hibakusha, aren’t I? Only God knows how many years I have left. I would like to spend the rest of my life peacefully and simply.”

I had met so many people in the UK that I couldn’t tell who he was. Keiko Holmes replied to my inquiry, “He was very withdrawn into himself when I first met him. In recent years he sometimes cracks jokes. Don’t you remember the person who barked a command in Japanese?”

Then I remembered the person. He started barking a command in Japanese as soon as he said, “I can speak Japanese. Let me show you.” “Kiotsukee! (Attention!) Bangoh! (Number!) Ichi! (One!) Ni! (Two!) San! (Three!) Shi! (Four!) Goh! (Five!) Isoge! (Hurry!) Hayaku! (Quick!) Damedame! (No!)” Crying out those Japanese words, he held back a flood of tears. The phrase, “Victims are sensitive. Perpetrators are not,” crossed my mind.

Since then, I have made it a rule to have young people in Hiroshima meet the former POWs, their families and bereaved families while they are visiting Hiroshima. When the young people welcome them, they sometimes greet them with a brass band or hand bells playing English folk music. I think Japanese young people have come to face up to their history these days.

(At Backingham Palace)

(Listen to stories by POWs at Hiroshima Jogakuin High )

14 The UK

Postwar of Japanese and British POWs

Sometimes I think about a Japanese soldier who was detained in Siberia. When he returned to Hiroshima, his brother had died in the A-bombing, and in the city reduced to ashes, he saw many people who were suffering from burns and physical aftereffects of radiation. He couldn’t avert his eyes from them, nor could he stare at them. After a while, he decided to appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons from Hiroshima. There are some people who have no children, but there are no children who don’t have mothers. As he was a painter, he kept painting mother-and-child pictures. We can see his appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the touch of his warm colors. His sketches secretly brought back from Siberia are in his picture collection, which was published more than 50 years after the end of war.

By the way, I had Ms. Keiko Holmes as a guest at my home. She has been working hard to heal former British POWs. I asked neighbors to gather to hear her story. They were curious to hear that she was decorated by Queen ElizabethⅡ. But she said to us, “Please don’t see me as a special person. I am not rich, just an ordinary citizen. I’m working hard because I believe that mutual understanding and reconciliation will make the realization of world peace. ”

That night, I told the story of my A-bomb experience only to Keiko. Since then, together with my friends, I have been supporting her activities for world peace each time she comes to Hiroshima, though I don’t remember which of us planned that first.

Now every autumn, former British POWs visit Hiroshima. Our arrangement is as follows-first they visit the Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims. Then they tell their experiences at a public meeting, so that high school students and citizens can hear them. We give them a tour of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and A-bomb Monuments to tell about Hiroshima. Through that program, we have come to see their process to become healed gradually.

As I moved to Ushiku City three years ago, I haven’t seen that painter for a long time. But when there is a big peace event held, I tell the story as an A-bomb survivor, seeing his picture that the Hiroshima YWCA owns. That is my little dedication for his healing. I heard he became ill lately. Maybe he is over 80 years old. I wonder if he has been healed. These days, I’ve been thinking to dedicate my words to him, who was a POW in Siberia.

(With Keiko Holmes and my friends)

15 India and Pakistan

Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda

In May, 1998, India and Pakistan both successfully carried out nuclear tests.

The next spring, I joined a meeting attended by some people who had visited those countries. At that meeting, we decided to invite youths from both countries to Hiroshima to give them a chance to learn about the facts of the A-bombing. At that time, I got a documentary film called “Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda”, which received an award at the Tokyo Global Environmental Film Festival in 2000. The film shows the true story of uranium ore mine laborers in Jadugoda, near Buddha’s birthplace, who were exposed to radioactivity.

Indian and Pakistani authorities congratulated themselves on their nuclear test’s successes and said that Buddha was smiling. However, the director of the film, Mr. Shri Prakash, said, “Buddha is weeping because those countries have joined the nuclear club.” After that, he titled the film “Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda”.

In May, 2001, more than fifty members from the meeting started raising funds and showing the film nationwide. We asked educational facilities and media in both countries to select 10 people who could come to Hiroshima for peace study. We also arranged their accommodation in Hiroshima. We had to begin from scratch, but our solidarity toward the abolition of nuclear weapons helped collect our wisdom.

Due to the good response from citizens. thanks to the cooperation and understanding from the media, we raised a great amount of funds However, we had to keep an eye on spending, for we didn’t know how much we would need.

The peace study started on August, 3rd. There were many activities - visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the Memorial Mound; touring various monuments; attending lectures by doctors of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation; paying a visit to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital, the A-bomb Survivors Hospital and the Hiroshima A-bomb Survivors Nursing Home and sharing the time with A-bomb survivors listening to their testimonies. It was hard for the young people to understand about Hiroshima due to their belief in nuclear deterrence. Furthermore, the heat and humidity of the Hiroshima summer made them almost scream. We too took great pains preparing their meals because many of them were Muslim or vegetarian.

On August 6th, I took the young people to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. We shared a moment of silence, while the Peace Bell rang at 8:15 a.m., the exact time the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. After the ceremony, the youths all said to reporters, “Nuclear weapons are not necessary for human beings.” At that moment, we felt a great achievement for our campaign.

We heard that they started a movement to tell about Hiroshima after they went back to their countries. However, they seem to be struggling because both governments stick to the policy of nuclear deterrence.

(Young people from India, Pakistan and Japan)

16 India and Pakistan

From Hostility to Friendship

The campaign that started in 2001 to have the youths of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan study about Hiroshima continued the following year, too. In 2003, we invited American youths to join, feeling that Americans, who are intoxicated with their nuclear superiority, should study more than anybody else.

Any event, whatever it is, has little difficulty in drawing attention when it starts and fundraising goes smoothly. Our third year program started anyway, but not without problems. Our campaign was already known to people, but we couldn’t raise enough money. Besides, some staff members left us.

I was in charge of meals of their whole stay, including the welcome and farewell parties. In order to cut down on the expenses, we needed to cook ourselves. It was obvious that the team consisted largely of vegetarians and Muslims, so we made curry in two large pots, one with meat and the other with just vegetables. We had thought the curry was more than enough for everyone, but it was all gone. Later, we learned that the media people also helped themselves.

On August 1, at 5 p.m., the youths from abroad showed up one after another at Aster Plaza. Their Japanese counterparts walked up to them for handshakes. Media cameras flashed.

Many programs for them to learn about Hiroshima were waiting. The following day, in the Peace Memorial Museum, they were exposed to the facts of the A-bombing, which far exceeded their imagination. As a conclusion of their Hiroshima study, they read A-bomb poems aloud along with Sayuri Yoshinaga, a famous actress, before Hiroshima citizens. Some of them became speechless on the stage feeling overwhelmed.

India and Pakistan were hostile to each other. America was also using force against Afghanistan, so all those visiting youths were, in a way, living in a war situation. The days spent with them made me realize that. It was painful to see the Japanese youths, who were struggling to make the Indians and Pakistanis friends.

It was a great joy for us organizers to have participation by Mr. Shri Prakash, who made a documentary film of the Jadugoda uranium mine in India, “Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda,” and a Pakistani anti-nuclear activist, Mrs. Salamat. The borderless common sense of the two was powerful enough to change the youths from the hostile countries, and they sat side-by-side at the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6th.

When they parted, they vowed to make efforts for nuclear abolition and to become friendly countries at the citizens’ level as well. Then they exchanged their email addresses.

(Offer flowers to the A-bomb Cenotaph by young Indians and Pakistanis)

17 Germany

“Why doesn’t Japan shut down its nuclear power plants?”

We didn’t make a good connection at Milan Airport, and it was after 2 a.m. that the opera singer, Asaka Watanabe, and I arrived at Dusseldorf Airport. We were met by our hostess, Hannelore Diekmann. Since it was already late at night, we exchanged brief greetings and headed for her home in Essen, which was about an hour’s drive on the Autobahn.

On the morning of April 23, 2001, we went to pay a courtesy call on the mayor. From the window of City Hall, we saw a synagogue standing with a bronze dome on its top, which has a negative history. We heard that fifty thousand Jewish people died there in the synagogue. Now, it is a Jewish museum.

We enjoyed piano performances and dances of street performers. Then, many different kinds of programs were scheduled in the afternoon.

During the following eight days, we were asked the same question many times at the school, assemblies, or churches. “Do you hate America, which dropped the atomic bombs?” Every time I was asked this question, I answered, “Hiroshima chose peace over hatred. Nuclear weapons are the evil that denies the future. Nuclear abolition is the only option we have.”

Assemblies were held almost every night. I usually had a difficult time because of the language barrier, but this time, Japanese musicians living in Germany helped us as volunteer interpreters. Thanks to them, I was able to speak about Hiroshima and have active exchanges with participants, which was fortunate for us all.

One of the participants said, “Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The nuclear accident in Tokaimura caused deaths only recently. Why doesn’t Japan learn from the past and shut down its nuclear power plants?” A man from our group answered foolishly, “But we don’t have any nuclear power plants in Hiroshima,” so I winced as if I had a bucket of water poured on me. In the next breath, a man who was almost two meters tall stood up and shouted, “Chugokudenryoku (Chugoku Electric Power Co.).” There was an awkward atmosphere for a moment. All I could say after a while was that citizens’ groups were waging movements against nuclear power plants, but it is still a long way from shutting them down because of the circumstances in the political and business world. The man remained standing said, “It is citizens themselves who protect lives of citizens. There was radioactive fallout all over Northern Europe after the Chernobyl accident. It was a serious problem at that time, but some of our citizens are already forgetting about it.” In the end, he said imploringly, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki should become the leaders of the world; otherwise, our campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons will be weakened.”

(Meeting in Essen)

18 The Germany Series


The Peace Mission, organized by the World Friendship Center based in Hiroshima, started on April 23, 2001. The program was carefully prepared by Hannelore Diekmann.

In 2000, she retired from her job, teaching at a high school. On August 6, that year, she attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, which had been her long-cherished desire. She had made a decision to become a peace missionary for Hiroshima. Therefore her enthusiasm was extraordinary.

Our party consisted of two men and two women. The two of us, Asaka Watanabe and I stayed with Hannelore. In spite of our extremely tight schedule with schools, churches, citizens’ meetings, and exchange meetings, the table was spread with various dishes prepared by Hannelore for each meal.

Every night, she talked about her own experience of war with tears, “I was living in Munich when I was four years old. While I was having an operation on my nose, there was bombing. Both my doctor and nurses ran away with the surgical knives in their hands. My mother, who was standing by my side, carried me to shelter in the basement. You see I have a scar in the middle of my nose. I ended up having no operation then. My father, who was a designer for opera houses, was killed at the war front. Other male relatives of mine also went to the front, and only one of them came home. After the war, only we women managed to survive. My father left me with artistic talent, so I could become an art teacher as a Meister although I could not get higher education.”

She had already read the story of my A-bomb experience, and she continued, “A-bomb survivors had harder experiences than we did. The use of nuclear weapons erases both the present and the future. You understand why I take your side, don’t you?” Then she explained how every morning birds come to her spacious garden covered with a lawn. She scatters a basketful of bread crumbs, apples, and oranges in the garden. She sings a song of her own composition: “I am alone. To my surprise, the birds that come to my garden are also alone. I wonder if they know something about me.”

On the morning of April 30, I was to leave her. She said, “I will give Cologne to you as a present as a memory of our meeting. Accept it, please.”
However, she did not give me the Eau de Cologne she had mentioned, even after we got into the car which came to pick us up. I hesitated to remind her, and waved at her from the window of the running car, saying, “Danke, auf Wiedersehen.”

(With Hannelore)

19 The Purpose of Our Mission Tour

We moved by car from Essen to Nuremberg on April 30, 2001. On the way we saw some hamlets sporadically set among the forest. The scenery was rather monotonous, so we sang songs of Schubert and Mozart with the lead of Asaka Watanabe, an opera singer, in order to keep our driver awake. We did the sights at the Cologne Cathedral. While we were taking a rest at the square, Aki showed up. An exchange student from Japan, she was going to come along with us to serve as an interpreter. Ready to start, we began singing again. We sang Akatombo, Narayama, Konomichi, Karatachi no hana and many more.

We arrived in Neue Kirchen near Nuremberg late afternoon. We were to stay at a dormitory of the former monastery. Our hostess, Hannelore Meinschmidt, met us with a smile.

After dinner, we discussed the schedule from the following day--calligraphy, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Japanese songs--Hannelore requested one after another. To me, however, those things were secondary. I grew impatient and went straightforward. Perhaps, having Aki the interpreter beside me helped me be brave.

“Your request for activities such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, flower arrangement and so on makes me feel proud as a Japanese, but I came here because I am an A-bomb survivor. The purpose of this mission tour is to confirm our solidarity on nuclear issues, as well as telling about Hiroshima. Why don’t we discuss important issues first?” I said in one breath.

Listening to Aki interpreting seriously, I watched Hannelore. She glared at me. People around glanced at us furtively, holding their breath. After a short while, she said quietly, “All right. Let’s get back to the subject.”

I was going to the bedroom, when I heard Hannelore’s voice from the back. I looked back. “Keiko, we will become good friends,” she came up to me for handshaking.

At shower time, I said to Aki that I didn’t receive any Eau de Cologne when Hannelore Diekmann offered it to me in Essen. Then, Aki told me that the German pronunciation of “Köln” sounds like “Cologne” to most Japanese, and that she had meant doing the sights at the Cologne Cathedral. I learned, for the first time, the reason why Eau de Cologne was called that. The water brought back from Köln(Cologne) to France was used to make Eau de Cologne!

(Mr. and Mrs. Meinschmidt)

20 Salvador Church

When I was looking at the sacred relics in St. Salvador Church in Nuremberg, my interpreter, Ms. Chikushi, said, “Excuse me, I have something to do,” and scurried off to the administrative office. In a few minutes, there was an announcement saying “We will hold a service for reconciliation for the war dead at noon. Today we have a peace pilgrimage delegation from Hiroshima. One of the members, Ms. Asaka Watanabe, is an opera singer. She will sing a message song from Hiroshima. While I was wondering what was going on, people began to fill the seats in the church. Ms. Chikushi whispered to Asaka to move toward the altar.

The priest said, “German troops destroyed the British city, Coventry, during World War II. After the war, our church offered apologies to the Coventry Cathedral. Each church made crosses with nails which were picked up from the debris, as a symbol of reconciliation. As the day of those attacks was Friday, we have been holding services for the war dead at noon every Friday ever since.”

Soon after the priest’s words, Asaka’s a cappella song, Hiroshima Spirit as the Life of New World (lyrics by Tomin Harada, music by Hiroyuki Fujikake) reverberated through the vaulted ceiling of the church.

After the service, those who attended gathered around Asaka to shake hands with her. They gave unstinted praise to her, saying “The song you’ve just sung is a hymn for Hiroshima.” Some of them had tears in their eyes.

Asaka had experienced the same response in Essen and Neue Kirchen, and during a radio interview. A music group approached her about playing this music in both Hiroshima and Germany on August 6.

Talking about my A-bomb experience as I do is surely significant. Asaka and I also realized the appealing power of art, and discussed our future activities during our flight back to Japan.
On August 6, 2001, a citizens choir comprising 150 people (ranging from 4 to 88 years old) sang Hiroshima Spirit as the Life of New World, conducted by its composer Mr. Fujikake, at the opening of the Hiroshima Day Anti-Nuke Sunset Colloquium, which was organized by the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

On August 6, 2002, the voices of more than 250 citizens rang out under the same clear sky as the one on that day in 1945. “An Appeal for Peace,” a new program for our youth, was added to the days’ events and the number of participants is increasing each year.

("Hiroshima Spirit As the Life of New World" choir)

(St. Salvador Church)