A-bomb still haunts Ja­pan’s sur­vivors

CityPress - - News -

Ayako Ishii was 19 when she fell in love for the first time. But it was not to be, for the same rea­son her many sub­se­quent at­tempts to find love failed.

When the flower-ar­rang­ing teacher’s fam­ily found out Ishii was from Hiroshima, they stopped the young cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship in its tracks.

“There are many things I could have said, but I didn’t, as my heart was closed and I was re­signed,” said Ishii (78).

Those who sur­vived the Au­gust 6 1945 atomic bomb at­tack on Hiroshima were com­pletely trans­formed by it. They were harmed not only phys­i­cally but men­tally too, long be­fore post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) was even a di­ag­no­sis. Many lost rel­a­tives – some­times all of them. They were stig­ma­tised by peo­ple who were scared that the ra­di­a­tion they were ex­posed to could cause dis­ease and birth de­fects.

Many grew old with no one to care for them, which is why Ishii’s nurs­ing home, Mut­sumi-en, or the Gar­den of Amity, opened in 1970. About 600 Hiroshima sur­vivors live in four nurs­ing homes in­tended just for them.

“This place is where peo­ple marked with the same scar hud­dle to­gether,” said Dr Nanao Ka­mata, di­rec­tor of the or­gan­i­sa­tion that runs the nurs­ing homes.

“What we can do is give them a chance to live an easy and happy life when they come here.”

Ishii was nine when the atomic bomb ex­ploded about 2km from her home. She was thrown the dis­tance of three houses by the blast, but suf­fered only mi­nor cuts. Her fam­ily sur­vived as well, but that did not mat­ter to po­ten­tial suit­ors and their fam­i­lies years later.

When she ap­proached 30, she con­cluded she was not go­ing to find a hus­band or have chil­dren.

She de­cided she needed to sup­port her­self, and landed a job as a tele­phone com­pany op­er­a­tor – a cov­eted job for women at that time.

Af­ter re­tir­ing, she came to Mut­sumi-en, where, she said, she found peace. She joins mu­sic ses­sions at the home and goes on out­ings, in­clud­ing to her favourite hot springs in Hiroshima.

The home, a five-storey con­crete build­ing, is drab on the out­side, but in­side pho­to­graphs and cal­lig­ra­phy done by the res­i­dents cover the walls. A hang­ing dec­o­ra­tion of

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.