The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Hibakusha, icon

- By Yoko Tanimoto Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Issey Miyake, who died on Aug. 5 at 84, came from Hiroshima. As a high school student, he was immensely moved by the beauty of the handrails of the Peace Bridge near ground zero of the atomic bombing in the city. e handrails were designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. “It made me aware of the power of design that can give people encouragem­ent,” Miyake later said.

Miyake became a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) while an elementary school student. Yet he rarely spoke of his wartime experience­s because, “I don’t want to be called a pikadon [a slang term for the atomic bomb] designer, and it would be pathetic to make the atomic bombing an excuse,” he once said.

However, in December 2015, the 70th year from the end of World War II, Miyake told e Yomiuri Shimbun of his experience­s as a hibakusha.

“If someone like me, who has symptoms from the bombing, speaks out now, then things may start to change in society, however little,” he said in the interview, explaining why he had decided to talk about the experience­s. He was probably concerned that the number of people who could talk about the war and their experience­s of the atomic bomb was decreasing every year, putting memories of the war at risk of being forgotten.

He checked his own memories ahead of the interview, such as by searching for photos. In the interview, he discussed how he was a ected by the atomic bombing, how he walked alone to his home 2.3 kilometers from ground zero to nd his mother and how he nearly died a er developing periostiti­s (in ammation of connective tissue surroundin­g bones) in the fourth grade of elementary school as a result of the bombing. e interview lasted more than three hours. Miyake choked up and became teary at times as he spoke of what he had kept deep in his heart.

Miyake, who did not expect to live long, got into fashion design during his student days and gained something to live for. For half a century from the 1970s, he continued to deliver to the whole world his one-ofa-kind designs that featured Japanese material and cra smanship combined with the latest technologi­es.

“A designer is someone who proposes out ts that reect the time, society and people’s needs,” Miyake said.

Original designs born out of one piece of fabric, pleated attire that can be washed at home, out ts made from sustainabl­e materials, clothes in vivid colors — the works he produced struck a chord with many people across the globe.

His designs all shared brightness and hope, perhaps created in counterpoi­nt to the deep-down pain of his wartime experience­s.

In 2016, a large-scale retrospect­ive of Miyake’s work was held at the National Art Center, Tokyo.

“How will people’s lives change in the future? It’s no good to rehash something that existed before. I’d be happy if I can produce beauty many people will really need, invaluable beauty that remains in your memory,” he said at the time.

His desire to make clothes for the next era never waned until the end. (Aug. 11)

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