by Midori Hiraga
Published in Hongkong Standard, 6th August 1995
When I came to Hong Kong last year, I made up my mind not to speak about Hiroshima to people here. I thought: how can I talk about it before I understand the great suffering of people in Asian countries, which was caused by Japanese?
I am a Japanese who grew up in Hiroshima, and I have heard many stories about the Atomic Bomb.
My father was five years old at that time. He lived in a town east of Hiroshima city named Saijyo, where my parents live.
He was playing in the backyard of his house that fatal morning. Sometime after eight o'clock, he and his playmates saw an American B-29 bomber in the sky flying towards Hiroshima city.
He went back to playing, and then he heard the sound of a huge explosion. They didn't know what it was. A woman neighbour said the gas tanks in a nearby town had been attacked by the US planes. Nobody knew what was happening in the city.
Then, as evening fell, injured victims started arriving and told the local people how Hiroshima city had been destroyed. They told of a world of hell inside the city.
That morning, my grandfather was working in the city about a kilometer from where the bomb exploded. He never came back home.
My uncles went to the city to look for their father. What they found was my grandfather's white bones, identified by the signs of old surgery he had had.
My uncles, whom I never met, suffered nightmares ever after that. They were still young, just teenagers. What they saw in the city then searching for their father was hell -- too terrible to be true.
The victims were severely burned, their skin falling apart and hanging from their hands, their internal organs bursting from holes in their bodies, their eyes popped out -- some even had their eyeballs in their hands, dreadful creatures stumbling around crying out for water...
My uncles died years later of leukemia because they were exposed to the radiation in the search for their father. Even when they were alive, their lives lay in ruins under the shadow of the nightmare of the Atomic Bomb, their family life was wrecked.
But I hold no hatred against American people. On the contrary, I stayed in the US for a year as an exchange student, a joyful year with my host family and my friends there.
What I hate is wars.
The situation in Hong Kong is different to that in Japan.
I believed I knew more about the war than most Japanese students. I knew about the Japanese occupation of this region, the cruelty of the solders in the Nanjing massacre, the "live" experiments on 731 troops, the treatment of the prisoners-of-war, and the many other evil things they had done.
Since my childhood, I have heard and read many terrible stories inside and also outside of Japan. In those days, there were plenty of books and historical material about what the Japanese army did in China and Southeast Asia. Most of my knowledge about the war came from my own reading and listening, not from school textbooks.
Still, it was only after I came to Hong Kong that I learned how terrible the suffering was in real life, and realized that what I had learnt in Japan was only a dim knowledge of the war with no real meaning for me.
On July 7th this year, I followed the demonstration of war victims from Chater Garden to the Japanese Consulate, demanding that Japan apologize and compensate the victims. I was to cover the story as a reporter.
The demonstrators did not know I was a Japanese, but I knew it very well that I was the only Japanese among angry Chinese people. I could deeply understand their anger against Japan.
When I visited the Nanjing massacre memorial and saw the exhibits of hundreds of bones of the victims and the heartwrenching pictures, I thought I could never face Chinese people without acknowledging these facts.
Since then, I have learned more about how the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, how the people starved, and how they killed so many innocent people here. I went to Japanese book stores in Causeway Bay to learn more. There are about 30,000 Japanese people living in Hong Kong, so I thought the shops there would have books about the history of the Hong Kong occupation. But there were only a few books on war. Instead, there were many books on business and investment in China and Asian countries, and travelling in Asia.
Some Japanese people are concerned about the sufferings of Asian people. Many books have been written about how people suffered in the Japanese attack, and many Japanese people support the demands for compensation.
But their work is still a minority voice in Japan, and I'm afraid most Japanese still remember the bombings of their homeland and feel they were the victims of the war.
The 50th anniversary should not end anything. This is the time to begin again to learn history. At the memorial monument in Hiroshima Peace Park, the phrase is written on the tomb of the Atomic Bomb victims: "Please rest in peace, we will never err again."
There are thousands of people who cannot rest in peace because Japan hasn't apologized for nor compensated what she had done to the people of the Asian countries.
This is just the beginning of my quest to find out what happened during the war, and why it happened, and to tell Japanese people about it. I believe understanding between peoples is the only way to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again.
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