The time was 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. That was when the American military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
In an instant, Hiroshima became a city of death. Many lives were taken in the destruction. The weapon produced a massive amount of radiation, a powerful bomb blast, and a surface temperature of 4,000 degrees Celsius at the hypocenter. Today, those who managed to live through it all still face discrimination and suffer from atomic bomb disease. The registry of atomic bomb victims published annually by the City of Hiroshima lists 303,195 individuals as of August 6, 2016.
Sixty years after the end of World War II, the Soka Gakkai Hiroshima Women’s Peace Committee embarked on an effort to preserve and record this history by collecting video footage of the war’s survivors telling their stories. The video recordings contain the testimonies of 186 people, who tell of such events as the atomic bombing, evacuations, the wartime mobilization of Japanese children, and the air raids. The contents were edited in 2006 and released as a DVD entitled “For the Sake of Peace: Women’s War Testimonies.” This was followed up by “Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Women Speak out for Peace,” an edited version of the DVD that features excerpts on tales of surviving the atomic bomb so as to urge the world to abolish nuclear weapons. This DVD is available in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Chinese (with subtitles in traditional and simplified characters) and Japanese. The video presents the accounts of four women.
Kikue and her 16-year-old younger sister were at their home two kilometers from the hypocenter when the bomb was dropped. Her 10-year-old brother was severely burned and her 14-year-old sister perished.
Michiyo was studying to become a nurse at the time. The day after the atomic bomb was dropped, she went to Hiroshima with doctors to care for the victims. During her around-the-clock relief activities, due to unbearable thirst, she drank water contaminated by radioactivity and was exposed to radiation.
Ayako Kozuka was exposed to the bombing at her workplace three kilometers from the hypocenter. Miraculously, Ayako remained uninjured by the bombing itself but, after making her way through the hypocenter and reaching home, she ate tomatoes exposed to the black rain, which led to a deterioration in her health.
Many non-Japanese were also among the victims in Hiroshima. Pok Soon Kwak is a second-generation Korean resident in Japan. While fighting both discrimination as a foreigner and her affliction with atomic bomb disease, she managed to marry and raise a family. Her account is directed at younger generations to convey to them the misery of the atomic bombing and the war.