Overcoming Suffering and Discrimination

Mihoko Takeuchi

I never saw the horrors of the war or of the Hiroshima bombing because I was not born until October 2, 1945. In my early childhood, it never dawned on me that I would ever suffer as an outcome of those horrors.

But in October, 1958, while I was rehearsing for a culture festival at the junior high school where I was a first-year student, I noticed red spots on my arms. I did not know what they were but felt convinced they would go away by themselves. They did not. And on the day of the culture festival, glancing in the mirror, I saw that my gums were coated with dark, coagulated blood. I was rushed to our family physician, who examined me at once and gave me an injection, which made me bleed so profusely that in no time the sleeve of my blouse was crimson. Grandmother, who had accompanied me, looked worried but attempted to calm me by saying it was only a rash of some kind. Her attempts were not successful. Terrified by something that I could not understand, I felt as if I were falling into a bottomless pit.

These alarming symptoms prompted me to ask my mother why I had been sent to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission yearly since primary school. I had never understood the need for the checkups to which I was subjected there. My mother explained at last that at the time of the Hiroshima bombing, when eight months pregnant with me, she had been at a place only four kilometers from the hypocenter. Even when I was very small, red spots had appeared on my skin. Owing to the inability of our family physician to do anything about them, mother had gotten in touch with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.

On the day after the school culture festival, a car came to take me to the commission for an examination. Terror struck me when I learned that instead of being allowed to go home at once I was to be hospitalized. I wept and pleaded with my mother: "It's only a rash, isn't it?" After a moment's silence, mother nodded reassuringly, patted me on the shoulder, and said, "You're going to be all right, dear. Don't worry." But her face was twisted with fear and grief.

My hospitalization and my struggle with my fate were a great trial for mother. Lying in bed, I asked myself why I should suffer such a destiny. What had I done to deserve this? I lamented and pitied myself. Often I was angry with my mother and, when she visited me, would either say hurtful things or maintain a sullen silence. I did this to help me forget, because, when the fear of death suddenly seized me, I wept hysterically. At such times, my mother could only stand by helplessly.

The red spots gradually disappeared; and after a little over a month, I left the hospital. Though pronounced cured, I was never free of the fear of a relapse and developed the habit of checking my arms and legs for red spots often. A few years passed safely. Then, one day in 1962, when I was a second-year student in a girls' high school, I discovered a red spot on my knee. Stunned, I scrutinized the rest of my body and found many more such spots. As had happened years earlier, my gums were coated with coagulated blood.

Back in the hospital, I was ordered to rest. Constant hemorrhage deprived me of appetite. I grew pale and had fainting spells. I wasted away to a virtual skeleton, and my complexion turned ashen gray. Apprehensive of death every moment, I dreaded falling asleep at night for fear that I might never wake.

I was released from the hospital, but not from the horror of my life. From time to time, my condition became so unbearable that I wanted to kill myself. I could see no reason to continue to live with my illness. Once I went to a river intending to throw myself into it and drown. But as I stood on the brink, I saw a vision of my mother and grandmother and abandoned the idea. On another occasion, I climbed a mountain with the intention of jumping from a cliff, but another vision of my mother and grandmother stopped me.

Some time later, I resolved not to give in to my sickness. I did not give in and am now living a fulfilled life, though I am still not in perfect health.

Physical suffering, however, is only one of the burdens that must be borne by the second and third generations of people affected by atomic-bomb radiation. In various circles in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, unjust discrimination is practiced against the children and grandchildren of the victims of the bombings. Consequently, many people conceal the fact that their parents or grandparents were victims because such information might damage their chances in work or marriage. People who develop symptoms of radiation-caused sickness tend to withdraw into themselves.

I understand how these people feel, but they must realize that a submissive attitude will only result in increased discrimination. I believe that the children of survivors of the atomic-bomb attacks must work together to protect their basic human rights and to promote peace.

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