Column: “Hiroshima Diary” recounts A-bomb days as appeal for peace

“Hiroshima Nikki,” or “Hiroshima Diary,” written by the late Michihiko Hachiya, a former director of Hiroshima Teishin Hospital, calmly begins with Dr. Hachiya's thought that he never imagined the day would bring such severe trial, and continues: “I was sprawled on the living room floor exhausted.

On August 6, 1945, Dr. Hachiya experienced the atomic bombing at his home near the hospital. After the blast, he rushed to the hospital with splinters of glass piercing his whole body. From a bed, at first, Dr. Hachiya then led the hospital's efforts to treat the A-bomb survivors. His account of the catastrophe describes the people and the city over the next 56 days. It was eventually translated into a dozen or so languages, making it one of the most widely-read A-bomb reports in the world.

In the diary, Tomiko Aoki, 85, a resident of Nishi Ward, appears as a nurse called “Takao no Tomichan,” or Miss Takao. The blast blew her 50 meters along a hospital corridor, but she managed to escape heavy injury. The book describes how, as her white coat became stained with blood, she stayed up all night tending to patients and rescuing a dying colleague.

Staying at the hospital around the clock, Ms. Aoki applied strips of sterile gauze to burns and assisted with amputations. Patients, who spilled even into the bathrooms of the building, died one after another. “It was all so cruel,” Ms. Aoki said, explaining that she has never been able to speak about her A-bomb experience in a public setting. Even now, she wavers about speaking out in public.

Fifty-six years have passed since Dr. Hachiya shared his account with the world in the hope that this report would make a small contribution toward fostering a more peaceful planet. Today, a number of aging A-bomb survivors are facing distress, feeling duty-bound to convey their experiences now, while they still can. Let us listen to what they have to say.

(Originally published on August 6, 2011)