NAGASAKI – A diary written by a 14-year-old girl after she was caught up in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, is regarded as one of the most telling memoirs of the event.
The publication of the diary after a censorial struggle with the Allied Occupation authorities “may have contributed to peace,” said Masako Yanagawa, 82, about her writing.
“I could never convince myself that it was our sky through which the B-29 carried that devilish atom bomb,” she wrote on Sept. 15, 1945, referring to the day’s clear blue skies.
The journal started as “a letter to worried relatives, and my writings, as I read them now, are clumsy,” Yanagawa said with a smile.
Born in Tokyo, Yanagawa moved to Nagasaki in April 1945 because her father, Hisashi Ishida, a magistrate, was transferred to the city. She was exposed to radiation while working at a weapons factory, 1.4 km away from the hypocenter of the bomb blast, under a student mobilization program.
As Yanagawa traveled home, she came across numerous corpses and badly burned people crying out for water. In her record, she recounted what she had seen using such expressions as “flesh raw from burns and bodies like peeled peaches.”
Yanagawa was hospitalized a month later due to a plunge in the number of her white blood cells and a high fever. She then began writing her experiences from her sickbed at the urging of her older brother, who was in Tokyo when the atomic bomb was dropped.
“I didn’t want to remember but my brother kept insisting,” Yanagawa recalled.
Her father read the record and decided to publish it as an antiwar message and as a reminder of the horror of atomic bombs.
But the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, which occupied Japan after its defeat in World War II, slapped a ban on the publication, saying that her account was so graphic that it would “rekindle animosity” against the United States.
Yanagawa’s father did not give up, though, and he had Yanagawa change some expressions. He also submitted a petition to the GHQ, accompanied by comments from people in favor of publishing her record, including the governor and mayor of Nagasaki. As a result, it was published as “Masako Taorezu” (“Masako Does Not Collapse”), in 1949.
At the time it was regarded as the most telling personal memoir of a Nagasaki survivor, together with “Nagasaki no Kane” (“The Bells of Nagasaki”), a 1949 book written by Takashi Nagai (1908-1951), a medical doctor who treated atomic bomb victims even though he himself was seriously wounded.
In her journal, Yanagawa also frankly depicts life in the hospital, which aroused some criticism because she was able to eat good food and was treated comfortably, she recalls.
While “Nagasaki no Kane” continued to be widely read, “Masako Taorezu” had been out of print until Kazuhiko Yokote, a professor at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science, revived the book in 2010 after obtaining the pre-censorship manuscripts.
Yanagawa’s memoir is one of the first personal records about the atomic bombing, Yokote said. “It depicts a young girl’s pure and frank thoughts.”
Yanagawa said, “I want young people to read (“Masako Taorezu”) and know about war in the past even if only slightly.”
The nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which has aroused fears of radiation among a large number of people, reminded Yanagawa of her sufferings following the atomic bombing.
“The atomic bombing and nuclear power are equally horrifying,” she said. “I cannot tolerate the government intending to permit the restart of nuclear power plants.”