NAGASAKI – At 86, Yoshitoshi Fukahori is still traumatized from failing to save his older sister, Chizuko, after an atomic bomb devastated the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
Two years older than Fukahori, Chizuko was at a relative’s home in the city’s Urakami district when the bomb exploded.
Despite being 3.5 km from the hypocenter of the blast, Fukahori was also exposed to radiation while working at an office he was assigned to under the government’s student mobilization program.
Hearing terrifying stories from injured people fleeing Urakami, which was closer to the hypocenter than his office, Fukahori believed it impossible to return to the district that day.
The following day, Fukahori managed to make it to what was left of the relative’s demolished home, where he found Chizuko dead, clutching a beam with both arms.
Noticing that she had apparently crawled out of the rubble, he realized that she had been alive immediately after the explosion. Regret washed over him for not making the perilous journey a day earlier.
“That still stays in my head,” Fukahori said.
Three days after the bombing, Fukahori cremated his elder sister on a wood pile as their mother wished. The mother stood motionless, unable to raise her head.
Near the relative’s home, Fukahori a horrifying sight. Bodies upon bodies, stacked in the river. Near the hypocenter, he noticed, the dead had been instantly broiled and turned to charcoal.
After the war, Fukahori worked as a clerk at a Nagasaki hospital. He has also spoke before students and others visiting the city about his experience as an atomic-bomb survivor.
In 1979, he began collecting and analyzing photos related to the atomic bombing at the predecessor of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, which was established that year by him and five other survivors.
“I would like to leave as many photos as possible to future generations for the sake of those who died in the bombing,” Fukahori said, adding that the photo collection would provide proof of the reality on the ground as the number of survivors dwindle.
The Fukushima nuclear crisis has also left Fukahori profoundly stunned. Upon viewing scenes of abandoned areas around the Fukushima No. 1 atomic power plant after the March 2011 triple meltdowns, Fukahori voiced his disapproval of nuclear power.
“Though we have continued to live near the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki, it will be important for everyone to act with correct knowledge of radioactivity,” Fukahori said.
“Atomic-bomb survivors do not think that nuclear power can coexist with humans,” he said.