• Kyodo


Amateur filmmaker Akito Kawamoto has made his wife, who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 only to contract thyroid cancer later in life, the star of a personal documentary that has been selected for the Yamagata film festival.

“Tsuma no Kao” (“The Face of My Wife”) documents the 33-year struggle of Kiyoko Kawamoto as she deals with the daily trauma of being a hibakusha.

Akito, 74, the chairman of a Hiroshima sake distillery, began his project on 8mm film and completed it on digital video. The two-hour documentary will be screened in October at an international documentary film festival in Yamagata.

As a young man, he fought with tuberculosis, which he caught after being drafted as a student recruit during the war.

“War messed up my life,” he said.

The idea for the film was conceived in 1968, he said, when his wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

After the removal of her thyroid, she became prone to chronic fatigue, relying on blood transfusions, drugs and bottled oxygen to keep her going.

Despite her sickness, she cared for her bedridden mother-in-law for 13 years until the woman’s death in 1996. The two-hour film provides a window into Kiyoko’s daily life, including moments when she vents her frustration while simultaneously struggling with her disease and trying to care for her sick mother-in-law.

“I want my life back,” she says to herself in one scene. “Give me back my life.”

In another scene, she talks to an elderly woman, another hibakusha, whose body is scarred by burns.

“People say hibakusha are privileged because they don’t have to pay their medical bills,” the woman says to Kiyoko. “I will pay any sum, if only I can have my health back.”

The documentary ends emotionally, as Kiyoko, tears welling in her eyes, says, “I want to live until my grandson gets married.”

“My wife wants to share her experience about the atomic bomb,” Akito said. “That’s why she agreed to bare her soul in the documentary.”

Online peace museum

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) The city of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, has launched a peace museum Web site that includes photos of U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s August 1945 arrival in Japan as well as articles on minors drafted from Taiwan to work at a local warplane factory.

The site, launched Wednesday, the 56th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, also features essays by local residents on life during wartime, municipal officials said.

To make up for wartime workforce shortages, about 8,000 boys aged 12 to 19 were transported from Taiwan, then under Japanese colonial rule, and put to work at the factory from 1943 until Japan’s surrender, according to the site.

The site also features an 8-second video clip showing MacArthur, supreme commander during the Allied Occupation of Japan, step down from his plane after landing at what is now the U.S. Naval Air Station in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, which straddles several municipalities, including Yamato.

It also carries photos of the base, which was taken over by the U.S. military from the then Japanese navy, as well as the crash of a U.S. warplane and night landing drills.

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