Michiko Okamura said it feels like yesterday.
The 95-year-old Okamura lost her son and daughter in the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
“Next year, it’s going to be 60 years since they died. But to me it all seems to have happened yesterday,” said Okamura, who on Sunday was the oldest person to take part in the government-sponsored ceremony in Tokyo marking the 59th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.
Of the more than 6,000 participants in the ceremony, Okamura was the only parent who lost a child in the war.
Her daughter Tsuyako, 18, was taking part in work to demolish a building in Hiroshima roughly 1 km from the hypocenter when the atomic bomb was dropped. She died three days later.
“She went to the work on my behalf, since I could not go because I was tied up with something else. I could not even find her while she was alive,” Okamura said.
“I received her cremated remains on Aug. 10 (1945). I kept saying, ‘I’m sorry’ to her remains.”
Her son Shigeo, then 14, was working at a factory 1.5 km from ground zero when the bomb hit. He came home on the night of Aug. 6 with his clothes in rags and wearing only one shoe.
“He said, ‘I finally made it home,’ in a weak voice, and I hugged him to say ‘welcome home,’ ” she said.
Each day of the next week, Okamura carried her son on her back to a doctor to get him treatment. He passed away in the early morning of Aug. 14 — one day before Japan surrendered.
Okamura, who had lost her husband six years earlier, was taking care of Tsuyako, Shigeo and two other children. She was at her home — just 2 km from the hypocenter — at the time of the atomic bombing.
For two years, she had trouble even standing up.
“I want the younger generation never to let these things happen again,” Okamura said.
Naoya Nagayama, a 9-year-old elementary school student from Suzaki, Kochi Prefecture, was meanwhile the youngest participant in Sunday’s ceremony at Nippon Budokan hall.
Nagayama was accompanied by his grandmother Mie, 61, and mother Kazuyo, 31.
“I’m scared when I look at the war in Iraq,” the young boy said. “I do not want to go to war even if I am ordered to. I think my great-grandfather did not in fact want to go.”
His great-grandfather Hidema died at the age of 30 on June 7, 1944, during a battle in western New Guinea. There are no detailed circumstances of his death, as it came during a point in the war when the Japanese military was reeling in the face of Allied offensives.
According to his family, when he was younger, Nagayama would look at a portrait of his great-grandfather in a military uniform and ask who he was.
After being told it was his great-grandfather, the boy asked the family where and when he died.
“I could only tell him that the great-grandfather had died in the war,” said Mie Nagayama.
When Mie decided to take part in this year’s ceremony, she asked her grandson if he wanted to come along, and he accepted.
“This will be a good lesson on peace for Naoya, who, like myself, knows about the war only through photographs,” said the boy’s mother, Kazuyo.
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