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Rising From The Ashes: Miraculous Tale Of Man Who Survived Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb A Mile From Explosion

As we commemorate the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, AlterNet interviews Japanese-American author who writes of family’s heartfelt story and offers message of hope.

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JG: Your father, who at 87-years-old is still alive and well, lost his entire family to the war.  How did he manage to survive?

AK: How he survived on the rooftop less than a mile away from the explosion is a miracle. In an explainable sense, my father’s father was a really strong man and pulled him from the rubble literally. He put my father first and refused to let him give up, even when everything looked bleak.  He convinced my father that it was impossible for him to think he could die. A father in Japan has much authority over the family. His father ultimately pushed him through and physically dragged him across Japan looking for help.  From a practical sense, my father heard from medical specialists that radiation intensity is not evenly distributed at all distances.  Some spots have higher levels and lower levels, with the debris in the air affecting its distribution differently.  My father thinks he must have been in the shadow of such debris.  But he did suffer from radiation sickness and tuberculosis.  Yet somehow, he found a lot of angels who were kind and really self-sacrificing and after five days my father was transported to a military hospital alongside other injured civilian employees. The military came and picked him up to take him to the temporary shelter but his father was unable to go.  That was the last time he ever saw his father.

JG: You talk about the political situation in the book and say the public was led to believe the actual reverse of what was really going on. Can you take us through the scene of Japan during that period?

AK: After the Midway battles in the Second World War, Japan started to lose. However, the media was heavily censored and anyone who uttered or talked independently was severely punished by authorities. It was totally military controlled. Anyone who expressed doubt was punished for treason. At that time Japan was so scarce with materials, they put every metal into the forge to make ammunition. Pots and pans were taken, nails, all metals were to be donated or sold to the government forcefully or at very cheap rates. When my father saw a statue of a prominent prime minster laying on the ground to forge into metal, he thought to himself, ‘We’re not going to win’. Placing a statue or picture of a person on the ground is the ultimate disrespect in Japan. If we have to put this prime minister into the forge to melt him to make ammunition, then such scarcity certainly could not point to success.  Yet, when you’re taught that Japan is going to win and the media only shows success of that kind, in consciousness you still believe it.  

Right after the attack, there were no newspapers, no radios and everything was burned. Hiroshima got the news much, much later.  They didn’t know what the bomb was. They thought it was a series of bombs, not one single powerful bomb. My father didn’t hear the news about surrendering until days after. In the nation, after the bomb, the media changed. And all of the sudden, there was Emperor Hirohito surrendering in his most famous line telling the Japanese people that we 'bear the unbearable' and we 'tolerate the intolerable' but as a nation we have decided to surrender for our future.  The whole country was devastated. He was a living God. Nobody had even ever heard the Emperor's voice up until that point. It was only then that he became a living person. And the whole nation fell apart.

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