Photo shows Kisao Hattori addressing the SGI Youth Summit in Yokohama, Japan, on September 2, 2017. Credit: Soka Gakkai. - Photo: 2017

A 91-Year Old Witness of Hiroshima Bombing Explains Why Nuclear Weapons Should be Banned

By Kisao Hattori

Following are extensive excerpts from the remarks by 91-year old Kisao Hattori at the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Youth Summit for the Renunciation of War on September 2, 2017 at the SGI Kanagawa Culture Center in Yokohama, Japan. The gathering was convened to mark the 60th anniversary of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s ‘Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’. The summit was held 18 days before the UN treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons opened for signature in New York. – The Editor

YOKOHAMA (IDN-INPS) – I was exposed to the atomic bomb radiation in Hiroshima as a visiting soldier and joined Soka Gakkai (SG) after the war. I am 91 years old now. I was a witness to President Josei Toda calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons here in Yokohama.

I was born the youngest child in a poor family of six boys and two girls in 1925 in Chiba Prefecture. At the age of 14, I engaged in agriculture together with adults to support the family.

As the war situation deteriorated, the Japanese military needed more soldiers, and in 1944 the draft age was changed from 20 to 19. In October of that year, I went through a physical examination for conscripts. In February of the next year I joined the army. While most of the new young soldiers were sent to Manchuria where the Russian army was expected to attack, I was assigned to 64th Unit of Eastern District Army in Chiba Prefecture.

In preparation for the coming decisive battles on the mainland, I was trained in the infantry gun unit stationed in Sakura City in the Chiba Prefecture. The training was extremely harsh and gruelling; the drill sergeant would beat us day-in-and-day-out in order to hammer into us the so-called “military spirit”; and we just had to endure. Every night I would cover myself with a blanket, and cry.

The training ended and I got a transfer order. I was taken into a train without even being told of the destination. Days later, I found myself arriving at the Haramura Village camp of Hiroshima Prefecture, the present Higashi Hiroshima City. Because of extreme wartime shortage, we were not allowed to wear army uniform except in combat, and had military training with only shorts on and naked to the waist.

On August 6 an air raid warning was put out around 6 am and I was taken to a bomb shelter on a hill behind the city. In about an hour the warning was lifted. I got out of the shelter to the front yard. At 8:15 am. I saw a “pika” – a dazzling flash of light; the light so intense that none of us had ever seen before.

“What was that?” We shouted and in the next breath a “don” – a deafening sound – a “don” followed. I dashed back to the hill and from there saw the firestorm engulfing the entire city of Hiroshima. Out of the black smoke from the fire, the atomic bomb cloud known as mushroom cloud emerged. That was the moment of the first A-bomb dropping in human history.

The mushroom cloud slowly rose up to the sky and turned into an eerie purple gradually drifting aside. I was staring at the scene aghast, which I had never seen before.

A conventional/ordinary bomb falls to the ground to explode and so the damage is limited. But an A-bomb is different. The one dropped on Hiroshima detonated above the city, thereby devastating vast areas. Besides, the resultant heat waves and radiation charred everything. If the air raid alarm had not been lifted just after one hour and the people had stayed in bomb shelters, many lives could have been saved. Even now that thought mortifies me.

At 11 pm on the day the A-bomb fell, the army issued an emergency call and we were taken into a freight train to head for the Hiroshima Railway Station. We had to get off way before and walk along the railway tracks towards the station. In the pitch darkness, we tried to pick our way through scattered corpses, hearing someone groaning. Choking foul odour made me feel sick.

I couldn’t stop shuddering at the dreadful sight. A private house we were assigned had all the windows shattered by the blast and the roof and ceiling blown off. I must have been sleepy but I couldn’t get to sleep all night haunted by the hellish scene. Next morning, I must have been so hungry but I could hardly eat breakfast out of shock.

Since early morning, we began carrying the wounded to a first-aid station by wire-strapping sticks to a hot galvanized plate to make a stretcher. Obviously, there were only a few doctors and nurses around; and medicine and bandages were scarce.

Many people died one after another with burnt skin left untreated. There are six major rivers in Hiroshima City. People with scorched bodies and dead thirsty, jumped into the rivers, which were already crammed with corpses. All we could do was to pile them up together with debris and burnt timber, pour oil and burn them.

I also saw those who were dead still hanging on to a strap in a packed trolley and a dead mother holding her baby in her arms. For days and days, we engaged in cremating bodies from early morning till late night. It was an intensely horrifying and gruesome experience. But, surprisingly within a few days, I found myself getting used to touching corpses as well as abnormal odour all around me. Suffering from the heat, I even bathed in the river from which I had recovered dead bodies.

While I was disposing of all kinds of remnants, by (military) order, those who happened to be away from Hiroshima during the A-bombing, and were therefore spared of death and radiation, or those who had relatives in Hiroshima, would ask me about the safety and whereabouts of their families and relatives. I just didn’t know how to answer. I always remember how I felt then, and every year since 1945, at 8:15 am on August 6. May their souls rest in peace.

On August 14, I returned to the village where our unit was based. At noon on the following day, August 15, I heard the voice of Emperor Hirohito replayed from a phonograph recording made in the Tokyo Imperial Palace announcing Japan’s unconditional surrender. The war had ended.

I saw fellow soldiers holding each other, and some shedding tears of frustration while pounding the floor. Still others were too stunned to speak or were getting drunk like crazy. Then there were those who were delighted at the prospect of returning to their hometowns. All of them accepted Japan’s defeat in the war in several, diverse ways.

I was demobilized and sent home in October.

In 1951, my elder sister joined the Soka Gakkai wishing for her only son’s recovery from TB. Her wish was fulfilled. In those days, I was living with her in Yokohama, and she told me about Nichiren Buddhism. At the beginning, I didn’t listen to her, talking back to her that everything comes to those who wait. However, I was jobless and in poor health. She couldn’t stand by and watch any longer and pushed me hard. Eventually I started chanting to the Gohonzon. I joined the Soka Gakkai in 1952.

Although I was not in the city of Hiroshima when the A-bomb was dropped, I was exposed to radiation due to the rescue operation I was involved in as a soldier near the ground zero. Before I joined, I was obsessed with the fear of aftereffects of radiation and death. I was profoundly annoyed by incredible prejudices against A-bomb survivors, the hibakusha. After I started practicing Buddhism, I felt confident in myself that I could prevail over any adversity and was able to overcome such anxiety.

I started a small-sized carrier business, which grew steadily to the scale which enables me hire many employees. Above all, I am grateful that I’m still alive, and in good health at the age of 91.

On September 8, 60 years ago I participated in a gathering of the Soka Gakkai’s Youth Division at the Mitsuzawa Stadium as a member. When SG’s 2nd President Josei Toda announced the anti-nuclear declaration, there were various responses from the participants. Some of them felt that President Toda had said something significant and were determined to fight for building peace. But many participants did not fully understand the implications of his call on the spot.

In those days, there was not a widespread awareness of the A-bomb and the threat it poses in principle. It was natural, therefore, that the significance of the declaration and President Toda’s true intent were not readily understood. To me, however, who faced the hell of an A-bomb radiation and knew how dreadful this weapon is, the harsh terms he used – such as “death sentence,” “devil incarnate” and “monster” – recalled vividly what was engraved deeply in my heart, namely that A-bomb is the “absolute evil”.

Now, 60 years on, the profound significance of President Toda’s call for abolition of nuclear weapons is becoming increasingly obvious. The death toll from A-bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 alone is assumed to have reached over 200,000, and even now after 72 years, many people are still suffering from the consequences of the A-Bombing.

Everybody on this planet longs for peace. Nevertheless, wars and conflicts are still dragging on, driven by a handful of political leaders’ obsession or rooted in religious causes. From the humanitarian viewpoint, atomic bombs must not be put in use no matter what. We must stand up and appeal strongly for nuclear abolition, to eliminate nuclear weapons from this planet. The opening passage of the SG’s 3rd President Daisaku Ikeda’s novel, “the Human Revolution”, reads: “Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel than war.”

Indeed. War annihilates precious lives and devastates everything. The A-bombs are, in particular, the most horrible weapons of all, destroying everything.

As I get older, I realize more and more the historic significance and far-sightedness of Toda sensei’s (mentor’s) 1957 declaration. I will be turning 92 years soon.

In order to drive home the compelling need for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons, I learnt at the age of 77 how to use a personal computer, and recorded my testimony as one of the A-bomb survivors into a booklet, which I distributed to more than 100 friends and acquaintances. I have also addressed many seminars and public meetings at various locations to share my hibakusha story with the young people. The devastation of A-bombing is too abhorrent to describe in words. But I have made it my life mission to convey the inhumanity of war to future generations. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 September 2017]

Photo shows Kisao Hattori addressing the SGI Youth Summit in Yokohama, Japan, on September 2, 2017. Credit: Soka Gakkai.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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