Atomic Bombing Survivor Dr. Hideo Tsuchiyama, MD

Topics Covered:
Nagasaki international history; Sacrifice of culture during the war; Subjective and objective experience of atomic bombing; Studies in medicine and pathology; Writings as a survivor.

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Well. As you know, we can look at Nagasaki historically. During the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan shut out all relations with the outside world.

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However, Nagasaki was the only place allowed to continue foreign trade.

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As such, various foreign cultures, people, things — they all continued to flow into Nagasaki.

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Therefore, the people here had an attitude of, “Whatever comes your way, refuse it not. Accept and welcome everything.” Many of the people here were very generous and open-minded.

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Because the people here had that kind of attitude, I think you can say they were truly peaceful — leading good-natured lives.

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Well, there were purely Japanese things, then, since the Chinese were the first to come,

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there were Chinese things. Then the Dutch were the most… The Portuguese came first, but after the Portuguese were the Dutch. Because the Dutch were the only ones trading… allowed to trade.

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There were many Dutch things that came in. Those three types of things.

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Those three cultures fused together quite well.

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For us, we didn’t go around thinking, “This is Chinese, this is Western.” I think it just melted into our everyday lives.

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Yes. Of course, at first, it didn’t affect us that much. However, as the war escalated,

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And especially as the of the situation of the Japanese Army worsened, the everyday lives of ordinary citizens were very much affected.

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First, things disappeared — grew scant.

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Then it turned into rations. Then the amount of rations you received became less and less. Things like that.

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And of course, then your thoughts and ideas… Do you understand? Thoughts, in other words, the thinking in your head.

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You end up with extremely severe thought control.

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In other words, if you unwittingly spoke ill of the government, you would get arrested.

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More and more, everyday life became extremely restricted.

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The sociable atmosphere that there once was became increasingly hostile.

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First of all, goods and supplies were almost all gone.

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Our main staple food is rice. But the rice stopped coming almost entirely.

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Then, things like potatoes — all kinds of potatoes.

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We would substitute the potatoes in for rice and cook them with other kinds of grains.

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Everyone was faced with near-starvation.

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Then, the fabric necessary to make clothing also grew short, and we had to wear shabby clothes that we washed over and over again.

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If we were to complain about the difficulty of this kind of daily life,

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Then others would stare at us as if we were criticizing the government, so we could only complain to our families. It was an oppressive situation.

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Also, just to add one more thing, I would say that culture was also severely repressed.

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For example, my family enjoyed classical music very much.

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We would save our allowances to buy music records. Then, once a month, we would gather together to enjoy a “record concert” at one of our houses.

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However, as the war got more severe, “foreign music” was equated to “American” or “British” music, and we were not allowed to listen to it.

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But my family just had to listen to it.

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In the end — you probably don’t know of it — but we had a gramophone.

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You listen by placing the record on it and turning it with this needle.

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We’d take the gramophone, pile it up with cotton covers, and my brothers and sisters and I would huddle around and listen to that whisper of a sound.

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But we could at least hear the melody. That was our only sliver of culture.

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The radio would always blare war songs, but we hated that.

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By listening to even a tiny bit of classical music, we would be comforted. That’s how it was back then.

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I’ll tell you what happened before and after.

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I was in medical school when the atomic bomb fell.

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I was to be deployed to the front in October of 1945.

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Since the war ended two months before that, I didn’t have to go.

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So I was a medical student right at that time.

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Back then — now, there’s the Peace Hall there — in front of that, there’s a place to park cars there, a parking lot.

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I had moved there from the Katafuchi neighborhood about half a year before that.

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It was 350 meters from the hypocenter.

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That’s where I lived.

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It’s just — and from here it gets a little dramatic for me —

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Right, so that others may also understand, it’s probably better I say this in English.

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Four hours before the atomic bombing I left Nagasaki by train to visit my mother who had been sick in the hospital of the next prefecture.

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That afternoon, the radio announced that a new type of bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki city.

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That evening, I took a train again to return to Nagasaki.

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However, on the back way the rail road ceased operating and it didn’t arrived until early next morning.

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I hurried to the hospital because I was a medical student there.

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The basement of the hospital was filled with the groans of many injured people.

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So, we tried to give first aid to them that day that until rescue corps arrived from outside.

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But, the effective medicine ran out quickly, and one by one people lost their lives.

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So there was nothing we could do but take the pulse of dying people and in the final stage of these people, give them water.

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So for a week, I was busy to stay here in the ruins, and we watched many, many people was dying without trauma but Hemorrhagic Diarrhea and other symptoms.

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It may be due to acute radiation injuries.

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That’s end.

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My elder brother, his wife, his daughter and boy, all died.

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But I fortunately left from Nagasaki.

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Well, it’s complicated…

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I didn’t only lose my own family. I also watched many, many ordinary citizens die. So…

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To tell the truth, I can’t forget it — it was a difficult experience for me.

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However, on the other hand, as a medical student,

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I was calm, to a degree. I though to myself, “Why do those injured in this way exhibit these symptoms and die in such a way?”

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We were short on medical supplies, so we couldn’t really treat anyone. Yet, at the same time, I would try to understand the cause as best I could. It was like that.

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So when I look back on it,

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So, when I think about the dropping of the atomic bomb, part of me is heavy with emotion, while another part of me is very rational. It’s something that I internalized later.

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Going back to it, I do sense that what I felt back then does continue to live on in me.

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In other words, I’m not just subjective and emotionally obsessed. There’s also the side that judges calmly and observes. There are two sides to the answer — the answer that is me, who I’ve become. I feel.

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Of course, if I see people dying, it’s a very sad sight and I get choked up.

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At the same time, I had already learned a lot as a medical student.

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So, from the position of a medical student, I would think, “Why are people who have no wounds dying like this?”

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“What might be the cause?” I incessantly thought to myself. As I watched it all happening.

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I wanted to become a doctor, no matter what.

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After the war, I went back to redo my studies and graduated from medical school.

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When I was graduating, I was trying to decide what path to take.

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This connects to what I was just telling you.

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I personally like to observe something with unknown causes, analyze it, and deduce what it might be.

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In the end, you end up with the essence of what that thing might be. I like digging methodically like that. I find this very interesting.

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I chose pathology as my path in medicine.

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Then I was very busy with both research and education.

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In particular, in pathology, in the unfortunate event of a patient dying, you need to conduct an autopsy. This can happen even in the dead of night.

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It was a very difficult job.

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I did it for a long time (pathology).

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In time, my professional rank increased.

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In the end, I was full Professor and simultaneously Dean of the Medical School.

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Then, I even became President of Nagasaki University.

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During the occupation, of course, daily life for everyone was extremely difficult.

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The Americans did distribute many of their surplus goods to us.

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But it wasn’t enough and everyday life was hard.

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Personally, my mind was made up on my personal goals.

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I got through those difficult times supported by my burning desire to enter academia.

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It was my one comforting thought.

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So I was very busy.

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Even so, the devastation from the time of the atomic bombing — the horrific scenes — would not leave my mind.

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I would always be thinking to myself, “How can I express this to the world?”

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Busy as I was.

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Then I had a realization. In medicine, when you’ve made a certain amount of progress, you have to write an academic paper.

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So that means I am well-trained in writing academic papers.

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So it’s not difficult for me to write academic papers.

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So I thought — not only the damages from the atomic bomb, but its background, too. Or, the past mistakes of the Japanese (Imperial) Army — How could I best get my thoughts on these kinds of things out into the world from here, as a person living in an atomic-bombed land.

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So I submitted this to a top, very well-known magazine in Japan.

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And they published it in its entirety.

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So I started writing papers about nuclear weapons quite early. I was writing them during my tenure at the university.

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But it wasn’t until I ended my time as President of the University that I began to partake in civil society initiatives and engage in movements.

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While I was University President, I wrote strictly from the perspective of someone from the atomic-bombed land.

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In addition to my studies in medicine, I then systematically studied things like international politics and security on my own.

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At the same time, we were fortunate to have former diplomats and specialists on nuclear issues in our midst.

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I would bounce my questions off of people like that and continue to sharpen my knowledge.

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I was doing auto-training — self-training — all along.

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