Sunday, 18 March 2012

Meeting Mr. Osumi

In these days of Middle Eastern uncertainty, as countries once again seriously contemplate the notion of nuclear warfare, it would be well worth leaders going to Hiroshima to remind themselves of the disastrous effects of the A-bomb. This week was my third visit to this historical Japanese city that became known world wide as a result of the events of August 6, 1945. The trip was once again a humbling experience that was no less poignant; as we respectfully viewed the various monuments and museum exhibits that document the circumstances and aftermath of the detonation. However, nothing brings you closer to the experience than hearing the words of those who directly experienced it and we were fortunate to meet with one of the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their memories of this fateful day.

Mr. Katsuto Osumi is a stately gentleman whose dignified appearance and positive outlook belied the horrific experiences of his youth. He was seven years old when he witnessed first hand the blinding flash of white light from the A-bomb as he stood only two kilometers from its epicenter. Amazingly he suffered relatively few outward injuries, but years later his intense exposure to radiation would take its toll, as he would eventually contract three different forms of cancer over the ensuing years. He spoke vividly about of the unbelievable days immediately following the bombing as his family survived on grass and frogs in the nearby mountains, in constant fear of yet another attack. He remembered, as if it were yesterday, the steady flow of corpses drifting down the river, which were dragged onto the bank only to lay decaying until eventually being burnt on makeshift funeral fires that in turn created an all pervading stench that lasted for weeks. Eventually he would return to the city, only to witness the slow ongoing deaths of family and friends over the months and years ahead. In later years, as his own health issues emerged, he thought how strange it was that he would be treated using radiation, as this is what he had been told had actually caused his problems. He spoke of the discrimination that would emerge toward A-bomb victims and the embarrassment of revealing to potential marital partners that you had suffered radiation exposure, as sterility or the possibility of deformed births remained an ongoing social fear. Despite all this, Mr. Osumi continued to demonstrate throughout his life the resilience of the human spirit and his own ability to think positively through adversity. He worked for many years in a large Japanese corporation, becoming the oldest player in the company’s baseball team, before eventually leaving, whilst in his 50’s, to establish his own successful sales company. He holds no animosity about what happened to him and despite his ongoing health issues and treatment, genuinely expects to live well beyond 100 years. Yet, no matter how many years lay ahead, he remains firmly committed to relaying to others his own very personal experiences and to reminding us all about the horrors of nuclear warfare. His softly spoke words were testament to the destructive toll of such weapons and the long-term physical and psychological effects they can have upon individuals and a society as a whole.

While the city of Hiroshima has certainly emerged from the ashes, the sorrow it carries lies just below the surface, providing a sobering lesson for the current nuclear-armed countries to reflect upon.


  1. Just catching up on your blog on Hiroshima - beautifully written descriptions and a must on our list when we visit Japan.

  2. Thanks, always good to receive feedback. I really like visiting Hiroshima, it is a good size and the surrounding area is really nice.