Daily Picture Show

Voices Of The 'Explosion-Covered People'

  • Une Toshie, 86. "When the bomb was dropped over Hiroshima I was 26. I had been working at a nursery for children. I was in the middle of cooking some pumpkin. ... It became pitch dark. I felt something overwhelm me and I was pushed down on the floor. I stayed lying down, stricken with fear. Getting up, I saw an orange-colored scene, extending as far as the eye could see."
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    Une Toshie, 86. "When the bomb was dropped over Hiroshima I was 26. I had been working at a nursery for children. I was in the middle of cooking some pumpkin. ... It became pitch dark. I felt something overwhelm me and I was pushed down on the floor. I stayed lying down, stricken with fear. Getting up, I saw an orange-colored scene, extending as far as the eye could see."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Une Toshie, 86. "On fine days, as I pull my cart with its water bottles through the city, I am still offering water. I wish to console the souls of the victims by offering water from a small clear cup with the words 'Comfort Water for the A-bomb Victims' written on it."
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    Une Toshie, 86. "On fine days, as I pull my cart with its water bottles through the city, I am still offering water. I wish to console the souls of the victims by offering water from a small clear cup with the words 'Comfort Water for the A-bomb Victims' written on it."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Emi Taniguchi is seen near the factory she was working at when the atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She suffered from the nuclear fallout while searching for her missing mother after the explosion. Radiation exposure caused her to suffer long-term bleeding in her gums and diarrhea, and she gets easily exhausted.
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    Emi Taniguchi is seen near the factory she was working at when the atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She suffered from the nuclear fallout while searching for her missing mother after the explosion. Radiation exposure caused her to suffer long-term bleeding in her gums and diarrhea, and she gets easily exhausted.
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Taniguchi is seen with her sister at their family home, which was rebuilt in the same location where it had stood in 1945. Taniguchi had never heard her sister talk about her experience during the bombing until they were interviewed by photographer Peter Blakely in 2005.
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    Taniguchi is seen with her sister at their family home, which was rebuilt in the same location where it had stood in 1945. Taniguchi had never heard her sister talk about her experience during the bombing until they were interviewed by photographer Peter Blakely in 2005.
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Taniguchi had taken out fire insurance three days before the bombing and was able to rebuild her home. After a career as a clinical lab technician, she devoted herself to preserving and sharing the legacy of the atom bomb.
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    Taniguchi had taken out fire insurance three days before the bombing and was able to rebuild her home. After a career as a clinical lab technician, she devoted herself to preserving and sharing the legacy of the atom bomb.
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Hamamoto Miyata, 93, is seen with his roommate, Tokutaro Kojima, at The Hill of Grace Nagasaki A-Bomb Home. "I noticed the big planes in the sky. It was unusual because usually they come from the south but this time they came from the north. I was very busy and continued working, not paying too much attention, and then I saw a flash of blinding light and heard the sound of the explosion."
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    Hamamoto Miyata, 93, is seen with his roommate, Tokutaro Kojima, at The Hill of Grace Nagasaki A-Bomb Home. "I noticed the big planes in the sky. It was unusual because usually they come from the south but this time they came from the north. I was very busy and continued working, not paying too much attention, and then I saw a flash of blinding light and heard the sound of the explosion."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Miyata receives acupuncture and massage from Dr. Hidemi Yamaguchi. "I remember reading what happened days before in Hiroshima. I thought we were lucky not too many people were injured in my area. These feelings changed as I made my way towards Nagasaki. It started raining as I approached the city. Soon I started seeing disfigured, bloody people. The city was in flames — black smoke and rain."
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    Miyata receives acupuncture and massage from Dr. Hidemi Yamaguchi. "I remember reading what happened days before in Hiroshima. I thought we were lucky not too many people were injured in my area. These feelings changed as I made my way towards Nagasaki. It started raining as I approached the city. Soon I started seeing disfigured, bloody people. The city was in flames — black smoke and rain."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Miyata sits with his roommate. "The closer I got to the hypocenter the more destruction I saw. The city was leveled. I saw bodies as if they were sleeping everywhere. People were lying on the bridge, futons scattered, children with their brains exposed. I felt guilty, I was not hurt. I hope people will remember the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. ... I pray every day for peace."
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    Miyata sits with his roommate. "The closer I got to the hypocenter the more destruction I saw. The city was leveled. I saw bodies as if they were sleeping everywhere. People were lying on the bridge, futons scattered, children with their brains exposed. I felt guilty, I was not hurt. I hope people will remember the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. ... I pray every day for peace."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Miyoko Watanabe, 75. "The flash was a yellowish orange color, just like magnesium light but hundreds of times stronger. I don't know how long I was left unconscious, but ... I felt relieved to find myself alive. At the same time I was stricken with horror. It is not easy for me to talk about my experience as an A-bomb survivor. For me it is like airing my dirty linen in public."
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    Miyoko Watanabe, 75. "The flash was a yellowish orange color, just like magnesium light but hundreds of times stronger. I don't know how long I was left unconscious, but ... I felt relieved to find myself alive. At the same time I was stricken with horror. It is not easy for me to talk about my experience as an A-bomb survivor. For me it is like airing my dirty linen in public."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely
  • Hiroyuki Miyagawa. "I didn't go to school that day because I suffered from a strange allergy. The 300 [meters'] extra [distance] from the hypocenter saved my life. My father was a school principal. He survived ... but he felt responsible for the loss of students and teachers. He spent the rest of his life helping [their] families find jobs and get money."
    Hide caption
    Hiroyuki Miyagawa. "I didn't go to school that day because I suffered from a strange allergy. The 300 [meters'] extra [distance] from the hypocenter saved my life. My father was a school principal. He survived ... but he felt responsible for the loss of students and teachers. He spent the rest of his life helping [their] families find jobs and get money."
    Courtesy of Peter Blakely

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More than 65 years after atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are still thousands of people suffering. In addition to experiencing lingering effects from the radiation, many are also considered social outcasts.

The term hibakusha in Japanese means "explosion-covered people" and applies to anyone who came within 2 kilometers (approximately 1.25 miles) of the hypocenter of the bomb — within two weeks of the explosion. Thought to be diseased and contagious, many people hid their experience from friends, family and society at large to avoid being shunned.

Photographer Peter Blakely calls these people "silent survivors" and sought to bring their stories to light through a series of portraits and interviews.

Blakely, an American photographer living in Japan, was raised on various U.S. Air Force bases. That experience got him thinking about the effects of war in a critical way.

"I am not trying to find fault, but to remember what horror war is and give voice to its victims," he said via email.

In one emotional interview session, he sat with a woman in tears who shared her story with her sister for the first time since 1945. She had never told her own family of her experience, for fear of being labeled a hibakusha.

Blakely says that the same sort of discrimination is happening to people who were exposed to radiation in Fukushima.

"Kids are being bullied and having troubles; the parents can't find jobs, they get shunned. And it's a very quiet kind of shunning," he said.

He is exploring that story in an ongoing project called Facing Fukushima.

"Hopefully one day we as humankind will understand that regardless of our nationality, race, religion or politics we are more alike than different," he said.

Miyoko Watanabe, 75. i i

hide captionMiyoko Watanabe, 75.

Courtesy of Peter Blakely
Miyoko Watanabe, 75.

Miyoko Watanabe, 75.

Courtesy of Peter Blakely

Excerpt from Miyoko Watanabe's story, as told to Peter Blakely in 2005:

"It looked as if the gas tanks in Minami-machi on the other side of the river had exploded. The flash was a yellowish orange color, just like magnesium light but hundreds of times stronger. I instinctively rushed back into the house and laid myself down on my stomach as I had been trained in evacuation drills. It became dark and there were ghastly crashing and rattling sounds. I don't know how long I was unconscious, but when I came to and opened my eyes. ... I felt relieved to find myself alive. At the same time I was stricken with horror. Outside, I found the clear, blue sky had turned dim as if it were at dusk. ... The place was filled with an indescribable smell. I looked back at my house to see if my mother was all right. Her hair was a mess and standing on end; her lips were cracked and her head bleeding; she stood there like some unearthly creature. ... It is not easy for me to talk about my experience as an A-bomb survivor. For me it is like airing my dirty linen in public. But here I am to talk to you."

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