PART 1 OF 3Chapter Five: THE AFTERMATH
HATSUYO NAKAMURA, weak and destitute, began a courageous struggle, which would last for many years, to keep her children and herself alive.
She had her rusted Sankoku machine repaired and began to take in some sewing, and she did cleaning and laundry and washed dishes for neighbors who were somewhat better off than she was. But she got so tired that she had to take two days' rest for every three days she worked, and if she was obliged for some reason to work for a whole week, she had then to rest for three or four days. She earned barely enough for food.
At this precarious time she fell ill. Her belly began to swell up, and she had diarrhea and so much pain she could no longer work at all. A doctor, who lived nearby, came to see her and told her she had roundworm, and he said, incorrectly, "If it bites your intestine, you'll die." In those days, there was a shortage of chemical fertilizers in Japan, so farmers were using night soil, and as a consequence many people began to harbor parasites, which were not fatal in themselves but were seriously debilitating to those who had had radiation sickness. The doctor treated Nakamura-san (as he would have addressed her) with santonin, a somewhat dangerous medicine derived from certain varieties of artemisia. To pay the doctor, she was forced to sell her last valuable possession, her husband's sewing machine. She came to think of that act as marking the lowest and saddest moment of her whole life.
In referring to those who went through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Japanese tended to shy away from the term "survivors," because in its focus on being alive it might suggest some slight to the sacred dead. The class of people to which Nakamura-san belonged came, therefore, to be called by a more neutral name, "hibakusha" -- literally, "explosion- affected persons." For more than a decade after the bombings, the hibakusha lived in an economic limbo, apparently because the Japanese government did not want to find itself saddled with anything like moral responsibility for heinous acts of the victorious United States. Although it soon became clear that many hibakusha suffered consequences of their exposure to the bombs which were quite different in nature and degree from those of survivors even of the ghastly fire bombings in Tokyo and elsewhere, the government made no special provision for their relief -- until, ironically, after the storm of rage that swept across Japan when the twenty-three crewmen of a fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon No. 5, and its cargo of tuna were irradiated by the American test of a hydrogen bomb at Bikini in 1954. It took three years even then for a relief law for the hibakusha to pass the Diet.
Though Nakamura-san could not know it, she thus had a bleak period ahead of her. In Hiroshima, the early postwar years were, besides, a time, especially painful for poor people like her, of disorder, hunger, greed, thievery, black markets. Non- hibakusha employers developed a prejudice against the survivors as word got around that they were prone to all sorts of ailments, and that even those, like Nakamura-san, who were not cruelly maimed and had not developed any serious overt symptoms were unreliable workers, since most of them seemed to suffer, as she did, from the mysterious but real malaise that came to be known as one kind of asting A-bomb sickness: a nagging weakness and weariness, dizziness now and then, digestive troubles, all aggravated by a feeling of oppression, a sense of doom, for it was said that unspeakable diseases might at any time plant nasty flowers in the bodies of their victims, and even in those of their descendants.
As Nakamura-san struggled to get from day to day, she had no time for attitudinizing about the bomb or anything else. She was sustained, curiously, by a kind of passivity, summed up in a phrase she herself sometimes used -- "Shikata ga-nai," meaning, loosely, "It can't be helped." She was not religious, but she lived in a culture long colored by the Buddhist belief that resignation might lead to clear vision; she had shared with other citizens a deep feeling of powerlessness in the face of a state authority that had been divinely strong ever since the Meiji Restoration in 1868; and the hell she had witnessed and the terrible aftermath unfolding around her reached so far beyond human understanding that it was impossible to think of them as the work of resentable human beings, such as the pilot of the Enola Gay, or President Truman, or the scientists who had made the bomb -- or even, nearer at hand, the Japanese militarists who had helped to bring on the war. The bombing almost seemed a natural disaster -- one that it had simply been her bad luck, her fate (which must be accepted), to suffer.
When she had been wormed and felt slightly better, she made an arrangement to deliver bread for a baker named Takahashi, whose bakery was in Nobori-cho. On days when she had the strength to do it, she would take orders for bread from retail shops in her neighborhood, and the next morning she would pick up the requisite number of loaves and carry them in baskets and boxes through the streets to the stores. It was exhausting work, for which she earned the equivalent of about fifty cents a day. She had to take frequent rest days.
After some time, when she was feeling a bit stronger, she took up another kind of peddling. She would get up in the dark and trundle a borrowed two-wheeled push-cart for two hours across the city to a section called Eba, at the mouth of one of the seven estuarial rivers that branch from the Ota River through Hiroshima. There, at daylight, fishermen would cast their leaded skirtlike nets for sardines, and she would help them to gather up the catch when they hauled it in. Then she would push the cart back to Nobori-cho and sell the fish for them from door to door. She earned just enough for food.
A couple of years later, she found work that was better suited to her need for occasional rest, because within certain limits she could do it on her own time. This was a job of collecting money for deliveries of the Hiroshima paper, the Chugoku Shimbun, which most people in the city read. She had to cover a big territory, and often her clients were not at home or pleaded that they couldn't pay just then, so she would have to go back again and again. She earned the equivalent of about twenty dollars a month at this job. Every day, her willpower and her weariness seemed to fight to an uneasy draw.
IN 1951, after years of this drudgery, it was Nakamura-san's good luck, her fate (which must be accepted), to become eligible to move into a better house. Two years earlier, a Quaker professor of dendrology from the University of Washington named Floyd W. Schmoe, driven, apparently, by deep urges for expiation and reconciliation, had come to Hiroshima, assembled a team of carpenters, and, with his own hands and theirs, begun building a series of Japanese-style houses for victims of the bomb; in all, his team eventually built twenty-one. It was to one of these houses that Nakamura-san had the good fortune to be assigned. The Japanese measure their houses by multiples of the area of the floor-covering tsubo mat, a little less than four square yards, and the Dr. Shum-o houses, as the Hiroshimans called them, had two rooms of six mats each. This was a big step up for the Nakamuras. This home was redolent of new wood and clean matting. The rent, payable to the city government, was the equivalent of about a dollar a month.
Despite the family's poverty, the children seemed to be growing normally. Yaeko and Myeko, the two daughters, were anemic, but all three had so far escaped any of the more serious complications that so many young hibakusha were suffering. Yaeko, now fourteen, and Myeko, eleven, were in middle school. The boy, Toshio, ready to enter high school, was going to have to earn money to attend it, so he took up delivering papers to the places from which his mother was collecting. These were some distance from their Dr. Shum-o house, and they had to commute at odd hours by streetcar.
The old hut in Nobori-cho stood empty for a time, and, while continuing with her newspaper collections, Nakamura-san converted it into a small street shop for children, selling sweet potatoes, which she roasted, and dagashi, or little candies and rice cakes, and cheap toys, which she bought from a wholesaler.
All along, she had been collecting for papers from a small company, Suyama Chemical, that made mothballs sold under the trade name Paragen. A friend of hers worked there, and one day the friend suggested to Nakamura-san that she join the company, helping wrap the product in its packages. The owner, Nakamura-san learned, was a compassionate man, who did not share the bias of many employers against hibakusha; he had several on his staff of twenty women wrappers. Nakamura- san objected that she couldn't work more than a few days at a time; the friend persuaded her that Mr. Suyama would understand that.
So she began. Dressed in company uniforms, the women stood, somewhat bent over, on either side of a couple of conveyor belts, working as fast as possible to wrap two kinds of Paragen in cellophane. Paragen had a dizzying odor, and at first it made one's eyes smart. Its substance, powdered paradichlorobenzene, had been compressed into lozenge-shaped mothballs and into larger spheres, the size of small oranges, to be hung in Japanese-style toilets, where their rank pseudo-medicinal smell would offset the unpleasantness of non-flushing facilities.
Nakamura-san was paid, as a beginner, a hundred and seventy yen -- then less than fifty cents -- a day. At first, the work was confusing, terribly tiring, and a bit sickening. Her boss worried about her paleness. She had to take many days off. But little by little she became used to the factory. She made friends. There was a family atmosphere. She got raises. In the two ten- minute breaks, morning and afternoon, when the moving belt stopped, there was a bird song of gossip and laughter, in which she joined. It appeared that all along there had been, deep in her temperament, a core of cheerfulness, which must have fuelled her long fight against A-bomb lassitude, something warmer and more vivifying than mere submission, than saying, "Shikata ga-nai." The other women took to her; she was constantly doing them small favors. They began calling her, affectionately, Oba-san -- roughly, "Auntie."
She worked at Suyama for thirteen years. Though her energy still paid its dues, from time to time, to the A-bomb syndrome, the searing experiences of that day in 1945 seemed gradually to be receding from the front of her mind.
THE Lucky Dragon No. 5 episode took place in 1954, the year after Nakamura-san started working for Suyama Chemical. In the ensuing fever of outrage in the country, the provision of adequate medical care for the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs finally became a political issue. Almost every year since 1946, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, a Peace Memorial Meeting had been held in a park that the city planners had set aside, during the city's rebuilding, as a center of remembrance, and on August 6, 1955, delegates from all over the world gathered there for the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. On its second day, a number of hibakusha tearfully testified to the government's neglect of their plight. Japanese political parties took up the cause, and in 1957 the Diet at last passed the A-bomb Victims Medical Care Law. This law and its subsequent modifications defined four classes of people who would be eligible for support: those who had been in the city limits on the day of the bombing; those who had entered an area within two kilometres of the hypocenter in the first fourteen days after it; those who had come into physical contact with bomb victims, in administering first aid or in disposing of their bodies; and those who had been embryos in the wombs of women in any of the first three categories. These hibakusha were entitled to receive so-called health books, which would entitle them to free medical treatment. Later revisions of the law provided for monthly allowances to victims suffering from various aftereffects.
Like a great many hibakusha, Nakamura-san had kept away from all the agitation, and, in fact, also like many other survivors, she did not even bother to get a health book for a couple of years after they were issued. She had been too poor to keep going to doctors, so she had got into the habit of coping alone, as best she could, with whatever ailed her. Besides, she shared with some other survivors a suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the political-minded people who took part in the annual ceremonies and conferences.
Nakamura-san's son, Toshio, right after his graduation from high school, went to work for the bus division of the Japanese National Railways. He was in the administrative offices, working first on timetables, later in accounting. When he was in his mid-twenties, a marriage was arranged for him, through a relative who knew the bride's family. He built an addition to the Dr. Shum-o house, moved in, and began to contribute to his mother's support. He made her a present of a new sewing machine.
Yaeko, the older daughter, left Hiroshima when she was fifteen, right after graduating from middle school, to help an ailing aunt who ran a ryokan, a Japanese-style inn. There, in due course, she fell in love with a man who ate at the inn's restaurant, and she made a love marriage.
After graduating from high school, Myeko, the most susceptible of the three children to the A-bomb syndrome, eventually became an expert typist and took up instructing at typing schools. In time, a marriage was arranged for her.
Like their mother, all three children avoided pro-hibakusha and antinuclear agitation.
IN 1966, Nakamura-san, having reached the age of fifty-five, retired from Suyama Chemical. At the end, she was being paid thirty thousand yen, or about eighty-five dollars, a month. Her children were no longer dependent on her, and Toshio was ready to take on a son's responsibility for his aging mother. She felt at home in her body now; she rested when she needed to, and she had no worries about the cost of medical care, for she had finally picked up Health Book No. 1023993. It was time for her to enjoy life. For her pleasure in being able to give gifts, she took up embroidery and the dressing of traditional kimekomi dolls, which are supposed to bring good luck. Wearing a bright kimono, she went once a week to dance at the Study Group of Japanese Folk Music. In set movements, with expressive gestures, her hands now and then tucking up the long folds of the kimono sleeves, and with head held high, she danced. moving as if floating, with thirty agreeable women to a song of celebration of entrance into a house:
May your family flourish
For a thousand generations,
For eight thousand generations.
About a year after Nakamura-san retired, she was invited by an organization called the Bereaved Families' Association to take a train trip with about a hundred other war widows to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo. This holy place, established in 1869, was dedicated to the spirits of all the Japanese who had died in wars against foreign powers, and could be thought roughly analogous, in terms of its symbolism for the nation, to the Arlington National Cemetery -- with the difference that souls, not bodies, were hallowed there. The shrine was considered by many Japanese to be a focus of a still smoldering Japanese militarism, but Nakamura-san, who had never seen her husband's ashes and had held on to a belief that he would return to her someday, was oblivious of all that. She found the visit baffling. Besides the Hiroshima hundred, there were huge crowds of women from other cities on the shrine grounds. It was impossible for her to summon up a sense of her dead husband's presence, and she returned home in an uneasy state of mind.
JAPAN was booming. Things were still rather tight for the Nakamuras, and Toshio had to work very long hours, but the old days of bitter struggle began to seem remote. In 1975, one of the laws providing support to the hibakusha was revised, and Nakamura-san began to receive a so-called health-protection allowance of six thousand yen, then about twenty dollars, a month; this would gradually be increased to more than twice that amount. She also received a pension, toward which she had contributed at Suyama, of twenty thousand yen, or about sixty-five dollars, a month; and for several years she had been receiving a war widow's pension of another twenty thousand yen a month. With the economic upswing, prices had, of course, risen steeply (in a few years Tokyo would become the most expensive city in the world), but Toshio managed to buy a small Mitsubishi car, and occasionally he got up before dawn and rode a train for two hours to play golf with business associates. Yaeko's husband ran a shop for sales and service of air conditioners and heaters, and Myeko's husband ran a newsstand and candy shop near the railroad station.
In May each year, around the time of the Emperor's birthday, when the trees along broad Peace Boulevard were at their feathery best and banked azaleas were everywhere in bloom, Hiroshima celebrated a flower festival. Entertainment booths lined the boulevard, and there were long parades, with floats and bands and thousands of marchers. In the fortieth year after the bombing, Nakamura-san danced with the women of the olk-dance association, six dancers in each of sixty rows. They danced to Oiwai-Ondo, a song of happiness, lifting their arms in gestures of joy and clapping in rhythms of threes:
Green pine trees, cranes and turtles ...
You must tell a story of your hard times
And laugh twice.
The bombing had been four decades ago. How far away it seemed!
The sun blazed that day. The measured steps and the constant lifting of the arms for hours at a time were tiring. In mid-afternoon, Nakamura-san suddenly felt woozy. The next thing she knew, she was being lifted, to her great embarrassment and in spite of begging to be let alone, into an ambulance. At the hospital, she said she was fine; all she wanted was to go home. She was allowed to leave.DR. TERUFUMI SASAKI
DR. TERUFUMI SASAKI was still racked by memories of the appalling days and nights right after the explosion -- memories it would be his life work to distance himself from. Besides his duties as a junior surgeon at the Red Cross Hospital, he now had to spend every Thursday across the city at the University of Hiroshima, to chip away at his doctoral dissertation on appendicial tuberculosis. As was the custom in Japan, he had been permitted to start his practice as soon as he was graduated from medical school. It took most young internes five years of additional study to get their actual doctoral degree; in Dr. Sasaki's case, it was, for various reasons, to take ten.
He had been commuting during that year from the small town of Mukaihara, where his mother lived, about an hour by train from the city. His family had money -- and, indeed, over the years it turned out (as it did for a great many Japanese doctors) that that most efficacious medicine for whatever ailed him would be cash or credit, the larger the dosage the better. His grandfather had been a landlord and had accumulated wide mountain tracts of valuable woodland. His late father, a doctor, had earned good money in a private clinic. During the turbulent time of hunger and crime after the bombing, thieves had broken into two fortlike storage repositories next to his mother's house and taken many valued heirlooms, including a lacquer box given to the doctor's grandfather by the Emperor, an ancient case for writing brushes and ink blocks. and a classic painting of a tiger, alone worth ten million yen, or more than twenty-five thousand dollars.
His marriage was working out well. He had been able to pick and choose. There had not been many such eligible young men as he in Mukaihara, and numerous marriage brokers had sounded him out. He had followed up some of these feelers. One father of an offered bride had received his agent and turned him down. Perhaps this was because Dr. Sasaki had a reputation of having been a very bad boy, a "tomcat," some said, when he was young; and the father may have known about his illegal treatment of patients in Mukaihara in the evenings after his work at the Red Cross Hospital. But perhaps it was also because the father was overcautious. It was said of him that he not only followed the Japanese saying, "Check an old iron bridge well before crossing," he would not cross even after checking. Dr. Sasaki, never in his life having experienced such a rebuff, had decided that this was the girl for him, and with the help of two persistent go-betweens he had eventually won the wary parent over. Now, married only a few months, he was quickly learning that his wife was wiser and more sensible than he.
MUCH of Dr. Sasaki's work as a surgeon at the Red Cross Hospital in the next five years was in the removal of keloid scars -- hideously ugly, thick, itchy, rubbery, copper-red crablike growths that often formed over bad burns that hibakusha had suffered, and particularly those victims who had been exposed to the great heat of the bomb within two kilometres of the hypocenter. In dealing with the keloids, Dr. Sasaki and his colleagues were groping in the dark, because they had no reliable literature to guide them. They found that after the bulbous scars had been removed they often recurred. Some, if they were left unattended, became infected, and others caused underlying muscles to tense up. He and his colleagues eventually came to the reluctant conclusion that they should not have operated on many of the keloids. The scars tended in time to shrink spontaneously, and could then be more easily excised, or be left alone.
IN 1951, Dr. Sasaki decided to quit working for the hospital, with its awful memories, and to set himself up, as his father had done, in a private clinic in Mukaihara. He was ambitious. He had had an older brother, who, according to the custom of Japanese medical families, had been expected to succeed to the father's practice; the second son would have to make his own way, and in 1939, urged by the propaganda of the time to seek a fortune in the vast undeveloped reaches of China, Terufumi Sasaki had gone there and had studied at the Japanese Eastern Medical University, in Tsingtao. He had graduated and returned to Hiroshima shortly before the bombing. His brother had been killed in the war, so the way was clear for him -- not only to start a practice in his father's town but also to withdraw from Hiroshima and, in effect, from being a hibakusha. For the next four decades, he also never spoke to anyone about the hours and days after the bombing.
His grandfather having deposited large sums in the Bank of Hiroshima, Dr. Sasaki went to it confidently expecting a big loan to help him get started. But the bank said that a clinic in such a small town could easily fail, and it put a cap on his credit of three hundred thousand yen, then less than a thousand dollars. So Dr. Sasaki started treating patients in his wife's parents' house. He performed simple surgery -- on appendixes, gastric ulcers, compound fractures -- but he also rather daringly practiced every other sort of medicine, too, except gynecology and obstetrics. He did surprisingly well. Before long, he was getting nearly a hundred patients a day. Some came to him from considerable distances. The bank noticed, and his limit of credit rose to a million yen.
In 1954, he put up a proper clinic building within the compound of his wife's family; it was a two-story structure with nineteen beds for in-patients and a total floor space of two hundred and eighty mats. He financed the building with a loan of three hundred thousand yen from the bank and by selling timber from the lands he had inherited from his grandfather. In the new clinic, with a staff of five nurses and three on-the-job trainees, and working himself without pause six days a week from eighty-thirty in the morning till six in the evening, he continued to prosper.
LONG before this, doctors in Hiroshima had begun to find that there were much more serious consequences of exposure to the bomb than the traumatic wounds and keloid scars that had been so dramatically visible in the early days. The violent symptoms of primary radiation sickness wore off in time in most patients, but it soon became clear that hibakusha were liable to deeper and far more dangerous sequels from the enormous doses of radiation dealt them by the bomb. Above all, it was evident by 1950 that the incidence of leukemia in hibakusha was much higher than normal; among those who had been exposed within one kilometre of the hypocenter, the incidence was reported to be between ten and fifty times above the norm. Over the years, the appearance of "purple spots," tiny surface hemorrhages symptomatic of leukemia, came to be dreaded by hibakusha. And, later on, other forms of cancer besides leukemia, with longer periods of latency, were showing up at higher than normal rates: carcinomas of the thyroid, the lungs, the breast, the salivary glands, the stomach, the liver, the urinary tract, and the male and female reproductive organs. Some survivors -- even children -- were developing what were called A-bomb cataracts. Some exposed children were growing up stunted, and one of the most shocking findings was that some children who had been in their mothers' womb at the time of the bombing were born with heads smaller than normal. Because it was known that radiation affected the genes of laboratory animals, a fear spread among many hibakusha that future descendants of the survivors might be subject to mutations. (It was the late sixties before analyses indeed showed some chromosome aberrations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, and it would, of course, take much longer to tell what, if any, effects there would be on their progeny.) There were several ailments, less life-threatening than the cancers, that were thought by many doctors -- and by most of the people who were subject to them -- to have resulted from exposure to the bomb: several sorts of anemia, liver dysfunction, sexual problems, endocrine disorders, accelerated aging, and the not-quite-really-sick yet undeniable debilitation of which so many complained.
Dr. Sasaki, who had himself suffered nothing but this last, paid little or no attention to any of these revelations. He did not follow them closely in the medical journals. In his town in the hills, he treated few hibakusha. He lived enclosed in the present tense.
IN 1963, wanting to get caught up on the latest developments in anaesthesia, Dr. Sasaki went to the Yokohama Red Cross Hospital to learn about them from its director general, Dr. Tatsutaro Hattori. As chief of surgery at the Hiroshima hospital, Dr. Hattori had been Dr. Sasaki's boss there; he had come down with radiation sickness after the bombing and had moved to Yokohama. Dr. Hattori suggested that Dr. Sasaki might as well have a thorough physical examination, taking advantage of the hospital's up-to-the-minute equipment, while he was there, and Dr. Sasaki agreed. A tomographic scan of his chest showed up a shadow in the left lung. Dr. Sasaki smoked. Without going into what had been learned about the incidence of lung cancer in hibakusha, perhaps supposing that Dr. Sasaki would know all about such things, Dr. Hattori recommended a biopsy. It was done, and when Dr. Sasaki came out of the anaesthetic he found that his entire left lung had been removed.
A few hours after the operation, a ligature of one of the blood vessels into the lung cavity gave way, and Dr. Sasaki suffered severe hemorrhaging for nearly a week. One day toward the end of that time, as he continued to cough up blood and grew worrisomely feeble, there gathered around him what he construed as a deathwatch: his wife, Dr. Hattori, the hospital matron, several nurses. He thanked them, said goodbye to his wife, and died.
Or, rather, he thought he died. Some time later, he regained consciousness and found himself on the mend.
IN later years, Dr. Sasaki came to think of that experience as the most important of his life -- more important than the bombing. Haunted by the loneliness he had felt when he thought he was dying, he now did his best to move closer to his wife and his children -- two sons and two daughters. An aunt startled him one day by aying, "You are lucky, Terufumi. After all, i wa jinjutsu -- medicine is the art of compassion." He had never thought about the meaning of this saying, which is held up before all young Japanese training to be doctors. He determined thenceforth to be calm and composed, and not to leave undone anything he could do for a patient. He would try to be kind to people he detested. He would give up hunting and mah-jongg. His wife said, "You've reached maturity in your forties. I grew up when I was in my twenties.'"
He did not give up cigarettes.
IN 1972, Dr. Sasaki's wife died of breast cancer -- the third crisis of his life. He achieved now another sort of loneliness connected with death, this one nontransient and intense. He threw himself more tirelessly than ever into his work.
His wife's death and his own near-death, together with his realization that he was no longer young, started him thinking about the elderly, and he decided to build a much larger new clinic, where he would practice geriatric medicine. This branch of the compassionate art was attracting some of the ablest Japanese doctors, and it also happened to be growing extremely lucrative. As he put it to friends, who laughed at what they considered his overreaching, everyone after sixty had aches and pains, everyone as old as that needed massage, heat therapy, acupuncture, moxa, and comfort from a friendly physician -- they would come in flocks.
By 1977, Dr. Sasaki's credit with the Bank of Hiroshima had soared, and it granted him a loan of nineteen million yen, or about eighty thousand dollars. With this money he put up on land on the edge of town, an imposing four-story concrete building, with nineteen beds for in-patients and with extensive facilities for rehabilitation, and also with a splendid apartment for himself. He took on a staff of three acupuncturists, three therapists, eight nurses, and fifteen paramedics and maintenance people. His two sons, Yoshihisa and Ryuji, by now both doctors, came to help out in specially busy periods.
He was right about the flocks. Again he worked from eight-thirty to six, six days a week, and he saw an average of two hundred and fifty patients a day. Some came to him from cities as far away as Kure, Ondo, and Akitsu, on the coast, and others from villages all over the prefecture. Taking advantage of huge tax deductions that Japanese doctors could claim, he saved large sums, and as he returned money on his bank loans the bank kept raising his line of credit. He got the idea of building an old-people's home, which would cost two hundred million yen. It would be necessary to get approval for this project from the Takata County Medical Association. He submitted plans. He was turned down. Soon afterward, a leading member of the association built in the city of Yoshida just such a home as Dr. Sasaki had proposed.
Undaunted, Dr. Sasaki, aware that the three foremost pleasures of his elderly patients were family visits, good food, and a relaxed bath time, used the bank's loans to build, on the site of his former clinic, a luxurious bathhouse. This was ostensibly for patients, but he opened it to the townspeople as well, charging more for admission than the usual public bathhouse did; its tubs, after all, were of marble. He spent half a million (deductible) yen a month on its upkeep.
Every morning, Dr. Sasaki met with the entire staff of the clinic. He had a favorite lecture: Do not work primarily for money; do your duty to patients first and let the money follow; our life is short, we don't live twice; the whirlwind will pick up the leaves and spin them, but then it will drop them and they will form a pile.
Dr. Sasaki's own pile grew and grew. His life was insured for a hundred million yen; he was insured against malpractice for three hundred million yen. He drove a white BMW. Rare vases stood on chests in his living room. In spite of the enormous tax deductions allowed Japanese doctors, he had come to be the payer of the highest income tax in Takata County (population thirty-seven thousand), and his tax was among the ten highest in all of Hiroshima Prefecture (twelve cities and sixty-eight towns in fifteen counties; population two million seven hundred thousand).
He had a new idea. He would drill down next to the clinic for subterranean hot water, to fill hot-springs baths. He hired the Tokyo Geological Engineering company to do a survey, and it assured him that if he drilled down eight hundred metres he would get from sixty to a hundred litres of water a minute, at between 79 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. He had visions of a hot-springs spa; he calculated that he could supply water for hot baths in three hotels. He started in June 1985.
DR. SASAKI began to be considered a bit strange by Hiroshima doctors. He was not attracted, as they were, to the exclusive high society of the medical associations. Instead, he went in for such things as ponsoring a Mukaihara contest in gateball, a primitive variant of croquet; he often wore a necktie -- which cost him five thousand yen, or twenty dollars -- with Gate Ball embroidered across it in English script. His principal pleasure, apart from his work, was to take an occasional trip to Hiroshima to eat Chinese food in the basement of the Grand Hotel, lighting up, at the end of the meal, a cigarette of the brand Mild Seven, which had printed on its packet, besides its name in English, this courteous Japanese admonition: "Let's be careful not to smoke too much, for the sake of our health."
He could face Hiroshima now, because a gaudy phoenix had risen from the ruinous desert of 1945: a remarkably beautiful city of more than a million inhabitants -- only one in ten of whom was a hibakusha -- with tall modern buildings on broad, tree- lined avenues crowded with Japanese cars, all of which had English lettering on them and appeared to be brand-new; a city of strivers and sybarites, with seven hundred and fifty-three bookstores and two thousand three hundred and fifty-six bars. If past memories did stir up in him, Dr. Sasaki had come to be able to live with his one bitter regret: that in the shambles of the Red Cross Hospital in those first days after the bombing it had not been possible, beyond a certain point, to keep track of the identities of hose whose corpses were dragged out to the mass cremations, with the result that nameless souls might still, all these years later, be hovering there, unattended and dissatisfied.FATHER WILHELM KLEINSORGE
BACK IN THE HOSPITAL in Tokyo for the second time, Father Kleinsorge was suffering from fever, diarrhea, wounds that would not heal, wildly fluctuating blood counts, and utter exhaustion. For the rest of his life, his was to be a classic case history of that vague, borderline form of A-bomb sickness in which a person's body developed a rich repertory of symptoms, few of which could be positively attributed to radiation, but many of which turned up in hibakusha, in various combinations and degrees, so often as to be blamed by some doctors and almost all patients on the bomb.
Father Kleinsorge lived this life of misery with the most extraordinarily selfless spirit. After his discharge from the hospital, he returned to the tiny Noborimachi chapel he had helped build, and there he continued his self-abnegating pastoral life.
In 1948, he was named priest of the much grander Misasa church, in another part of town. There were not yet many tall buildings in the city, and neighbors called the big church the Misasa Palace. A convent of Helpers of Holy Souls was attached to the church, and besides his priestly duties of conducting Mass, hearing confessions, and teaching Bible classes he ran eight-day retreats for novices and Sisters of the convent, during which the women, given Communion and instructed by him from day to day, would maintain silence. He still visited Sasaki-san and other hibakusha who were sick and wounded, and he would even babysit for young mothers. He often went to the sanatorium at Saijyo, an hour by train from the city, to comfort tubercular patients.
Father Kleinsorge was briefly hospitalized in Tokyo twice more. His German Jesuit colleagues were of the opinion that in all his work he was a little too much concerned for others, and not enough for himself. Beyond his own stubborn sense of mission, he had taken on himself the Japanese spirit of enryo -- setting the self apart, putting the wishes of others first. They thought he might literally kill himself with kindness to others; he was too rucksichtsvoll, they said-too regardful. When gifts of delicacies came from relatives in Germany, he gave them all away. When he got penicillin from an Occupation doctor, he gave it to parishioners who were as sick as he. (Among his many other complaints, he had syphilis, which he had apparently caught from transfusions in one of his hospital stays; it was cured eventually.) He gave lessons on the catechism when he had a high fever. After he came back from a long hike of pastoral calls, the Misasa housekeeper would see him collapse on the steps of his rectory, head down -- a figure, it seemed, of utter defeat. The next day, he would be out in the streets again.
Gradually, over years of this unremitting labor, he gathered his modest harvest: some four hundred baptisms, some forty marriages.
FATHER KLEINSORGE loved the Japanese and their ways. One of his German colleagues, Father Berzikofer, jokingly said that Father Kleinsorge was married to Japan. Shortly after he moved to the Misasa church, he read that a new law on naturalization had been passed by the Diet, with these requirements: that one live in Japan for at least five years, be over twenty years old and mentally sound, be of good character, be able to support oneself, and be able to accept single nationality. He hastened to submit proofs that he met all these, and after some months of review he was accepted. He registered himself as a Japanese citizen under the name he would henceforth bear: Father Makoto Takakura.
FOR a few months in the spring and summer of 1956, his poor health declining still further, Father Takakura filled a temporary vacancy in a small parish in the Noborimachi district. Five years before that, the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, whom Father Takakura knew well, had begun giving Bible classes to a group of girls whose faces had been disfigured by keloids. Later, some of them had been taken, as so-called Hiroshima Maidens, to the United States for plastic surgery. One of them, Tomoko Nakabayashi, whom Father Takakura had converted and baptized, died on an operating table at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Her ashes were carried to her family when the first group of Maidens returned to Hiroshima that summer of 1956, and it fell to Father Takakura to preside at her funeral. During it, he nearly fainted.
At Noborimachi, he began instructing the female members, a mother and two daughters, of a wealthy and cultured family named Naganishi. Feverish or not, he went to them, always on foot, every evening. Sometimes he would arrive early; he would pace up and down the street outside, then ring the bell at precisely seven o'clock. He would look at himself in a hall mirror, adjust his hair and habit, and enter the living room. He would teach for an hour; then the Naganishis would serve tea and sweets, and he and they would chat until exactly ten. He felt at home in that house. The younger daughter, Hisako, became devoted to him, and when, after eighteen months, his various symptoms grew so bad that he was going to have to be hospitalized she asked him to baptize her, and he did, on the day before he entered the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital for an entire year's stay.
His most disturbing complaint was a weird infection in his fingers, which had become bloated with pus and would not heal. He had fever and flulike symptoms. His white blood count was seriously low, and he had pain in his knees, particularly the left one, and in other joints. His fingers were operated on and slowly healed. He was treated for leukopenia. Before his discharge, an ophthalmologist found that he had the beginnings of an A-bomb cataract.
He returned to the large Misasa congregation, but it was harder and harder for him to carry the kind of overload he cherished. He developed back pain, which was caused, doctors said, by a kidney stone; he passed it. Dragged down by constant pain and by infections that were abetted by his shortage of white cells, he limped through his days, pushing himself beyond his strength.
Finally, in 1961, he was mercifully put out to pasture by the diocese, in a tiny church in the country town of Mukaihara -- the town where Dr. Sasaki was flourishing in his private clinic.
THE compound of the Mukaihara church, at the crest of a steep rise from the town, enclosed a small chapel, with an oaken table for an altar and with space for a flock of about twenty to kneel, Japanese-fashion, on a spread of tatami matting; and, uphill, a cramped parsonage. Father Takakura chose as his bedroom in the parsonage a room no more than six feet square and as bare as a monk's cell; he ate in another such cell, next to it; and the kitchen and bathroom, beyond, were dark, chilly, sunken rooms, no larger than the others. Across a narrow corridor running the length of the building were an office and a much larger bedroom, which Father Takakura, true to his nature, reserved for guests.
When he first arrived, he felt enterprising, and, on the principle that souls are best caught while unripe, he had builders add two rooms to the chapel and started in them what he called the St. Mary's Kindergarten. So began a bleak life for four Catholics: the priest, two Japanese sisters to teach the babies, and a Japanese woman to cook. Few believers came to church. His parish consisted of four previously converted families, about ten worshippers in all. Some Sundays, no one showed up for Mass.
After its first spurt, Father Takakura's energy rapidly flagged. Once each week, he took a train to Hiroshima and went to the Red Cross Hospital for a checkup. At Hiroshima station, he picked up what he loved best to read as he travelled -- timetables with schedules of trains going all over Honshu Island. The doctors injected steroids in his painful joints and treated him for the chronic flulike symptoms, and once he reported he had found traces of blood in his underwear, which the doctors guessed came from new kidney stones.
In the village of Mukaihara, he tried to be as inconspicuous -- as Japanese -- as he could. He sometimes wore Japanese clothes. Not wanting to seem high-living, he never bought meat in the local market, but sometimes he smuggled some out from the city. A Japanese priest who occasionally came to see him, Father Hasegawa, admired his efforts to carry his naturalization through to perfection but found him in many ways unshakably German. He had a tendency when he was rebuffed in an undertaking to stubbornly push all the harder straight for it, whereas a Japanese would more tactfully look for some way around. Father Hasegawa noticed that when Father Takakura was hospitalized, he rigidly respected the hospital's visiting hours, and if people came, even from far away, to see him, outside proper hours, he refused to receive them. Once, eating with his friend, Father Hasegawa declined his host's offer of a bowl of rice; he said he was full. But then delicious pickles appeared, which caused a Japanese palate to cry out for rice, and he decided to have a bowl after all. Father Takakura was outraged (i.e., in his guest's view, German): How could he eat rice plus pickle when he had been too full to eat rice alone?
DURING this period, Father Takakura was one of many people whom Dr. Robert J. Lifton interviewed in preparing to write his book Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. In one conversation the priest hinted that he realized he had achieved a truer identity as a hibakusha than as a Japanese:
If a person says to me that he is weary [darui], if it is a hibakusha who says it, it gives me a different feeling than if he is an ordinary person. He doesn't have to explain. ... He knows all of the uneasiness -- all of the temptation to lose spirit and be depressed -- and of then starting again to see if he can do his job. ... If a Japanese hears the words "tenno beika" [His Majesty the Emperor], it is different from a Westerner hearing them -- a very different feeling in the foreigner's heart from what is felt in the Japanese person's heart. It is a similar question in the case of one who is a victim and one who is not, when they hear about another victim. ... I met a man one time ... [who] said, "I experienced the atomic bomb" -- and from then on the conversation changed. We both understood each other's feelings. Nothing had to be said.
IN 1966, Father Takakura had to change cooks. A woman named Satsue Yoshiki, who was thirty-five years old, recently cured of tuberculosis, and recently baptized, had been told to report for an interview at the Mukaihara church. Having been given the Japanese name of the priest, she was astonished to be greeted by a big gaijin, a foreigner, dressed in a quilted Japanese gown. His face, which was rounded out and puffy (doubtless from medication), struck her as that of a baby. At once, indeed, there commenced a relationship, soon to blossom into one of complete mutual trust, in which her role seemed to be ambiguous: part daughter, part mother. His growing helplessness kept her in subjugation; she tenderly nursed him. Her cooking was primitive, his temper cranky. He had said he would eat anything, even Japanese noodles, but he was sharp with her about his food, as he had never been with anyone else. Once, he spoke of "strained baked potatoes" his real mother had cooked. She tried to make them. He said, "These are not like my mother's." He loved fried prawns and ate them when he went to Hiroshima for checkups. She tried to cook them. He said, "These are burned." She stood beside him in the tiny eating room, her hands behind her gripping the doorjamb so tightly that in time its paint was all worn away. Yet he praised her, confided in her, joked with her, apologized to her each time he lost his temper. She thought him -- under the shortness, which she attributed to pain -- gentle, pure, patient, sweet, humorous, and deeply kind.
Once, on a late-spring day, not long after Yoshiki-san arrived, sparrows alighted in a persimmon tree outside his office window. He clapped his hands to drive them away, and soon there appeared on his palms purple spots of the sort that all hibakusha dreaded. The doctors in Hiroshima shook their heads. Who could say what they were? They seemed to be blood bruises, but his blood tests did not suggest leukemia. He had slight hemorrhages in his urinary tract. "What if I get blood in my brains?" he asked once. His joints still hurt. He developed liver dysfunction, high blood pressure, back pains, chest pains. An electrocardiogram turned up an anomaly. He was put on a drug to ward off a coronary attack, and on an antihypertensive drug. He was given steroids, hormones, an anti-diabetic drug. "I don't take medicines, I eat them," he said to Yoshiki-san. In 1971, he was hospitalized for an operation to see whether his liver was cancerous; it was not.
All through this time of decline, a stream of visitors came to see him, thanking him for all he had done for them in the past. Hisako Naganishi, the woman he had baptized the day before his long hospitalization, was especially faithful; she brought him open-faced sandwiches on German rye bread, which he loved, and when Yoshiki-san needed a vacation, she would move in and tend him in her absence. Father Berzikofer would come for a few days at a time, and they would talk and drink a great deal of gin, which Father Takakura had also come to love.
ONE winter day at the beginning of 1976, Father Takakura slipped and fell on the steep icy path down to town. The next morning, Yoshiki-san heard him shouting her name. She found him in the bathroom, leaning over the washstand, unable to move. With all the strength of her love, she carried him -- he weighed a hundred and seventy-five pounds -- to his bed, and laid him down. For a month, he was unable to move. She improvised a bedpan, and cared for him day and night. Finally, she borrowed a wheelchair from the town office and took him to Dr. Sasaki's clinic. The two men had known each other years before, but now, one living in his monk's cell and the other in his grand apartment in the four-story clinic, they were light-years apart. Dr. Sasaki took an X-ray, saw nothing, diagnosed neuralgia, and advised massage. Father Takakura could not abide the idea of the usual female massager; a man was hired. During the workout, Father Takakura held Yoshiki-san's hand, and his face reddened. The pain was unbearable. Yoshiki-san hired a car and drove Father Takakura to the city, to the Red Cross Hospital. An X-ray on a bigger machine showed fractures of the eleventh and twelfth thoracic vertebrae. He was operated on to relieve pressure on the right sciatic nerve, and he was fitted with a corset.
From then on, he was bedridden. Yoshiki-san fed him, changed diapers that she made for him, and cleaned his body. He read the Bible and timetables -- the only two sorts of texts, he told Yoshiki-san, that never told lies: He could tell you what train to take where, the price of food in the dining car, and how to change trains at such-and-such a station to save three hundred yen. One day, he called Yoshiki-san, greatly excited. He had found an error. Only the Bible told the truth!
His fellow-priests finally persuaded him to go to St. Luke's Hospital in Kobe. Yoshiki-san visited him, and he drew out from a book a copy of his chart, on which was written "A living corpse." He said he wanted to go home with her, and she took him. "Because of you, my soul has been able to get through purgatory," he said to her when he was in his own bed.
He weakened, and his fellow-priests moved him to a two-room house in a hollow just below their Novitiate, in Nagatsuka. Yoshiki-san told him she wanted to sleep in his room with him. No, he said, his vows would not permit that. She lied, saying that the father superior had ordered it. Greatly relieved, he allowed it. After that, he seldom opened his eyes. She fed him only ice cream. When visitors came, all he could say was "Thank You." He fell into a coma, and on November 19, 1977, with a doctor, a priest, and Yoshiki-san at his side, this explosion-affected person took a deep breath and died.
He was buried in a serene pine grove at the top of the hill above the Novitiate.
FATHER WILHELM M. TAKAKURA, S.J.
The fathers and brothers of the Nagatsuka Novitiate noticed over the years that there were almost always fresh flowers at that grave.