Last speech made by writer Tamiki Hara in Hiroshima offers message to the future

by Yoko Takehara, member of the “Hiroshima Kagenki no Kai,” a Hiroshima-based group that studies the works of Tamiki Hara

Recently, I learned about a speech made by Tamiki Hara, a writer who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, when he made his last return trip to his hometown in the spring of 1950, one year before he committed suicide. Mr. Hara spoke directly to the citizens of Hiroshima in an article that appeared in the Yukan Chugoku, a newspaper published at the time, but this article remained buried in the past and had not been included in his complete works or other publications.

It was published this year, however, in the summer edition of Mita Bungaku, a literary magazine, along with other uncollected works and newly released letters. Now that we are forced to face the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing as the administration’s new security bills are being pushed through the Diet, it seems to me that Mr. Hara’s speech serves as a message that we should heed.

In April 1950, the Japan P.E.N Club held a special gathering in Hiroshima with about 80 members in attendance, including Yasunari Kawabata, the group’s president. A meeting on “World Peace and Culture,” held at the Chuo Citizens’ Hall, featured 18 speakers each addressing the audience for five minutes, among them Mr. Hara, Tomoji Abe, Tatsuzo Ishikawa, and Shizue Masugi. His talk titled “Since My A-bomb Experience,” Mr. Hara spoke about the scenery of pre-war Hiroshima he had loved and his experience of the atomic bombing while in the Nobori-cho district.

He said: “Those horrifying conditions can never be depicted with words. Only those who experienced it can understand the horror. Later, because I had miraculously escaped serious injury in the bombing, I encountered some outrageous people in Tokyo who assumed ‘the atomic bombing wasn’t so serious.’ It was infuriating to hear people say, despite the miseries we suffered, that the answer was more war.”

I imagine that Mr. Hara heard this while in Tokyo, where he lived after the war, from people who spoke too lightly about the suffering of those who actually endured the bombing. He expressed indignation, then appealed to Hiroshima citizens who shared this same suffering.

He went on: “It is only natural that the peace movement has begun in Hiroshima. I hope that this movement will be sturdy and persistent. As one of the few writers who survived the atomic bombing, I will continue my efforts on the honor of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima.”

At heart, a delicate and sensitive soul, Mr. Hara was a very quiet man. But when he spoke about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he expressed fervent determination. This resolve sprang from the time he started writing about the harrowing conditions he witnessed in the pocket notebook he held on the day of the bombing.

He wrote then: “Miraculously, I have escaped injury. I believe this is the will of Heaven, urging me to survive and convey this horror to others.”

Fueled by this sense of mission, he sedately wrote Natsu no Hana (Summer Flowers), a novel about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The book is considered a masterpiece which stands as the starting point of Japanese literature of the postwar period.

The 70 years since the atomic bombing have seen the survivors of the atomic bombing, like Tamiki Hara, endure the hardships of the postwar period while committing themselves to the peace movement, with others then following in their footsteps. Like the artifacts on display at the Peace Memorial Museum, which appeal for peace to human beings who come from places all over the world, I believe that A-bomb literature, from its inception, has also helped convey the consequences of the A-bomb attack and urges the human family to build peace.

Together with the City of Hiroshima, a group of citizens in Hiroshima who seek to preserve literary works about the city have been working to register Mr. Hara’s pocket notebook, known as “the A-bomb notebook” and containing an eyewitness account of those horrific conditions, as part of the Memory of the World, a project led by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Registration is also being sought for A-bomb materials written by Sankichi Toge and Sadako Kurihara. Although this effort is seemingly an outward attempt where we are appealing for the value of these materials to the world, it is also directed inward as it poses fundamental questions about how we can convey their messages to others.

Facing a negative legacy is not an easy task. However, face them we must because somehow we know that the tremendous sacrifices made in the past can teach us the proper path for the truth.

When Mr. Hara published Summer Flowers, based on his own experience of the bombing, he himself described it on the cover as “written for humanity in the future.” This, of course, includes those of us who live today, in the 70th year since the atomic bombing, but it extends far beyond us as well. Working with many others, I hope to hand down this legacy to the next generation. The baton carried by those who ran before us must not be dropped.


Yoko Takehara
Born in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture in 1976. Enrolled in the doctoral program in Japanese Literature at Notre Dame Seishin University. Member of the Japan Christian Literature Society. Chronicled Tamiki Hara’s life in Tamiki Hara: Complete Works of Poetry (Iwanami Paperback Edition). Lives in Naka Ward, Hiroshima.

(Originally published on July 28, 2015)