Column: Summer of torrential rain, 73 years after the atomic bombing

All of a sudden, the clear, blue sky was replaced by a rising mushroom cloud. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was the first such disaster ever experienced by human beings. And little more than one month later, a powerful storm battered those who had managed to survive the atomic bombing and were now nursing their painful wounds. This was the Makurazaki Typhoon.

In Hiroshima Prefecture, the death toll from the typhoon was more than 2,000. A landslide hit the Army Hospital located across from Miyajima and killed 156 A-bomb survivors who had sheltered there for treatment. Some teachers and students from the medical and science faculties of Kyoto University who were visiting Hiroshima at the time to conduct research on the atomic bomb also became victims of the mudslide. The disaster wrought by the typhoon was well documented in Kuhaku-no-tenkizu (A Blank Weather Chart), a masterly book by Kunio Yanagida.

This summer, 73 years after the atomic bombing, western Japan was lashed by torrential rain of unprecedented force. The deluge caused mudslides and bursting riverbanks at various locations, leaving hundreds of people dead or missing. The damage was severe, especially in Hiroshima Prefecture and Okayama Prefecture. The mudslides also hampered people’s desire to mourn for the souls of the A-bomb victims. Because local residents were busy responding to this disaster, some memorial services for the atomic bombing had to be either canceled or scaled down.

There is concern that the horrific experience of the atomic bombing will be difficult to hand down to future generations. However, in the Hiroshima area, one person took the initiative to start restoring an A-bomb victim’s monument after it was buried under a mound of dirt from a landslide. The volunteers who are working tirelessly to lend support to local residents surely hold the same strong desire for nuclear abolition. This morning they will no doubt put their hands together in a silent prayer.

Human beings are continuously beset by natural disasters. In the face of Nature, our existence is minuscule. Nevertheless, human beings have also created nuclear weapons, which bring us only destruction, and yet we continue to cling to them. It is nothing but folly.

(Originally published on August 6, 2018)