Hiroshima Voices: “No Nukes, No War” Tsuneaki Suzuki, 91, A-bomb survivor, Fuchu-cho, Hiroshima Prefecture

“War [use of nuclear weapons] robs the daily lives [and smiles] of families”

Tsuneaki Suzuki experienced the atomic bombing at his home, located about 2.7 kilometers from the hypocenter, when he was 13 and a second-year student at the junior high school affiliated with Hiroshima Higher Normal School (now Hiroshima University Junior and Senior High School). All six members of the family of Mr. Suzuki’s relatives — his uncle, aunt, and four cousins — died in the bombing. His uncle ran a barbershop near the Hondori shopping arcade in downtown Hiroshima. Mr. Suzuki has donated many photographs his uncle took of his family to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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I’ve been watching the news about the horrific destruction being caused by Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. All I can think about is that war is never acceptable. It is unbearable for me to imagine what would happen if nuclear weapons were to actually be used now.

I’m keenly aware of that each time I look at the family photos taken by my uncle, Rokuro Suzuki, before the atomic bombing. In the photos, my young cousins smile innocently as they play with a puppet or are cooled by the breeze from an electric fan. Even now, I have the urge to meet them again.

Among my four cousins, Hideaki Suzuki, who was two years behind me at school, was the one I played with most frequently. On the day before the atomic bombing, he and I had fun catching shrimp by the river together. I never expected that to be the last time I would see him. The following morning, I was hit by the A-bomb blast when I was at home getting ready for school. Luckily, I wasn’t wounded. However, the lives of all six members of my uncle’s family were taken suddenly in the atomic bombing.

Hideaki, then a sixth-grade student at Fukuromachi National School (now Fukuromachi Elementary School, in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward), and his sister Kimiko, a third-grade student at the same school, experienced the atomic bombing when they were at school. Hideaki carried his severely burned sister on his back and fled, but neither ultimately survived. Their younger brother, Mamoru, then 3, and younger sister, Akiko, who was 1, were burned to death at the family’s barbershop. My uncle, Rokuro, died at a medical relief station after the atomic bombing. His wife, Fujie, went into shock and committed suicide by throwing herself into a well.

Rokuro was a devoted father to his children. When I was a child, he would even take me to the ocean to go swimming with Hideaki and Kimiko. The families were very close. The only thing I can say is that it was a terrible tragedy. My only wish now is that everyone be happy and live in friendship and peace together in a world without nuclear weapons and war, which steal the lives of so many families.