Hiroshima Voices: “No Nukes, No War” Iwao Nakanishi, 93, A-bomb survivor, Kure City

Still traumatized by stench of corpses

On August 6, 1945, Iwao Nakanishi experienced the atomic bombing at the former Army Clothing Depot, located in Hiroshima’s present-day Minami Ward, when he was a student and mobilized to work there. In 2000, he began to communicate his A-bombing experiences to the public. In 2014, he formed a citizens group aimed at preservation of the former Army Clothing Depot buildings and served as its representative. The group has continued its call for preservation of all four of the buildings, which are among the largest A-bombed structures in Hiroshima.

Click here to view the video

Why is Russia waging this war? Its invasion of Ukraine makes me absolutely furious. If nuclear weapons were to be used now, humankind would perish. Nuclear weapons are unimaginably terrifying. Because I experienced the inhumanity of the atomic bombing back then, this Russian act of aggression is even more lamentable and infuriating.

Try as I might, I can’t forget my experience in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that day. I was 15 years old at the time and a fourth-year student at the junior high school affiliated with the Hiroshima Higher Normal School (present-day Hiroshima University Junior and Senior High School). When waiting for a truck outside the Clothing Depot buildings, I saw a bright flash of light in front of me. I survived because I was protected by the buildings at the time of the bombing. Afterward, however, people who had managed to escape the horrors of the bombing clung to me, begging for help. “Help me. Please help me,” they would say. There was a horrible combination of odors of rotting and burning corpses, a memory that traumatizes me to this day.

Probably because I was exposed to radiation over my entire body, I developed prostate cancer in 2008 and kidney cancer in 2018. I underwent surgery for bladder cancer in 2020, but it recurred in 2022. Nuclear weapons cause suffering for decades.

Someday in the future, no more A-bomb survivors will be left alive. The A-bombed buildings serve as a “silent witness.” The structures have value that is not monetary in nature. When I visit the Clothing Depot buildings, I can sense the souls of the dead still there. However, the Hiroshima Prefectural government, which owns three of the buildings, claims it doesn’t have the money to maintain them. Believing the buildings would turn into a meaningless pile of brick if nothing was done, I formed a citizens group. I think the best use of the structures is to preserve all four buildings as they are today with the aim of conveying the absurdity and cruelty of war.

In May, people from around the world will visit Hiroshima City for the summit meeting of the G7 (Group of Seven industrialized nations). I would like them to see with their own eyes the Clothing Depot buildings. I hope the site will serve as the impetus for the elimination of war and nuclear weapons. I’m determined to do whatever I can for as long as I’m alive.

(Interviewed by Yo Kono)