Haiku poems by A-bomb survivor translated by American priest

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Father Eric Freed, 51, from the U.S. state of California, has translated into English the haiku poems written by Hiroko Takanashi, 79, from Machida City, Tokyo, who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The poems are included in his new book titled The Experience of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima in Poem. The Catholic community in Hiroshima is preparing its publication.

Manaura ni ano hi no shura ya heiwasai
On the backs of my eyelids, the scenes of that day, the ceremony of peace

As a fourth-year student at First Hiroshima Municipal Girls’ High School, Ms. Takanashi was in front of Yokogawa Station, now in Nishi Ward, when the atomic bomb exploded. After marriage, she moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo and buried the terrible memory of stepping over the dead in the wake of the bombing. On the 50th anniversary of the bombing, though, she faced her experiences of that time and composed 11 haiku poems.

In the summer of 2002, Father Freed met Ms. Takanashi through a friend. Believing that “the feelings of an A-bomb survivor, expressed in lovely Japanese poems, can touch the hearts of Americans,” he decided to translate them into English. In preparing the book, he walked around the former bomb-hit sites, escorted by Ms. Takanashi. The translated poems try to capture Ms. Takanashi’s feelings and the text includes explanations of certain Japanese words used in the poems as well as the history of the Municipal Girls’ High School, which lost many of its students to the bombing.

Last summer Sister Aiko Watanabe, 69, of Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur in Nishi Ward, Hiroshima, met Father Freed in the United States and this meeting inspired the idea for the book. With the support of Father Takashi Koezuka, 68, of the Catholic Hiroshima Diocese and others, the plan is moving forward after the recent visit to Hiroshima by Ms. Takanashi and Father Freed. The book will be printed in May and the 1000 copies will be distributed for free. The costs of the project are being covered by funds raised among the Catholic community in Hiroshima.

(Originally published on March 25, 2009)

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