Designer Issey Miyake asks Obama to visit Hiroshima on Aug. 6

Japanese clothing designer Issey Miyake, a survivor of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima, expressed hope in a New York Times article Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the Japanese city Aug. 6, the annual commemoration day of the bombing.

Miyake said Obama's pledge to seek a nuclear-free world in an April speech in Prague awakened ''something buried deeply within me, something about which I have until now been reluctant to discuss.''

''I realized that I have, perhaps now more than ever, a personal and moral responsibility to speak out as one who survived what Mr. Obama called the 'flash of light,''' the designer said on the newspaper's Opinion page.

When the first atomic bomb was dropped on his hometown on Aug. 6, 1945, ''I was there, and only 7 years old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape -- I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.''

''I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day,'' the 71-year old wrote. ''I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy.''

''I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic,'' Miyake said.

He emphasized, ''I tried never to be defined by my past. I did not want to be labeled 'the designer who survived the atomic bomb.'''

He said that is why he has always avoided questions about Hiroshima. ''They made me uncomfortable.''

''But now I realize it is a subject that must be discussed if we are ever to rid the world of nuclear weapons,'' Miyake said, referring to a movement in Hiroshima to invite Obama to the city on Aug. 6.

''I hope he will accept. My wish is motivated by a desire not to dwell on the past, but rather to give a sign to the world that the American president's goal is to work to eliminate nuclear wars in the future,'' he said.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on July 14, 2009)