English picture book about life of A-bomb survivor to be donated to the Philippines

by Yuji Yamamoto, Staff Writer

A picture book, written in English and based on the life of Kunihiko Iida, 75, a resident of Higashi-hiroshima City who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and became an orphan at the age of three, will be donated to the Philippines. The book was created by Naomi Nakagoshi, 55, a friend of Mr. Iida and a tour guide living in Kumano-cho, Hiroshima Prefecture, with the support of their friends, including a Filipino artist who studied at Hiroshima University. Copies of the book will soon be printed at a printing company located near Manila, the capital of that nation.

The title of the book is My Story: When I Was Three. The B5-size book contains 28 pages and 3,000 copies of the book will be donated to about 50 places including child welfare facilities and public elementary schools.

Mr. Iida, who has been active in sharing his experience of the atomic bombing, was at his maternal grandparents’ home in Kako-machi (now part of Naka Ward) when Hiroshima was attacked with the atomic bomb. His mother and sister were killed in the bombing and his father died in the war. After the war ended, Mr. Iida was raised by his uncle. But he experienced intense feelings of isolation and loneliness when classmates bullied him because of the scars on his body caused by the atomic bomb. However, in junior high school, he always worked hard to keep the school building clean, and the praise given to him by his teacher helped lift his spirits and made him happier.

The picture book focuses mainly on Mr. Iida’s life up to the time he attended junior high school. A Filipino art teacher, who studied at Hiroshima University as an international student and now lives in Japan, drew the illustrations for the book, along with friends, while Ms. Nakagoshi translated the text into simple English. The cover image depicts a scene in the former Manchuria (in northeastern China) where Mr. Iida lived during his early childhood.

Ms. Nakagoshi and Mr. Iida first met in 2015. When Ms. Nakagoshi was interpreting for Mr. Iida as he recounted his experience of the atomic bombing, she was moved by his words: “It was my teacher at school, not my parents or relatives, that changed my life.” That became the inspiration for her in creating the picture book about Mr. Iida’s life.

While drawing the illustrations for the book, the Filipino art teacher expressed a desire for the book to be used in the Philippines. Ms. Nakagoshi, who has been sending used picture books to the Philippines for some time, was already aware of the shortage of children’s books there.

Thus, she is determined to create and publish picture books that can be donated to disadvantaged children in the Philippines who are unable to receive an adequate education or who have lost their parents.

During the process of creating the book, Ms. Nakagoshi regularly checked with Mr. Iida to ensure that her writing was an accurate account of his experiences and when there were inaccuracies, she made revisions. She also asked the peace volunteers at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where she also serves as a Peace Volunteer, for their opinions and advice. Ms. Nakagoshi hopes that the children who receive her books will have hope for living their lives and understand the importance of not giving up. In appreciation of her father, an A-bomb survivor who supported her studies in the United States and died in 2009, Ms. Nakagoshi feels a keen desire to continue talking and writing about Hiroshima in English.

(Originally published on February 12, 2018)