San Diegans Reflect On 70th Anniversary Of Hiroshima Atomic Blast

Thursday, August 6, 2015
By Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane, Peggy Pico
Credit: Akiko Mikamo/Lulu Publishing
Above: Shinji Mikamo and his wife Miyoko's family pose for a family portrait in Japan in this undated photo.

As the world remembers the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, San Diego peace advocates mark the last 70 years when later wars avoided using nuclear weapons.

More than 200,000 people were killed in the two blasts in August 1945, leading to the end of World War II.

Around 150 people gathered at the Friendship Bell on Shelter Island to celebrate International Peace & Humanity Day on Wednesday night. A solemn ceremony with Japanese floating lanterns is set for Friday at the Coronado community pool and the City Council Chambers patio.

Akiko Mikamo, a San Diego psychologist and president of the San Diego Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity, was born in Hiroshima decades after the bombing. Her father, Shinji Mikamo, survived the blast. He was 19-years-old at the time. She shares his story in her book, "Rising from the Ashes: A true story of forgiveness and survival after Hiroshima.”

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Shinji Mikamo was on the roof of a building less than a mile from the epicenter of the blast. He was injured and badly burned when his father pulled him from the rubble.

"They wandered the streets looking for a rescue," Akiko Mikamo said. "There was no food, no shelter. People around them were dying. They didn't know what had happened."

The burns were so bad that Shinji wanted to give up. But the elder Mikamo wouldn't let him and said he was too young to die. It was five days before medical help arrived.

Shinji spent months in the hospital recovering. He lost everything in the bombing except his father's watch which was dug out from the remains of their home. The extreme heat from the explosion caused its glass cover and hands to be fused together. It showed the exact time of the blast: 8:15 a.m.

He donated the family heirloom to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which was on display at the United Nations for the 40th anniversary. Akiko Mikamo discovered it was stolen during her visit to New York.

"I was furious," she said. "I couldn't believe someone was so heartless to steal it. It was the only relic that tied to my father and his family. He had no pictures, nothing."

But her father saw things from a bigger perspective.

“When you lose something, you gain something,” he told her.

When the story about the stolen watch went public, people who knew Shinji's family offered him photos of his family.

Akiko Mikamo said her father's story is a message of love and the power of forgiveness.

"He never hated Americans,” she said. “He encouraged his children not to hate and to contribute toward peace.”