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San Diegans Reflect On 70th Anniversary Of Hiroshima Atomic Blast

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August 6, 2015 1:09 p.m.

San Diegans Reflect On 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima Atomic Blast


Akiko Mikamo, president, San Diego WISH

Mike Kawamura, executive advisor, San Diego WISH

Related Story: San Diegans Reflect On 70th Anniversary Of Hiroshima Atomic Blast


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS midday edition, a Maureen Cavanaugh. Last night people gathered at the ranch it fell on shelter Island to remember the terrible and to World War II in the Pacific. The 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 200,000 people died in the blast on August 6 and ninth, 1945. Organizers called it the international peace and humanity day. Estate anniversary can also be seen as a celebration because it also marks 70 years of a nuclear weapon was used in war.
Two people were at last night's event join me today. Akiko Mikamo, president, San Diego WISH Whose father survived the bomb. Mike Kawamura, executive advisor, San Diego WISH He survived the Hiroshima bomb at the age of two. Welcome.
Akiko, you're born to decades after the atomic bomb was dropped. Abominate the deer parents survived. Was so much talk in your family about that day?
Yes. Wi-Fi-based to talk a lot, since I was a very small child, mother was a very traditional, quiet, two more woman so she didn't say much. She was just swallowing the pain and memories. My father would talk about the heroism of his father and how he was saved. I grew up hearing about it.
What has your father told you about that day, where was he?
My father was 19. He was on top of his house taking tiles off for the government demolition order. He was at 1200 m, the critters of a mile from the epicenter. When the blast happened, he had nothing to show.
How did he survive? Becka I have to say, pure miracle. He was heavily injured in severely burnt. And buried under the house. Many people died like that. 99.8% of the people in that hundred percent demolition zone diet either immediately or within 48 hours.
It is a miracle. Attribute that to his attitude afterwards. His focus on gratitude and hope and compassion and forgiveness. Rather than keeping the bitterness or looking back at the past with negative feelings.
Mike, you are so young, did you have any memories of that at all?
I don't remember because I was so small. I remember that might grandmother carried me and we looked in the sky in bright red. It was horrible in the sky, that moment is etched in my mind for my entire life. I never forget. I believe that was the evening of the atomic bomb. That's all I remember.
Now. -- No, I lived almost 2 miles away. I was safer.
How that members of your family?
My cousin was 16, a student, she died with her classmate in high school. Also, I growing up, I lost many friends due to leukemia during my elementary school days.
Akiko, your father credits his survival to his father, why?
His father was outside of the house as well, he was burnt. But not as badly as my father. His father took him out of the debris and when my father was really getting help us because of the excruciating pain with no medical help or food, he would say I just want to go, I can't tolerate this. I want to die go let me die.
His father would instill the fighting spirit, don't even think about it, your 19. You're too young to die. If you live, you will Hill. Your be able to walk again, and live your life again. Don't give up. With the only reason I can think of. He had many near-death experiences from radiation, injuries and so many things. But he survived and his father Satan.
Your father eventually got to hospital. He eventually was able to get out of the hospital, did he ever see his father again?
Now. -- No. They parted five days after the blast, someone saw him a few days after and he was getting very weak because of the mediation. We believe he just died somewhere but we didn't know where.
What about the other family members?
My father's family, his mother was gravely ill so she was outside the city on medical be. His brother was drafted into the Army. It was only the father in my father, so my father became a war or Bennett because in Japan, Quint coming of age was 20. Was very difficult for him in the close-knit society, not having any family, house or job.
Mike, what was it like growing up in was devastated city of Hiroshima?
I think, Mike shared with me that children were innocent. The children didn't know what it was. They had very little, they were lucky if they had a stub a pencil to study. The schools were really when they gathered and had hoped, they really didn't know what was going on in the world. They didn't know it was radiation.
A year later, the US soldier came in on the truck and we children shouted, hungry, hungry to them. I didn't know they knew the meaning of words, it was my first English word I learned. Occasionally, a soldier those chocolate to us. We jumped in caught it. I taste it with a big smile. I don't hate American soldiers. Especially soldiers driving at Jeep, that was very good for us. Other children, we did bill is wrong, that's the feeling we have.
Akiko, Hiroshima was claimed an official city of peace just two years after the bomb was dropped. There are many really not very peaceful about having been targeted for the first atomic bomb.
How have those feelings evolved over the years?
I just gave a keynote and Hiroshima international symposium. Now, the average age of the survivors are over 80. We have less and less survivors who can talk about the memories. It used to be, there are a lot of people who held grudges like any other people of the victims of any kind of for. They had their families killed in front of them. I don't blame them. Now, many of the survivors say that was a long time ago, it's peacetime and it's important to talk about this but not in the bitterness. But to learn from the past. So we can build a bright positive teacher for the next generations. They are very friendly to Americans. You don't hear the grudge very much at this time.
Akiko, I would like you to share the incredible story about your grandfather's watch.
My father was barely able to walk back to the ruins were the house was. My father was a desperate in looking for his father. He had no clues. He went back there and found this heat fused pocket watch in the ashes that used to belong to his father. This watch is amazing because the glass cover is off and the two hands were both off and heat fused with enormous heat. It shows the time of the explosion at 815. Later, he donated to the Russian -- Reshma piecemeal -- Museum. It was permanently loan to United States headquarter in Manhattan and later in 1985. When I first came to this country, I went there and discovered the watch was stolen from the glass display, just a few weeks before I got there. That was shocking and very sad. My father's wish was for people from all over the world to see it and learn what it was like and reflect on the piece. I was very young and angry. Was very angry. When I called and told him, he was shocked and said but he said it's easy to point fingers at somebody and hate somebody. It doesn't help. When you lose something, we gain something. We didn't know what we would gain, but that's what he said.
20 years later, I am here with Mike and other people to educate and promote peace. That is one of the gifts we got, that I get to talk about the watch in my father's history and I family. In doing that, we create friendship and we see help that we had wonderful chief -- child peace ambassador from London yesterday. That is the gift that we are human family.
The watch remains lost?
You and Kiko were both at the ceremony yesterday. What did you take away from it? What was ceremony like?
I worked as a counselor for more than 40 years. I worked in the US in South America. I have lots of friends worldwide. My daughter also married a young American boy. Now I have granddaughters. My family -- I have lots of friends and family. I have a strong desire for world peace. I always keep saying to everyone, remembering the past is a step to the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change our future. It depends on as. Let us work together toward world peace for the next generation. I see this all the time.
Today in Japan, no calls to eliminate nuclear weapons in the face of the earth.
Is that a movement you support, Akiko go
Yes. We are not politically involved, we don't do any political work. We do believe however, the survivors say they don't want to see any other single human being have to go through this ever again. We completely supportive at.
How is your brother now?
He is 89 years old. He was just interviewed by the BBC, is doing very well. He lives in Hiroshima and he has asked by many media to talk about his stories and he's very happy to be able to share and see his children and grandchildren working toward peace.
Did he ever think of leaving the city?
Now. -- No. That's where he was born and that was his town. He was an orphan but he had nobody else outside of the city. He had no reason to leave. He just wanted to rebuild his life there and it took a long time.
What are your memories of her --?
When I was growing up, we still have a lot of children with short hair. It was more black-and-white. There were still some barracks by the river. That had been built soon after the war. It looks very different now. When I was growing up, the stories of survivors were everywhere. Some didn't want to talk about it. It was too painful for them to remember and talk about it.
Tomorrow night, a celebration of peace is planned with a floating a paper lanterns with Britain messages of hope. It takes place at 6 o'clock in Coronado. I've been speaking with Dr. Drew Akiko Mikado. In -- and Mike Kawamura, executive advisor, San Diego WISH.