According to an excerpt from her essay, “In Hiroshima, Japan, a Teenager Finds an Unexpected Home,” Daisy Okazaki went “to the Peace Park for the memorial of the 74th anniversary of the bombing” Aug. 6, 2019.
The Aug. 9 virtual “Remembrance for Peace” event — presented by the Nichi Bei Foundation and Friends of Hibakusha in collaboration with the Japanese American Religious Federation of San Francisco — screened Steven Okazaki’s film, “The Mushroom Club,” included a paper lantern remembrance and featured Daisy Okazaki, Steven Okazaki’s daughter, reading an essay excerpt. The event honored hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and remembered the lives lost to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Daisy Okazaki’s essay mentions Shozo Kawamoto, who was 10 years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He was not in the city at the time.
She said Kawamoto and other young children had evacuated to the mountains in the countryside, fearing the fire-bombing other Japanese cities had endured during the war.
“He had been living in a temple there for several months before August 6th. Three days later, he returned to a city in ruins,” she read.
Kawamoto and his older sister, who survived the atomic bombing, were able to go to a “safe house” near the train station, staying there for about six months until his sister died from leukemia caused by the bomb’s radiation. Kawamoto was alone; his relatives refused to help him and hibakusha were denied necessities, including food, housing and medical care, Okazaki added. Hibakusha had diseases that were “thought to be contagious. Those who were disfigured were shunned,” she read.
As Steven Okazaki discussed in an interview with the Nichi Bei Foundation, Hiroshima hibakusha were “socially ostracized” from employment, marriage and church, among other aspects of everyday life. Due to the stigmatization and social exclusion the hibakusha suffered, Okazaki said he found it difficult to talk to Hiroshima survivors.
In the documentary produced in 2005, Steven Okazaki said he first learned about the Hiroshima bombing from the late manga artist Keiji Nakazawa’s work. Nakazawa had dedicated his life to telling the Hiroshima bombing story through comic books and animated movies.
The filmmaker interviewed hibakusha Toshiko Saiki, who, as a 25 year-old bride, survived the bombing, along with her husband. She collects button mementos from the bombing among nearby river stones, which to her, “represent the souls of people they belonged to.” Saiki said in the film that she regretted not helping people crying out for help when the bomb hit because she was determined to find her family.
Okazaki also interviewed hibakusha Toshiko Kajiyama, who, along with her three year-old brother at the time, were among the thousands of children orphaned by the atomic bomb. The siblings lost everything except their mother’s spool of thread, Kajiyama said in the film. After being separated from one another for several years, the siblings reunited, living next door to each other.
In the interview, Okazaki said some hibakusha, who went through an “unimaginable experience,” were open to talking about the effects of the bombing in their lives. However, others, who had the “most extraordinary stories,” were not willing to talk about their experiences on the day of filming.
“The people that survived, from that moment, it taught them to treasure everything,” Okazaki said in the interview.
The virtual event screened an excerpt from Soto Mission of San Francisco — Sokoji’s Toro Nagashi festival, held Aug. 6. There, the hibakusha, their family members, and the Friends of Hibakusha group remembered atomic bomb survivors and their families by floating lanterns down a makeshift river.
Hibakusha Jack Dairiki, a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor, floated two lanterns, one representing his family and the other remembering all of the atomic bomb victims.
The Rev. Alan Matsui of the Konko Church of San Francisco offered a lantern in remembrance of his mother, the late Rev. Fumiko Matsui of the Konko Church of San Francisco, who was a Hiroshima hibakusha.
The “Remembrance for Peace” also included an interfaith ceremony conducted by the Japanese American Religious Federation of San Francisco, which was held at the start of the Nihonmachi Street Fair on Aug. 6, the 77th anniversary of the bombing.