Hiroshima Day

A haibun for Frank’s prompt at dverse for Hiroshima Day.  Will also be posting on Real Toads Tuesday Platform.

On July 8, 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, seeking to re-establish for the first time in over 200 years regular trade and discourse between Japan and the western world. Ironically, on August 6, amost 100 years later, America dropped the first of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima. People were going about their normal activities that day. Women were shopping for food to prepare for dinner that night. Children were playing and men were going about their business preparing to continue facing off against the Americans. They went about with living not knowing death was in the skies.

Suddenly the sky turned white and within a few seconds Hiroshima was almost obliterated from the face of the earth. The death toll was approximately 90,000 – 120,000 men, women, and children. Some walked after the blast until they collapsed and died. Others died of burns and being crushed by falling buildings. Skeletons could be seen in the debris. Still later, people died from bone marrow disease from the extreme radiation. A few skeletal structures remained standing, notably the white gate Shinto. “Photos” of people etched into stone by the blast- their bodies obliterated but replaced by the radiation remained. We bear a guilt so deep time will never leach it from our bones as the bomb turned people and buildings, plants, and animals into dust.

children jumping rope
on hot August day – becoming
shadows forever

shadow images of children remain when the A Bomb hit Hiroshima

59 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:37:23

    Oh I also wonder so much… the devastation of two cities with most of the victims totally innocent, and the devastation and sicknesses continuing into the present… a shadow grasping us from the past.

    Reply

  2. Jane Dougherty
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:44:18

    Evil started the second world war, evil was done all the way through it, and there was a lot of evil used to end it.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:45:23

      Yes it was. although we Americans take the stance we did what we had to do. At least, I don’t.

      Reply

      • Jane Dougherty
        Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:03:50

        Yes, I know that’s the argument used to justify Hiroshima, hit them in the homeland where it hurts. So, Nagasaki?

        Reply

        • machinist
          Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:32:54

          Nagasaki had a major shipyard. That is where the Musashi was built. one of the two most powerful battleships ever made.

          Reply

          • Jane Dougherty
            Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:43:37

            Would it not have been more humane to wait and give the Japanese time to surrender before dropping a second bomb?

            Reply

            • machinist
              Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:51:50

              The Japanese parliament did meet and vote Ma’am. They voted to continue fighting. Even after the second bomb was dropped, they only tied the vote, but this made it legal to invite the Emperor to break the tie and he voted to surrender.

              Reply

              • kanzensakura
                Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:53:35

                You will not change my mind. I still find our actions disgusting and evil.

                Reply

                • machinist
                  Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:07:33

                  I understand, Ma’am. I will say no more. I wish you peace and tranquility.

                  Reply

                  • kanzensakura
                    Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:36:08

                    Thank you. I am not in total ignorance. I hve seen hundreds of documentaries leading up to that day. I know Philipinos who were tortured by the Japanese. My mother hated the Japanese. By that same token, we killed tens of thousands of innocent people who had nothing to do with the war effort. Just as we had no cuplabiltiy in the decisions of our leaders, innocents as well. I know that in this country, we imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans. People who could not even speak Japanese because of their birth were taken out of their homes, separated from their families and imprisoned in camps. My mother lived in San Francisdo during these dark days. A young Japanese American sailor whom she was dating was taken off his ship and sentenced and executed as a traitor! my father fought in the eurpoean campaign and hated Germans. I was born in 51 as well. I grew up with horror stories but the Germans in their genocide of the Jews (we lost several relatives to Hitler’s madness). there are no easy answers. It is easy to say well they did this and that….I still maintain it is evil what we did. We bombed people who were starving, who only knew what the Emperor told them. I will always believe what we did was evil. to those Japanese and especially to the Japanese who lived in this country. I am not cross with you. Let’s still be friends, okay? Hugs.

                    Reply

                    • machinist
                      Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:50:12

                      Always, Ma’am. I simply do not wish to upset you. I knew this was a sensitive area.

                    • kanzensakura
                      Aug 06, 2018 @ 18:31:39

                      Read my reply to Jane Doughtery on the matter of your reply to me. Thank you.

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              • Jane Dougherty
                Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:02:44

                History is not a pure science, it’s open to interpretation, sir (if that’s the equivalent of ma’am) and I was not taught to interpret the chronology of events in that way.

                Reply

                • kanzensakura
                  Aug 06, 2018 @ 18:30:16

                  Jane, he was responding to my write. He uses the ma’am because he had manners and is being respectful I was taught to look at what is and what isn’t. The facts of the matter are just as he describes them. While we ad Americans do not like the facts, the fact is that as Americans the way we Americans reacted showed our extreme fear at the situation. I can understand how American leadership felt they needed to shut Japan down. But as Americans, I am ashamed if what we did at the time and all of the innocents we Americans obliterated. My friend is of different political beliefs than I but he is still my friend. He knows this is a sensitive area to me but he knows how he feels and based on the facts of the matter, not knee jerk emotions. The fact that we Don’t like history does not do away with the facts. Just like some Americans feel we should do away with the history of slavery. We will never learn from our evil is we gloss it over or interpret it differently. The facts are the facts and not open to opinion. My opinion is that we did an evil thing that day in Japan. We did evil things yo Japanese Americans living in this country putting them in internment camps. My mother was dating a young Japanese American sailor at the time. He was pulled off his ship and executed for treason. He did not even speak Japanese.

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                  Reply

                  • Jane Dougherty
                    Aug 07, 2018 @ 03:19:43

                    Sorry if I gave the impression of speaking out of line, Toni but the comments were addressed directly to me so I replied. I’ve since read your friend’s account of why the bombing was so necessary. Like all historical facts they vary depending on which side is writing them. I’m very sceptical about this idea that the decision to try out the new bomb was to save millions of Japanese lives (and American lives too). If compassion had been so high on the list of priorities, you’d have thought that the Allies, who had known all about the death camps and the rail routes used to reach them since 1942, might have thought to stop the extermination by dropping a few ‘ordinary’ bombs on the camps or the rail tracks. They never did, because the military commanders didn’t really care. I stand by my belief that the men (it generally is men and it certainly was in 1945) of all nationalities who wage wars have no compassion, no interest outside winning.

                    Reply

  3. Grace
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:52:22

    These cities suffered a lot and to this day, a grim reminder of the effects of nuclear devastation. Those shadows are haunting – lives lost in an instant.

    Reply

  4. sarahsouthwest
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:52:29

    Oh, Toni, the horror of it all. That photograph is unbearable. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

  5. machinist
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:52:35

    The atomic bombs were indeed terrible, as are the bombing of any cities. A number were worse in terms of death and destruction both in Japan and in Europe.

    I would most respectfully suggest though, gentle Kanzen Sakura, that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in fact called for and saved an almost inconceivable number of American and Japanese lives. The Japanese had adopted suicide tactics that they hoped would cause Americans to lose heart in the war because of the large number of casualties induced. The battle of Okinawa had shown these tactics used wholesale on land, sea, and air for the first time and the results were terrible. Over 100,000 Japanese soldiers and 40,000 to 150,000 civilians killed, more than in the cities hit with atomic bombs. Even children were forced to serve, many as kamikaze troops against tanks or troops. The Japanese were preparing to use the same tactics against American troops invading Japan. The Americans estimated the loss of 600,000 to over a million Americans and from 6 million to 10 million Japanese lives lost. The Japanese had passed laws to expedite the conscription of children and the losses would have fallen heavily on civilians.

    It was these terrible numbers that led to the decision to use the bombs. When the first bomb was dropped the Japanese parliament voted on ending the war but voted to continue. Even after the second bomb was dropped on the Ninth they only tied the vote, allowing the peace faction to invite the Emperor to decide the issue, leading to surrender. As terrible as the bombs were, the use of them to end the war saved millions of Japanese lives as well as more American lives then were lost in all the rest of WW2. I think it makes their use a humane act, as terrible as that may seem.

    After Pearl Harbor one American officer said when the war was over, Japanese would only be spoken in Hell. We would have been far closer to that had the bombs not ended the war early. Please forgive me if my words are offensive to you. I have only great respect for you.

    Reply

    • Grace
      Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:29:02

      Thank you for the information.

      Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:35:42

      I know you speak as a survivor of that dreadful time. My mother often spoke of the “Nips” as she called them. I still say that what we did was wrong and evil. I don’t care about the military reasons of why we did what we did. We did great evil in return for lesser evil. I had an uncle who died a few years back who was a Japanese POW, He hated the Japanese. We will bear the shame of this as long as we live. And now we have trumpler and his bravado. I wonder what other atrocities will be committed in the furture.

      Reply

      • machinist
        Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:01:04

        I was born in 51, but my father fought in the Pacific. He joined when only 17 and saw unspeakable things that effected him the rest of his life. He drove amphibious tanks onto the beaches so was often at the front of the fighting. After the war he had seniority to come home but like other younger men he volunteered to stay so older married men could go home. He spent time in occupied Japan. He did not hate the people and came to admire and respect the culture and courage of the Japanese, though the militaristic government was of course another matter. He passed that respect and admiration on to us, his sons, and I have always shared it.

        The terrible atrocities he saw done on American nurses and troops, and the terrible sight of old men or young girls asking for sanctuary to get close enough to blow up Americans with grenades made him hardened to the use of the bombs to end the war. He had too good an idea of what it would have been like invading. Many Americans celebrated not having to pay that horrible price. I just can not blame them.

        Reply

  6. machinist
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 15:57:11

    It also bears mentioning that both cities were military targets. That could not be said for many cities destroyed by area bombing.

    Reply

  7. Frank J. Tassone
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:08:47

    Your Haibun was so piercing and heart tending that I could only sit with it in silence. Your brilliant use of specific, ordinary images set against the annhilation wrought by Little Boy. Your closing haiku is so heartbreaking. The pathos, wabi and sabi in this cries out. This may be the best haibun of yours that I’ve read. Thank you, Toni!

    Reply

  8. rivrvlogr
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:23:33

    It was a sad day for the world.

    Reply

  9. kim881
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:25:23

    Oh my goodness, I’d heard of those ‘photos’ of people who were caught up in the blast but this is the first time I’ve seen a photograph of one. It made my heart skip a beat of shock and made me wonder how it must have felt and whether they knew what was happening to them. Your haiku is so effective at capturing the horror of it all, Toni.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 07, 2018 @ 00:19:05

      I have had dreams where my body was obliterated in just such a way. It feels for just a second as if all the breath is sucked from my body and then…nothing. My mother lived in San Francisco at the time and was dating a Japanese-american s
      Japanese-Ametican sailor. He was pulled off his ship and tried for treason and executed. His family was imprisoned in an internment camp simply for being Japanese. They were American citizens! His mother died in the camp dye to grief and contracting TB. What we did to those people, citizens living on our soil is a disgrace.

      Reply

  10. Glenn Buttkus
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:37:01

    The long comments by the Machinist are factual. Okinawa taught us that conventional invasion in Japan would have been disastrous. Man’s innate need to wage war and relive history leaves me conflicted. Your points are so well taken, and your haiku was so wonderful, that I salute your talent. You have a better handle on Bushido than most of us; no easy answers.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 06, 2018 @ 16:39:40

      Nope. No easy answers. But I still maintain what we did was wrong. For instance the fire bombings of various Japanese cities that with all the moisture in that area, basically boiled people alive. We all did horrible things but we did the ultimate horrible while Roosevelt washed his hands, just like Pilate.

      Reply

  11. Suzanne
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 17:44:04

    I hadn’t seen that image before. What a chilling sight. Childhood forever frozen in time.

    Reply

  12. V.J. Knutson
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 20:21:31

    Wow. Poignant.

    Reply

  13. areadingwriter
    Aug 06, 2018 @ 23:59:59

    That haiku and the photo gave me goosebumps. And choked me. I was not alive. Will be after several decades. But the mark of this war is still in my country, the Philippines.

    Reply

  14. lillian
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 08:45:55

    Powerful write — power in the details. I had seen this photo before….but many many many years ago. I was horrified then and still am.
    “shadows forever” — a visual reminder of the horrors of war and in particular, this horrific event.

    Reply

  15. anmol(alias HA)
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 09:29:50

    Those radiation shadows are perhaps the most gruesome reminder of the day if the numbers aren’t already. Those three-lines are brutal and terrifying. So very well-penned.
    -HA

    Reply

  16. Carrie Van Horn
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 16:41:49

    A devastating day indeed, and that picture is almost too much to view. So sad all the way around. Thank you for sharing this powerful piece. The haiku is haunting in the deepest of ways.

    Reply

  17. purplepeninportland
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 17:41:12

    A chilling moment depicted honestly. Those shadows will stay with me.

    Reply

  18. Magaly Guerrero
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 19:02:25

    Nothing justifies the waste of life, the poisoning of flesh and dirt and leaf and water and all, the deliberate horror… I’ve read (too many times, for my liking) the words of people who tried to justify the explosive butchery of fellow humans and more. I’ve no idea how they can even begin to start formulating their reasoning. So, yes, on this one, I’m completely with you, I second the violent vividness of your words–they are a necessary reminder for too many.

    It was a rotten thing to do, a murderous thing to do, a nasty, never-to-be forgotten thing to do.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 07, 2018 @ 19:07:25

      And yesterday, the 95 year old surviving navigator of the Ebola Gay said he still.has no doubts they did the right thing.

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      Reply

      • Magaly Guerrero
        Aug 07, 2018 @ 19:12:07

        I think that some times, people must lie to themselves until they believe the deception… Otherwise, their brains would burst under the pressure of their own screaming.

        Reply

        • kanzensakura
          Aug 07, 2018 @ 20:13:53

          I hate to say it but I don’t think that generation of soldiers cared. The Japanese “started” the war. Therefore these men were going to end it. They felt justified in what they did. They had no internal screaming. As much as I loved my mother, I know she felt were justified in obliterating those “Nips”. She could not accept the guilt I felt, even though she dated a Japanese American sailor who was removed from his ship, tried for treason, and executed. He was Japanese. Ergo, he was a traitor. I saw a pic of her and him in one if those night clubs in San Francisco. She said he was a gentleman and gentle and respectful if the fact She was 16 and he was 5 years older. The gov’t declared him a traitor. End if story.

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  19. oldegg
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 20:53:35

    It is good to remember events like this in the hope that we all become a little more humane. Sadly though we don’t appear to have learned much since then for the armaments industry needs conflicts for continued sales, and investors love profitable companies so when one conflict area is quietened another will start up somewhere else in the world. There should be a nastier word for humanity!

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Aug 07, 2018 @ 20:56:31

      Humanity itself is a nasty word. I truly believe the sooner we become extinct and leave the world to the creatures the better

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      Reply

  20. lynn__
    Aug 08, 2018 @ 10:18:31

    The shadow of death…a powerful, moving write, Toni.

    Reply

  21. vintage jellies
    Aug 08, 2018 @ 11:18:02

    Wow. That haiku is powerful.

    Reply

  22. priscillaking
    Aug 08, 2018 @ 12:43:25

    Not exactly a pleasant surprise! I believe guilt for things other people did before I was born is a psychological defense for guilt for something I personally did. So guilt’s not the word. Horror is, and revulsion. But in any case people do need to know how destructive human inventions can be to humans.

    Reply

  23. larryzb
    Aug 08, 2018 @ 23:38:59

    Very sad. Thanks for posting this.

    Reply

  24. Marian
    Aug 10, 2018 @ 09:40:26

    But you have extracted the crux of it: “They went about with living not knowing death was in the skies.” So simple and powerful.

    Reply

  25. sreeja Harikrishnan
    Aug 10, 2018 @ 13:39:42

    Such a touching haiku…. may God bless all with peace and love and may all be ready to receive it!!

    Reply

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