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June 21, 2017

A Survivor of the Nagasaki Bombing in 1945

A smiling face in such dismal surroundings, no one yet truly understood what had been done.

The miracle survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings have become known as the Hibakusha, meaning “explosion affected people” in Japanese. One survivor who was a little girl at the time, explained her experience, “I saw a bright blast, and I saw yellow and silver and orange and all sorts of colors that I can’t explain. Those colors came and attacked us, and the ceiling beams of the wooden school along with the glass from the window pane all shattered and blew away all at once.”

The bombs killed over 100,000 people, and the Hibukashi continue to tell the story of the horrors they saw and are proponents of peace, as they are afraid that with time people will forget of the horrors of nuclear warfare.

This photo was taken by Yōsuke Yamahata.

Yamahata was born in Singapore; his father, Shōgyoku Yamahata had a job there related to photography. He went to Tokyo in 1925 and eventually started at Hosei University (Tokyo) but dropped out in 1936 to work in G. T. Sun, a photographic company run by his father. (He would become its president in 1947.) From 1940, Yamahata worked as a military photographer in China and elsewhere in Asia outside Japan; he returned to Japan in 1942.

On August 10, 1945, a day after the Nagasaki bombing, Yamahata began to photograph the devastation, still working as a military photographer. Over a period of about twelve hours he took around a hundred exposures; by late afternoon, he had taken his final photographs near a first aid station north of the city. In a single day, he had completed the only extensive photographic record of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. These photographs appeared swiftly, for example in the August 21 issue of Mainichi Shinbun.

Yamahata became violently ill in 1965, on his forty-eighth birthday and the twentieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the duodenum, probably caused by the residual effects of radiation received in Nagasaki in 1945. He is buried at Tama Cemetery, Tokyo.


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