I am dedicating today’s event to the life and work of Kyoko
Hayashi, the Japanese female writer and the Nagasaki Atomic bomb survivor passed away on February 19, at the age of 86.
Many friends and the people who have studied with me know how deeply I love her and her work. Given her age, medical history, and the feeling of deep disgust that she was left with after the Fukushima meltdowns, her death might not be regarded as a surprise.
But her death is a shock to me. We talked a lot in person and by phone. Late tonight, I would have called her to speak about today’s event. But I cannot hear her comments any more.
I began studying atomic bomb literature in 2002, and soon discovered Hayashi’s writing. We met, talked, and as I began to teach about her work, became close friends.
I wrote about Hayashi’s work and translated her piece, From Trinity To Trinity and published it. I decided that everywhere I went, I would bring Hayashi’s work with me.
She enjoyed learning what my students wrote in their journals. Every semester my students write letters to Hayashi, which I would translate and share with her.
Early in our friendship, overwhelmed by her stories, I said what many people would say to Atomic Bomb victims, “I can’t even imagine.” She looked at me square, and said, “Are you that stupid? Do you NEED to experience the A bomb and radiation sickness to understand WHAT IT MEANS?”
Since then I have prohibited myself and my students from uttering this phrase, I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE.” Instead, I ask, how can we imagine other people’s experience? How can we make the distance between here and there malleable?
Thus, those of you who have never experienced Hayashi’s work, please imagine a 14 years old girl in 1945 in Nagasaki, who was exposed to the atomic bombing near the epicenter. She suffered acute radiation sickness, and even after regaining her strength, feared her child would be affected by radiation.
30 years after the war, she started to write her own and other people’s experiences of the atomic bomb. 54 years after the war, Hayashi visited Trinity site in New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was tested before it was exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Please imagine this 69 year old woman standing in New Mexico in 1999.
It was in her hotel room in New Mexico, on the television, that she learned of the critical accident in Tokai Village at Japan’s first nuclear plant.
Imagine; how she felt watching the Fukushima nuclear plants explode in 2011.
“It is as if we, the atomic bomb survivors did not exist. It is as if the experiences of the atomic bomb survivors have never counted to anything. While so many friends died because of the atomic bombings and suffered from radiation, Japan as a nation never learned anything about radiation.” I am so heart broken.
Japan often claims to be the only nation to have experienced the atomic bomb. But it was not Japan the nation but the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the ones who were exposed to the atomic bombing. And now, the people of Fukushima are the ones who were exposed to the high level of radiation and cannot return home or firm their land.
“今だけ、金だけ、自分だけ（ima dake, kanedake, jibunndake).” Hayashi often described what people nowadays care about; “NOW, MONEY, and SELF.”
Hayashi wrote in the Trinity book,
Nature is not all gentle but it is never malicious. A river may swallow towns and carry people away, but it has no good or bad intentions.
It was not tsunami but the self-interest and negligence of people that caused the environmental disaster in Fukushima.
Hayashi spoke in a quiet manner, but in 2013 she wrote,
And on my last day, I’ll cry out loud, “Aah, ah, ah, ah,” pour my heart out to the world. I’m leaving, and have done with it.