Kids with atomic bomb
Children sit under the model of "Fat Man", the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki on 9 August, 1945

“... I saw a girl with skin hanging from her nails...”

In a hotel room in Hiroshima Japan I flipped through the pages of a book and read.

“...I was hit by a thunderous flash...”

The book had been left out for guests.

“ eyes burnt...”

The cover and depictions were bright and colourful.

“...everything went black...”

The book is intended for younger readers.

“...I held my sister...”

The author and artist: Junko Morimoto.

“...everything faded away...”

The subject: her experience and memories of the atomic explosion that ripped Hiroshima apart on August 6th 1945.


“...I thought I was dying...”

Junko was 13 at the time.

“...Half a year passed...”

She survived.

“...[we] went back to our schools...”

She lived to tell her story.

“…I found the bones of many of our friends...”

The book’s title: My Hiroshima.


We left the hotel and headed for the "Atomic Bomb Dome" one of the few buildings to remain standing after the blast. It was summer. It was hot. A blue cloudless sky spread out above.

“...I thought I heard the sound of a plane…”

The bomb, codenamed "Little Boy," was carried by a B29 bomber, the Enola Gay.

“…but it seemed a long way off …”

Little Boy was dropped from a height of approximately 9,400meters

“…and very high up...”

The explosion occurred about 600 metres above the city.


At the dome, all marvelled at the defiant skeletal remains. The hypocentre (the point of detonation) was just 160 meters away. Those in the building at the time were killed instantly.

A crowd of tourists looked on in silence. All trod lightly. Sound felt wrong. There was a graveyard sense of quiet and reverence.

“...I crawled outside...”

Fallen masonry still litters the area seemingly unmoved for over half a century.

“…the whole of Hiroshima was destroyed...”

Dark gaping windows offered us glimpses of the ghostly interior.

“...everything was blown away…”

The rooms: gutted, shadowy, and uninviting.

“…torn apart...”

Buckled girders hung limply from the upper floor walls.

“…everything was burning...”

A cat, alone, cautiously pawed its way through the rubble.


The dome's head faces out over a river.

“...there was a child...”

Its vacant apertures seem to form an expression.


It was a look of horror.

“…trying to wake-up her dead mother...”

Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" came to mind.


And what of those very young survivors, the newly orphaned, some barely old enough to walk, what did they do? Mum was dead. Relatives and neighbours were no more than piles of ashes perhaps. Strangers - their skin melting - staggered by. All had been afflicted, all struggled, all needed help, but there was no help coming. There was no one able to help. What did the very young and alone do?

From across the river a bell tolled, the "Peace Bell." Its sober tone solemnly drifted and meandered. It hangs within a Japanese gazebo. A fixed hammer is poised beside it. When swung, the hammer impacts on an engraving of an atom. Passers-by are encouraged to hit the atom and to ring the bell for world peace.

The Evening fell. We sat outside a quiet riverside café near to Aioi Bridge, a distinctive T-shaped bridge that was used as the target for the aerial attack.

“...the banks of the river were crowded...”

The sun was low.

“...everyone wanted to be near water...”

The sky reddened.

“...I saw a boy floating on his back...”

The river glowed.

“…blowing blood bubbles from his mouth...”

We sipped at wine.



Our next stop: the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Nagasaki was the second city to suffer an atomic bombing. It was hit three days after Hiroshima. In the museum we read childhood memories of atomic warfare. We watched videos displaying images of horror.

“…fires burning the people…”

Tens of thousands lay dead. Incinerated. Irradiated. Unidentifiable.

“… scorched fields…”

Black rain fell. A city was gone. Hell had replaced it. The survivors – stunned - what had happened?

“...take me back to the past...”


On a screen a girl about 13-years old, blackened with ash, sits on the ground beside a dead body.

“...mother went up in red flames...”

Her hands rest on the corpse.

“ sister went up in red flames...”

She stares blankly into the camera.

“… glowing red...”

The scene slowly zoomed out revealing dead bodies, strewn around, lying at odd angles, entangled among the wreckage.

“...only a few ashes remained...” Sakue Shimohira then 11-years old.


We passed by shadows, shadows of the long dead, shadows of the unknown, imprinted on walls, caught by an atomic flash, frozen forever in an act of undertaking a mundane everyday task, making history.

We entered a small cinema showing old footage. The room was full of Japanese children aged from about 12 to 15 years old. The narrator droned on. The children became restless. Then survivors with severe burns and skin damage filled the screen.

“...take me back to the past...”

A doctor, perhaps, took hold of a victim's arm and pinched the skin at the elbow.

“…I want my mother...”

He lifted the skin and peeled it back to the wrist.

“...I want my father...”

In unison, the children let out a rhythmical sound of disgust.

“...I want my brother...”

The skin had torn as easily as if it were a strip of damp paper. Most of the children got up and left.

“...I want my sisters...take me back to the past...” Fujio Tsujimoto then 5-years old.


Elsewhere, a replica of "Fat Man," the codename of the atomic bomb that fell on Nagasaki, hung from the ceiling. Unnervingly, a group of Japanese schoolchildren sat directly underneath it, chatting, laughing, and busily making notes.

After, we went to the Peace Park. The park is dominated by the Peace Statue, a large sculpture symbolising threat, peace and prayer. There, a Japanese school group made speeches, sang, and prayed.

Under instruction a Japanese boy, wearing a T-shirt sporting the stars and the stripes, stepped forward and laid a rainbow coloured message of peace at the foot of the monument. All bowed.

There was silence. The victims were remembered, but “memories are fading,” laments Junko Morimoto in an endnote of, My Hiroshima, and how reliable are fading memories?

"Japan stopped World War Two," said a 50-something Japanese acquaintance.

"This week I found out that the Japan air force once flew suicide missions, like terrorists, I was shocked. Did you know that?" asked a middle-aged Japanese housewife.

"The US army should send American 'comfort women' to their bases in Japan," said a young Japanese mother, "then their soldiers wouldn't rape Japanese women. Japan did this in WWII. It helped to protect innocent women."


And, "Hitler was a madman," said a British political commentator, "If he had had the atomic bomb he would have pressed the button."

"So, was President Truman a madman?" asked a member of the audience.

"No." came the reply.