I hope you all are doing well! Last week I took part in a rare kind of seminar and I am very excited to tell you all about it.
On Monday the 16th I acted as an interpreter for Mr. Fukahori Jouji, an atomic bomb survivor. Mr. Fukahori is 86 years old, so he was 14 when the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Nagasaki Prefecture puts on Atomic Bomb Survivor Talks (被爆体験講話 – hibaku taiken kouwa) several times a year with a small group of survivors that are willing to talk about their experience. Understandably, not many of the survivors are eager to share their account of that day. In fact, Mr. Fukahori didn’t start talking about his experience until 2009, some 64 years after the incident.
On Monday, he spoke to a group of about 40 exchange students in Kyushu University in Fukuoka Prefecture. The students were from all over the world including places like America, the UK, Germany, and China. He delivered his powerful message in Japanese and I did my best to convey his words and feelings in English to the audience.
I’ll spare you all the harrowing details of his experience, but I want you to know that he survived the attack because he was called in to work that day. At 14 years old, instead of going to school he was ordered to work in a factory that made boat propellers. The factory happened to be in the older part of Nagasaki that was shielded from the explosion by a mountain.
An enormous amount of bravery must be required to recount an experience like he had. His emotion peeked through occasionally during his talk but he did an admirable job of staying composed and delivering his message. I think I was shakier at times than he was, barely holding back my own emotions. As an interpreter, it’s impossible to completely separate yourself from the words and subject matter of your speaker. And if it was difficult for me to relay his descriptions of that day, how much more difficult must it have been for him, who lived through it, to conjure the images that he actually saw, the sounds he actually heard, the smells he actually smelled, to tell it to a group of strangers? I cannot begin to imagine.
I had planned to go to the gym and do some errands once I got back to Nagasaki but instead I curled up with Almas on the couch and watched TV for the rest of the evening. It was a heavy day to deal with. Nagasaki Prefecture and Hiroshima Prefecture are both actively engaged in promoting peace around the world and are some of the loudest proponents of nuclear disarmament. I’m quite proud to be able to help with that work.