On August 6, 1945, 70,000 residents of Hiroshima lost their lives instantaneously beneath the white-hot flash of an atomic bomb, redefining reality for all in the city. How did the survivors overcome the many challenges that life presented to them in the ensuing years? In five short stories author Shaw Kuzki, whose parents who survived the bomb, portrays what life has been like in Hiroshima in the years since 1945. In 2012, she published three of the stories in a collection called Hachigatsu no hikari (The Flash in August), which was originally intended for children but deeply touched readers of all ages. This retitled edition adds two new stories to the collection.
Ishi no kioku (Stone Memory) portrays how events of the day the bomb was dropped were forever etched in people’s memories. Mitsuko goes looking for her mother, who never returned after having set out for the bank on the morning of the bombing. An acquaintance tells Mitsuko that she saw her mother on the steps in front of the bank, so she goes there, and in the exact spot where the woman said her mother was sitting is a dark shadow seared into the otherwise light-colored stone steps. Mitsuko recognizes in it the size and shape of her slightly built mother. This “human shadow etched in stone” by the indescribable power of the atomic bomb remains on display today in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where it continues to testify to the unparalleled horrors of atomic weaponry.
Hina no kao (The Doll’s Face) portrays the complex feelings of a woman who survived the bomb because she found an excuse to stay home from her volunteer labor corps job that day. The other titles are Mizu no kanmoku (Selective Mutism), Ichō no o-jū (The Tiered Lacquer Boxes), and Mittsume no hashi (The Third Bridge), all telling of how ordinary citizens struggled to rebuild their lives after surviving the bomb, each according to their own circumstances, and how their suffering continues in some ways unabated even today, seven decades later.