Hiroshima bomb story by Akira Kurosawa’s screenwriter published in English

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The novel “Two in Hiroshima” in English and Japanese

OSAKA — A Japanese novel centered on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was published this autumn in English, nearly 40 years after the creation of the screenplay on which it is based.

“Two in Hiroshima” is about the friendship between an American prisoner of war and a Japanese sergeant. The Japanese version, “Hiroshima no Futari,” was made into a novel last summer based on the script originally written by Ryuzo Kikushima (1914-1989), a screenwriter known for “Stray Dog” and “High and Low,” among other works directed by Akira Kurosawa.

“I want many people, including non-Japanese, to read about Hiroshima so that the story can resonate with people in the future,” said Junko Ishizuka, who translated the novel.

The story is set in the present, and follows a woman named Mitsuko as she traces the life of her father, Sgt. Jun Fujita, who served as a guard at a prisoner-of-war camp in Hiroshima toward the end of the Pacific War. She learns that on the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, her father was with Arthur Daniels, an American soldier who had escaped from the camp.

Fujita chased and caught Daniels in the mountains, and they observed a mushroom cloud rising above the city together. An unexpected friendship develops between the two men who were once enemies. This human drama depicts their relationship built over the tragedy of war and recollected through time.

The story was originally co-written by Kikushima and another screenwriter as a movie script, and given to film director Nobuhiko Hosaka in 1982. Kikushima offered the script to Hosaka, who like him came from Yamanashi Prefecture, hoping it would be Hosaka’s directorial debut.

However, Hosaka had to give up on the idea mainly due to production costs, leaving the script unreleased for a long time.

The script had long been on Hosaka’s mind. Now 76, he came up with the idea of converting it into a novel and publishing it to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima last year. Working from the original screenplay centered on the dialogue of Fujita and Daniels, he reworked it mainly by adding a scene in which Mitsuko tells students her father’s story.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Translator Junko Ishizuka talks about the story.

The publisher of the Japanese book proposed translating it into English, and Ishizuka was asked to take on the project through an acquaintance.

Ishizuka has lived in Europe, working for a bank and other businesses. She recalled that whenever she was asked about Hiroshima, she struggled with the fact that, as a Japanese person, she was viewed as both a victim of the atomic bombing and a perpetrator of the war.

“I want to convey to the world the importance of dialogue, which can help even enemies understand each other,” she said.

Hosaka was hopeful about certain possibilities: “With this story becoming widely known overseas, it might be made into a movie or a drama — something that hasn’t been managed yet.”