Man Whose Birthplace Is Now Peace Park Watches Summit with Hope

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tokuso Hamai sits next to a memorial to victims of the atomic bombing from his birthplace of Nakajima district, located in what is now the Peace Memorial Park, on Wednesday in Hiroshima.

HIROSHIMA — Tokuso Hamai watched on TV from his home in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, as the Group of Seven leaders visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park on Friday morning.

The dignitaries were standing close to his birthplace, which was 200 meters from the hypocenter of the atomic bombing in 1945 that killed four members of his immediate family.

“That is the resting place of my family,” said Hamai, 88. “I want [the leaders] to imagine the many lives that were lost there.”

Hamai is one of the remaining hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombing, in his case as one who was in the area of the hypocenter within two weeks after the bomb was dropped.

At the time of the bombing, the area where the park is now located was known as the Nakajima district. It featured a thriving shopping area where Hamai’s parents ran a barbershop, raising Hamai and his two siblings, an older brother and an older sister.

The family lived across the river from the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall — now the Genbaku Dome — where Hamai sometimes played, using the stairway as a slide.

Hamai was 11 years old when the atomic bomb was detonated almost just above his house, but he had already been sent to a relative’s home in Hatsukaichi for safety. Two days later, Hamai returned to Hiroshima in search of his family, but could only stand in despair upon seeing the burning ruins of his hometown.

From the ruins of his home, he found a pair of scissors from the barbershop and a clock that had stopped at 8:15 — the exact time on the morning of Aug. 6 that the bombed was dropped.

The orphaned Hamai was raised by an uncle and, after graduating from high school, would go on to run an insurance agency.

His uncle passed away in 1998. A few days later on a whim, Hamai visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where he wrote in the visitors’ logbook about the clock, and that he was born and raised in the Nakajima district.

The next day, he got a call from the museum, and Hamai decided to donate the clock that had been deteriorating through the years.

The story of the clock began to spread, and Hamai used the opportunity to begin giving talks in 2003 on his A-bomb experience at the Peace Memorial Park and elsewhere. However, he could never bring himself to talk about his memories from the immediate aftermath of the bombing.

Instead, he shared his happy memories of his family and about the town he lived in before the bombing. “Even talking about mundane everyday life could convey the fact that precious life can be lost in an instant,” he said.

His father’s barbershop appeared in “Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni” (“In This Corner of the World”), director Sunao Katabuchi’s 2016 animated film set in wartime Hiroshima.

Hamai said it made him happy that through the film, so many people would know that the park had once been an active place of people going about their everyday lives.

Hamai’s health has been declining and he has been in and out of the hospital since last September. He spends most of his time at home in bed, and has stopped giving talks.

“I hope that the leaders consider deep down what the consequences will be if an atomic bomb is dropped, and just how important peace is,” he said.