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Hiroshima survivor tells U.N. chief of A-bomb horrors

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A-bomb survivor Shingo Naito, right, meets with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, far left, on Saturday in Naka Ward, Hiroshima.

HIROSHIMA — An 83-year-old man who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima met with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday at the city’s annual Peace Memorial Ceremony — the first time for a U.N. chief to attend the event in 12 years.

Sharing the horrors of the weaponry that had claimed his family, Shingo Naito said he had decided to “convey the enormity of the atomic bomb” due to his fury over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Naito — the third son of five siblings — was just 6 years old when the United States bombed the city 77 years ago.

All seven members of his family had travelled back to Hiroshima from their evacuation locations to bid farewell to Naito’s 45-year-old father, who was leaving on a business trip to Manchuria, now northeast China.

The family dined together in the evening. The bomb exploded the following morning.

Naito had been crouching near the entrance to an air-raid shelter in his yard and was blown into the dugout. He was unscathed, but he found his father standing in the yard, charred. “Oh, Shingo, you were safe,” his father said in a weak voice. Naito then saw his mother emerge from their collapsed house holding his blood-covered 4-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister.

On the way to the Imperial Japanese Army airfield in the city, Naito could not hold his father’s hand, as it was so badly burned. By the time they arrived at the airfield, the bodies of his brother and sister were cold. Four days later, his father suddenly woke, stood up, screamed, then fell dead.

Naito’s 13-year-old and 9-year-old brothers were at school or elsewhere and died when the bomb exploded.

His mother passed at the age of 47, when Naito was 14. The doctor told him she had expired from overwork.

Naito was subsequently taken in by a relative and got a job at a power company after high school. He married at 28 and was blessed with three daughters.

Naito said he would become too tearful to speak when recalling the bombing and declined requests to share his experiences with anyone. However, after reaching his 80s, he heard news reports about survivors growing old, which moved him.

“I was the only [member of my family] to survive to this age,” he recalled thinking. “The incident might fade if I remain quiet.” Two years ago, he agreed to speak as an A-bomb survivor after he and others were solicited by Hiroshima City.

He began writing a draft earlier this year but was repeatedly discouraged. At the time, Russia had just invaded Ukraine and had hinted at the use of nuclear weapons.

“I couldn’t stand just by and watch the world go to pot,” Naito said. “I felt I had to speak up.”

Driven by a sense of impending crisis, he started writing about his experiences in April.

On Saturday — the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima — Naito met Guterres along with four other A-bomb survivors.

He told the U.N. chief of his experiences and urged him not to let the issue evanesce. For his part, Guterres urged Naito to continue telling the world about his story.

“It was encouraging to meet the head of the United Nations,” Naito said after the meeting. “I want to pass on the horrors of war to the next generation.”