Life after Hiroshima Featured

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Life after Hiroshima

Mike Kawamura: A Survivor’s Dreams for World Peace

Ikunosuke “Mike” Kawamura is a survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing. He joined the Kyocera Corporation of Kyoto, Japan in 1969. He is known as one of the “Five Samurai” who established Kyocera’s North American manufacturing operations in San Diego. Kawamura has also served as Kyocera’s president in Europe and Brazil, as well as general manager of education and planning at Kyocera International, Inc. Now retired, he promotes peace building through community organizations including Green Legacy Hiroshima and San Diego-WISH. Tokyo Journal Editor-in-Chief Anthony Al-Jamie sat down with Kawamura to talk about the Hiroshima bombing and the 2015 Peace Tree planting ceremony at San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden, which used saplings grown from trees that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb 75 years ago.

TJ: Can you tell us about your experience in surviving the atomic bomb?
On August 6, 1945, the U.S. military dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Although I am a survivor, I was only two-and-a-half-years-old at the time and don’t remember very much. I do remember being carried outside by my grandmother and looking up at the bright red sky, a haunting scene that will forever be etched in my mind. Normally such a young child would have no memories, but the traumatic nature of my experience has left a lasting impression.

The bomb was dropped on the west side of Hiroshima, and I was living on the east side. Fortunately, because of this, even though I was only 1.8 miles (three kilometers) from the epicenter, I wasn’t hit by a direct blast from the bomb. My father, mother, and I originally lived in the center of Hiroshima, quite close to the epicenter. But when my mother died two weeks before the bombing, my father and I moved to the east side of Hiroshima where my grandmother lived so she could help take care of me.

At the time, my father was a design engineer for Japan National Railways. On the morning of August 6, he pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and began to light it. However, it slipped from his fingers, fell to the floor, and rolled under his desk. When he bent over to pick it up, a strong light and tremendous sound filled the room as destruction erupted throughout the city. He was not sure what had happened, but initially assumed that a big bomb had hit his building. Miraculously, he was unharmed, and he immediately tried to save as many people as possible. Many years later my father told me about his experience.

He told me that my mother, through her death, was the one who saved us. If she had lived, we would have continued to live in the center of the city and would not have survived the bomb. If it were not for her sacrifice, I would not be here today speaking to you.

Unfortunately, I lost my cousin in the atomic blast when the plant she had been forced to work in collapsed. She was a 16-year-old high school student and was killed alongside several of her classmates. I also lost several friends to leukemia during my elementary school days.

TJ: What is your relationship to San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden?
Currently, I’m the second vice president and a board member.

TJ: Can you tell us about Green Legacy Hiroshima?
Green Legacy Hiroshima [GLH] was founded in July 2011 by Natsumi Izumi and Tomoko Watanabe. GLH has planted trees in more than 30 countries from saplings that survived the atomic bombings. The president of the Japanese Garden received saplings in August of 2015.

TJ: Are the saplings a symbol?
Yes, the Peace Tree in the Japanese Garden is Green Legacy Hiroshima’s symbol of peace. This is part of why I work to achieve world peace.

TJ: Do you have any final comments for our readers?
In 1941, the U.S. and Japan were enemies. However, we have become friends over the past 75 years, and we must continue this relationship forever. We must educate people about peace and harmony, using the unprecedented experience of U.S.- Japan relations as an example. Remembering the past is a commitment to the future. We can’t change the past, but we can change our future. We must work towards world peace for the benefit of future generations.


The complete article can be found in Issue #280 of the Tokyo Journal.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.

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