Hiroshima Survivor Hideko Tamura Snider Featured

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Hiroshima Survivor Hideko Tamura Snider

Educating the World on the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons

Hideko Tamura Snider was a child when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima in 1945. She later moved to the United States to earn a B.A. in sociology and an M.A. in social work. She has written two books: When A Peace Tree Blooms, a children’s picture book about creating peace in the world, and One Sunny Day, a memoir of her life before the bomb, during the explosion, and afterward in both Japan and the United States. Tamura Snider runs the One Sunny Day Initiatives, an organization that educates the public about the consequences of nuclear weapons and seeks to plant seeds of peace, hope, and reconciliation. Tokyo Journal Editor-in-Chief Anthony Al-Jamie sat down with Hideko Tamura Snider to talk about her experience.

TJ: What were you doing when the bomb hit Hiroshima?
I was in sixth grade. I was 10 and a half years old. I had just returned from an evacuated village with my best friend, her mother, and my cousin the night before the bombing.

TJ: Where had you come back from?
A village called Kimita, which is north of a larger town called Miyoshu. It was beyond a very high mountain pass.

TJ: Why were you there? Were you sent there to stay away from the war?
On April 15, 1945, all children from fourth to sixth grade were evacuated from Hiroshima.

TJ: So, you were only back for one day?
Not even one day — I came back on the evening of August 5 and the bombing occurred the following morning. When the warning sign went off, the radio announcement said, “Warning sign is off.” The three planes turned around and went away, the sky was clear, and you could go back to what you were doing. You could resume your activities, both indoors and outdoors. That was clearly announced from the warning center.

TJ: What happened when the bomb fell?
Before it happened, there were two warning sirens. One was going monotonously, “You are in immediate danger.” I was hearing, “Woo-woo...” up and down, up and down. The alert siren went off at about 7:15, but I had just come home so elated that I was no longer feeling homesick in Kimita and was enjoying myself, sitting down in a tatami room reading a magazine. Then all of a sudden at 8:15, there was simultaneously a humongous deafening sound and a humongous flash. It wasn’t at all like lightning. I instinctively jumped up and turned around to see what it was, and suddenly felt like a white waterfall was crashing down on me. Now I understand it was the heat and substance of radiation. The gas and its particles were spreading invisibly all around, so I was continuously breathing it in. I was less than two kilometers from the center. My cousin and my mother were right at the center of the explosion. They never came home. My cousin, who was like a brother to me, was severely burned over his entire body. The last that anyone saw of my mother was during the explosion. She threw herself inside to protect herself, but they couldn’t get her, so she was burned and crushed to death.

TJ: How do you feel about war now?
I am against war. Being raised in a historically fascist, war-driven country, I have experienced how war can happen and how people can become incredibly patriotic and nationalistic. While it can be a good thing and an extension of the love you have for your family, it can also escalate into radical means of dealing with one’s enemies. It is rampant today with statements towards ISIS such as, “ISIS here, ISIS there — go get them!” But how does this happen? I think the eye-for-an-eye concept has existed since the beginning of mankind. But if your child gets hurt and then you get mad and go kill two children instead of one, what happened? I think it’s within human nature to turn anger into action. Anger is a very constructive emotion. It gives you the energy to change something that is very unsatisfactory. However, I believe you have to assess a situation and see what you want to do and if it will be appropriate. Think of East and West Germany. Look at how they flourished when they worked together after the war. Where do we want to go? As rivals killing each other? Or as allies working to find common ground and fulfill our potential together? Unfortunately, I believe there will always be wars because we consistently fail to suppress feelings of revenge and the desire for power.


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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