Atomic bomb survivor Yoshiko Kajimoto, 91, hopes to have the opportunity to impress on the leaders of the G7 countries, who will meet this week in her city of Hiroshima, how horribly inhumane this weapon is.
“There are fewer and fewer Hibakusha [“irradiées”, en japonais]. But every Hibakusha has its history. I would like them to hear every testimony,” she told the Dutythrough an interpreter.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, has chosen none other than his hometown to receive the heads of government of the G7 member states from Friday. The United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Canada will meet with Japan at this summit. It comes during the second year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which poses a nuclear threat.
Yoshiko Kajimoto has her own business card, on which she identifies herself as an “A-bomb witness”. The nonagenarian leans slightly forward when she moves.
“I don’t think the leaders of nuclear weapon states know about the atrocity and cruelty of these weapons,” said the survivor. It is this ignorance that prompts [à la menace de] the use of nuclear weapons. They can’t imagine the corpses I saw… It was horrible. »
The one who presents herself as a Hibakusha settles behind a Plexiglas panel inherited from the COVID-19 pandemic. In front of her, a table with casters is set up on the small stage of the completely empty conference room in the basement of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Hard of hearing, she speaks very calmly. She uses a microphone to be understood without having to raise her voice, and details her story.
Wounded by the bomb at 14
Yoshiko Kajimoto is one of the guinea pigs of the atomic age. Fate put her at 14, the age when you enter secondary three in Quebec, on the trajectory of the explosion of the American bomb Little Boy on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m. She thus survived one of the two nuclear bombs dropped on a civilian population in history, at the very end of the Second World War.
The teenager was then working in a warplane parts factory, located at the limit of the bomb’s destruction radius, 2.3 kilometers from the epicenter. She was injured when the building collapsed, blown away by the shock wave. Seventy-seven years later, her hair is gray and cropped at the ears. She wears large round glasses and a black turtleneck under a gray jacket. Using a laser pointer, she shows on a map projected on the wall where her family home was located, out of the way and spared by the bomb.
The death of passers-by before his eyes, their ragged skin exposed by the bomb blast of more than 3000 degrees Celsius; the unnameable details of his memories follow one another. “It was like a parade of ghosts. A boy walked in front of me, holding his arm, detached from his body. He died in front of me. I will never forget his face. He was very sad. Artists have reconstructed the scene, which illustrates his PowerPoint presentation.
Yoshiko Kajimoto recounts the emotions she experienced when reuniting with her father, days later. The latter searched the collapsed factory, turning over the bodies to find his daughter. He was dragging a ball of rice in his bag to offer her, if he found her alive. His quest cost him his life: a year later, he was struck down by the effects of radiation.
“I stayed the whole month of August  without appetite, with a very high fever. My gum was bleeding a lot. Apparently, it’s one of the first symptoms of radiation, but at the time, we didn’t know that. »
She forgives the Americans
Like other young women HibakushaMme Kajimoto, orphaned, lived in abject poverty and suffered discrimination in post-war Japanese society. She was told that no man would marry her for fear that she would bear deformed babies.
The survivor eventually had children and a happy life. In 1999, she underwent surgery to remove part of her stomach to remove cancer. Although her story makes her relive the horrible images of her 14 years, images that still haunt her, a friend convinced her to testify to what she experienced. “I want to tell you, it was really hell. »
It is in the hope of avoiding this tragedy for other peoples that she has been recounting for 20 years the memories that she herself has tried to forget for decades. However, she no longer has any resentment towards those who dropped the bomb in 1945. The story has changed: we are now expecting the presence of Joe Biden at the G7 this week, the second US president in office to visit Hiroshima, after Barack Obama.
This report was made possible with the financial and logistical support of the Foreign Press Center of Japan (FPCJ).