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519 S. 1st Austin, Texas 13 THE TEXAS OBSERVER cho tz’s WOODY HILLS ood for People, Not for Profit A VEGETA’1AN FOOD CO-OP Cn REALTOR”‘ Representing all types of properties in Austin and Central Texas Interesting & unusual property a specialty 477-3651 .\\,1″1 and Associates 502 W. 15th Street Austin, Texas 78701 A Texas Tradition Since 1866 No games, no gimmicks, no loud music. Just good conversation with the most interesting people in Austin. And the best of downhome cooking. 1607 San Jacinto Closed Sundays 477-4171 aloft Ineti, 11.4044. ’40 By John Spragens Jr. Hiroshima, Nagasaki Early August is a season of ritual and rhetoric in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For about a week, as these two cities prepare to commemorate the anniversaries of the 1945 atomic bombings, there is a full-scale media blitz. The national newspapers run special historical features. National television networks feature conversations with hibakushasurvivors-of the bombs. The TV reporters, like their American counterparts, sometimes thrust their mikes in the faces of people trying to spend their time in quiet, private remembrance. When August 6 and August 9 have passed, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are left to themselves for another year. And life goes on for the hibakusha. For Kitae Tomoyasu, now 78, coping with loneliness is a major task. She lives in a special nursing home for hibakusha, and that offers some consolation. At least the others in the home can begin to comprehend the experiences she has been through. But few, even among the residents of this home, are in the same position as Mrs. Tomoyasuwith no surviving relatives at all. Last year Mrs. Tomoyasu told her story on television. The appearance generated a flurry of cards and letters which, she says, gave her the encouragement she needed to go on living. When she is alone, though, without cards and letters, she is still haunted by the 34-year-old memory that she did not give her dying daughter a drink of water. For Hiromi Morishita a primary concern is preserving the memories of what it is like to live through a nuclear attack. He feels them fading even in himself, though burns up and down one side of his body have left their indelible record of that August 6. He sees an increasing number of students in his high school calligraphy classes in Hiroshima who have heard nothing of the bomb from their parents. Increasingly, they hear about it at school or not at allexcept during the annual media blitz. Even so, they know far more than their counterparts in Tokyo and other parts of the country. This is not to say there is no interest beyond the city limits of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tadashi Ishida, a professor in the social science faculty at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University, has specialized in the lives and experiencds of the hibakusha. He was one of those who helped organize an international symposium in 1977 to prepare materials for the United Nations special session on disarmament last year. Ishida thinks those who sit in offices and plan for us to survive a nuclear war are experiencing a failure of imagination. He thinks they do not seriously understand just how mutt’ a nuclear strike tears apart the social fabric of life. Conversations with hibakusha bear out his contention that the bomb stripped the survivors of their humanity. Much as some of them wanted to help their neighbors and relatives, the scale of the devastation was just too great. In the end, many who still could simply fled. “In 1978, during a visit to the United States, I visited some fallout shelters,” he says. “I cannot believe that’s a valid defense against modern nuclear war. I think the American people lack any imagination of what would happen. Judging from the effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people would not know what had happened. They would not know what to do. There would be no fire engines. No police to direct traffic. No one would tell you by radio and TV, ‘That was an H-bomb.’ There are not so many people in the anti-nuclear weapons movement. They have a groundless optimism that no one will start a nuclear war. But the weapons are still being developed. It’s ignorance, immoral ignorance, a lack of imagination.” The symposium which Ishida and others organized two years agO provided the seed for a subtle but potentially important shift inside Japan. It brought together the two major groups which had, for years, been organizing separate, competing world conferences every August to campaign against nuclear weapons. This year was the second those two groupsone backed by the Japan Socialist Party and the other by the Japan Communist Party, two of the major opposition parties in the Japanese parliamentheld a joint conference. This year they were joined by a third group, the labor federation Domei. The unity remains fragile; the groups disagree still on many specifics. But the unity, fragile as it is, does give a better chance for the voices of the hibakusha to be heard. And those voices, dimmed less than you might expect by 34 years, are still the most powerful argument against nuclear war. John Spragens Jr., a regular Observer contributor, is co-director of the Southeast Asia Resource Center in Berkeley, California. He made his trip to Japan last month with the aid of a travel grant from the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation, which uses these funds to invite reporters from American small towns to meet hibakusha. At the time, Spragens worked at the Corsicana Daily Sun, and his stories and photographs from the trip appeared there and in other Harte-Hanks newspapers.