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Title: Nobuko Miyake-Stoner Interview
Narrator: Nobuko Miyake-Stoner
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 2, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mnobuko-01-0001

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MA: Okay, so today is June 2, 2009, and I'm here in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the Japanese Cultural Center here with Reverend Dr. Nobuko Miyake-Stoner. So thank you so much for doing this interview with us, I really appreciate it.

NM: It's my privilege.

MA: So I just wanted to start by asking when you were born.

NM: I was born in February of 1952 in Hiroshima, Japan.

MA: And a little bit about your parents, where were they born, where were they from?

NM: Yes. Both of my parents were born in Hiroshima. And that was seven years after the end of the war, I was born, yes.

MA: And can you tell me a little bit about, I guess, growing up in Hiroshima at that time, the '50s and '60s? And just, I guess, in terms of rebuilding the city and I don't know, about living in, sort of, the postwar era.

NM: Right, right. My grandparents, my maternal grandparents and my mother were under the mushroom cloud on August the 6th of 1945. And it was really a miracle that they survived. They were living less than a mile from the epicenter. And I didn't know what actually happened for a long time, but I saw many, many people growing up in that city who have keloids, keloids, thick, thick burn scars in their limbs, legs and then arms and then also faces. And then as a child, I felt that something very unusual must have happened. But I felt that I should never ask a question, what happened to these people. But one day, that was a part of our school curriculum, to go to memorial museum. And then I saw all these relics and read some documents, what happened in August of 1945. And my parents, my grandparents, my relatives, never told me. Because it's just... too many of my aunties and uncles suddenly died. You know, they were doing well up until a month ago, and then suddenly they were taken to Atomic Bomb Memorial Hospital, and they never returned. And then another thing I remember is my great-aunt, her face was deformed because of these burn scars. And around August, she often told me that glass pieces still came out of her fingers and lips, and still hurts, physically, and then also mentally, spiritually. And my grandmother also told me that every August, the day comes, she still remembered the smell of this, burning bodies. The smell is still permeating, permeating the city of Hiroshima. So I feel that the war hasn't been over yet.

MA: And when you were growing up, you said that in school, you learned about what happened.

NM: Yeah.

MA: But with your family, there was no, it was not spoken of.

NM: No.

MA: So then in school -- oh, I'm sorry.

NM: Yeah. You know, in fact, I learned later that hibakusha, these victims of atomic bomb, they were told by our Japanese government not to speak ill of America, and then not to say anything bad about atomic bomb illnesses or what happened. "Because of them, the war ended, so they should be grateful, because they took a very important role to be like a sacrificial lamb, and peace came to our nation of Japan. And then America is so nice to us. So never say anything bad about America." So that's part of the reasons my family never talked about atomic bombing experience. But also, there must have been a great sense of guilt, because they had to run to the mountains to survive, abandoning all these people asking for water, asking for help. So probably deeply internalized guilt must have been there, shamed. They felt shameful to survive. So it's just layers and layers of complex emotions.

MA: And in Japan, so they were told by the government to sort of suppress or hide what they had gone through. Do you think culturally in Japan also they were sort of marginalized as well?

NM: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. In fact, my relatives told me when I was growing up, probably senior high, yeah, senior high school student, never told your friends where you were, where you were from. Because at the time of employment, at the time of marriage, especially women from Hiroshima were discriminated against by the rest of Japan. They didn't want to have us because of medical insurance effect, or they just don't want to take a risk of having people from Hiroshima to be a part of the family. They were concerned about genetic abnormality. So we were like a outcast. And then there was so much unknown about radiation illness. Because acute radiation illness, and then also, you know, those radiation illness coming to the hibakusha all of a sudden. So very unpredictable. So I do remember when, you know, it started raining, teachers told us, "Run. Run to the shelter so that you can avoid the rain." And I do remember that I had a nightmare that if I subjugate myself to rain, probably my hair might start falling. Because I heard so many stories of very disconcerting experiences hibakusha went through.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.