Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Izumi Hirano Interview
Narrator: Izumi Hirano
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 1, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hizumi-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So next I want to talk about, you're part of an organization of survivors of the atomic bomb, and you talk to lots of people about that. Can you tell me how you got involved in that?

IH: I forgot the year... 1980, I heard from the San Francisco organization, physical examination from Japan, they're coming in '81. And that's on already third mission, "So you better organize the Hawaii chapter, otherwise you're gonna miss the third mission in Hawaii. So why don't you organize an association?" So I just called people and then we started from 1980, September, I think.

TI: Now, how did you know the names? I mean, how did they even contact you? How did they know who was a survivor?

IH: That time, again, Kuramoto, found out my name through the San Francisco member. And my relative was over there, too. My wife's sister was in San Francisco.

TI: So the Japanese government didn't have a list of the people, and so it was all kind of word of mouth that people had to organize.

IH: And then before that, used to send me the bulletins to give to everybody. I didn't want to involved, but so I was, joined in a couple years (later). But it said that they're going to take care of the physical examination. Then, oh, better do something. And then by the time, one girl, the friend of a hibakusha from Los Angeles, and then one lady in Hawaii, Honolulu, she was a schoolteacher. Two of them came out to my house and then, "Why don't you organize the association for help?" I wasn't sure because if involved this, it's going to be my job. But the two girls, and then not even related, one is just a friend of a hibakusha from Los Angeles, young girl. And then other schoolteacher was telling me she's going to help me. "So why don't you organize?" And she was really active on the peace job, and she was really famous. So that time I asked, "If you're going to ask, take care of me, you're going to separate from the other organization." Because I don't want to involve any other organization, even the Hiroshima Kenjinkai. That's a big organization. I don't want to connect it, because later they're going to tell us what to do. If we organize this one, we want to do it just for the survivor. And she said, "Okay." And even my friends told me, "Hey, you talk to those people?" I told them she said she's gonna get out from there. And she did it. And from there, she helped me. And then we started about fifteen people.

TI: And this is back in 1981?

IH: '80.

TI: Fifteen people?

IH: Yes. And then when get '81, physical examination, of course, we put it in all the newspaper, Japanese newspaper, English newspaper. And that time it was about fifty people.

TI: Were you surprised how many people?

IH: Yeah. And then every time increased. And then the next, fourth mission, we had about two hundred people, survivors. And then kept going, and then each year, getting old, so die or going someplace. And right now we have about seventy survivors. And the second generation is about thirty. Because they're going to take care of the second generation, survivors, second generation, they're gonna check. So we have about a hundred, little bit over. That's from all the islands. Some of them did come from the other islands.

TI: Before 1980, before you started organizing this, how much did you talk about being a survivor?

IH: Not at all.

TI: And why was that? Was it hard to talk about it? Why didn't you talk about it before?

IH: Because first of all, I wasn't interested. And then I didn't know so much survivor is over here. That's the reason, I didn't know that so much survivor, two hundred people.

TI: When you're kind of just walking around and someone you don't know, or maybe they didn't even know you, and then they find out that you're a survivor, what kind of reaction do you get? What do people say?

IH: That one, too... that's because of the association, good is, there is a physical examination. That's the most purpose that they're going to join. Because it's free, and then get everything.

TI: Yeah, so it was free, but I'm thinking again, so you're in Hawaii, say there's like an American tourist just from the mainland, and you have a conversation, and they find out about the organization or about you and that you're a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. What kind of reaction do you see?

IH: No, they don't have that much reaction.

TI: No reaction? They're not...

IH: But lately, I started talking to the people. Then they're more, that's really bad, really bad, shouldn't do that way.

TI: So when you go to like a talk or something, maybe a school or someplace, you kind of tell your story, and then people come up to you.

IH: Come up to me. And some of them just come to me and especially talking to me, and then they gradually hear my story. Now they know what to tell the other people, too. So that's a big reaction.

TI: And generally people are, they come up and say they're sorry it happened, it shouldn't have happened, things like that. Do you ever get the other side, where there are some people, even though they understand your story, they say it was, it was necessary for that to happen for the war to end? Do you ever hear that side?

IH: No, that kind I don't see. Because if they're like that, they're not coming to our meeting. I don't think they have an interest in peace talk or something like that.

TI: But now if you came across someone like that, so say they found out and maybe at one of your meetings they said, "Izumi, it saved lots of lives, American lives, by dropping the bomb," what would you tell them? What would you say to them?

IH: That's a hard question because they're thinking about American soldiers, save the life for the soldier. But other way, the Japanese people died so much, and then damage. But that's already, Japan was close to surrender. And then I don't know how soon they would surrender. Maybe if no more atomic bomb, then maybe another year. Because already, we don't, Japan didn't have supplies. Everything from the outside. But it's, supplies they don't have, nothing to bring inside from the other countries. Only the Manchuria side, China side, and Korea, that's the only thing. And then happened to be Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That's the reason Japan surrendered. So in a way, it was necessary, in a way, not. It's hard to say. All depends on which way, which side you stand.

TI: But when I think of what you do now, I mean, you speak at a lot of -- not whether it's right or wrong but more about peace now in terms of the importance of peace. So tell me why it's so important to you that we focus on peace. Why is it so important to you?

IH: Important to...

TI: To you. I mean, peace is so important to you, why? If someone says, "So Izumi, why do you work so hard at this?"

IH: That's kind of, again, freedom. We experience, I experienced Japan army style, and then they educated by the army, and then brainwash. So the automatic, you think in that way. You cannot, every day, from when order around, you have to do. Even freedom is good, but already brainwashed, just going, narrow up and going to. So without thinking, you're going that way. So like other countries, it happened in Europe, trouble, too, but that's what they're doing. Then finally they found out and then broke out.

TI: So it's kind of like when the military or when security becomes so important, then you see countries getting like this, do you see that happening in the United States sometimes?

IH: Yes.

TI: Do you think it's happening now?

IH: It's happening.

TI: Because you lived...

IH: But in the United States, you can talk. But in Japan, they couldn't talk. They cannot talk and talk back. And if something bad, army prison.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.