By RYOKO OHNISHI
RAFU STAFF WRITER
Photographer Darrell Miho, who has documented the lives of hibakusha, spoke on Sunday at the annual commemorative service for atomic bomb survivors sponsored by the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors (A.S.A) and Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. He was the first Sansei Japanese American selected as a guest speaker for the service. Approximately 90 people attended the service and prayed for peace.
The annual service is held to remember the victims who died and to support those who survived the atomic bomb blasts over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, towards the end of World War II. It is estimated 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki at that time. According to the Web site of Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, total of 227, 565 domestically certified as hibakusha and receive health and medical allowances. The issues of survivors abroad has been raised and as of this year, the government started posting the information in English, Portuguese, Korean, and Chinese in consideration of oversea survivors. The A.S.A has approximately 250 members locally and 100 in Hawaii. It is estimated 1,000 survivors are living in the U.S. and 5,000 survivors reside abroad; however, not all of them are certified. The aging of the survivors is another issue. Last year during biennial medical exams, the average age of survivors was 77 years old.
Miho, a Temple City resident and a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1984) with art and design major was invited as a guest speaker. It was his second time to attend the service.
“As a third generation Japanese American, I felt it is my duty to document the hibakusha’s stories. As an American citizen, my country is responsible for the bombing and my ancestors in Japan were directly affected.” His grandmother emigrated from Hiroshima and his parents were incarcerated during World War II. “For me, this is a journey of a lifetime that I hope others will continue on once my road has come to an end.”
He has been working as a professional photographer for mainstream media such as Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and New York Times. Miho has been helping out more than 15 organizations and he began to focus on documenting the stories of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) about 22 months ago. He interviewed over 300 hibakusha in Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States.
Miho shared one of the stories that a male survivor who was 16 years old and 1.2 kilometers from hypocenter told him. His mother was trapped under the collapsed house and the house started to burn. He could not pull her out and had to flee the fire turning his back on her. “She was killed mercilessly, like an object, not like a human being.” Darrell continued, “It has been 65 years since the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb and still, to this day, a U.S. president has never attended the Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I personally find that unacceptable.”
Miho is planning to start a traveling exhibit to educate future generations by using his 66 hibakusha photographs and documents. He said that the exhibition could start from Hiroshima and/or Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 2011 to spread the hibakusha’s message and their hope for peace.
One person who had come to pray, was a survivor from the Nagasaki bombing, Hideo Sakata, who came along with his wife Tamiko.
“I was 10 years old and on that day, I was catching cicadas with a friend. I heard the noise of the airplane coming by, then I saw the flash and I sought cover in a hall by laying on the ground,” said Sakata, in an interview with The Rafu. “My ears were ringing. When I woke up, my shoes were gone and there was mud all over the place and many pieces of glass were scattered everywhere. I saw the fire in the distance. I had no idea what was going on. We did not even know it was the ‘new bomb’ at that time. But I am very glad that I could come here today to share my thoughts.”
Another person who came to pray, Freddie Monroe of Woodland Hills who brought his 2 and a half year old daughter, Zoi,
“I originally came from New Orleans in 2006, I attended the Hiroshima Commemorative Event in 2006 held in Louisiana. The Catholic Church held it and we put candles on the river. It has been a pain in my heart about Hiroshima, and one of my friends, Bob, a Los Angeles Area Nuclear Disarmament Coalition (LAANDC) leader invited me to join today,” said Monroe.
The LAANDC conducted a silent walk to the city hall after the service.
Scheduled A-bomb Commemorative Services this week include: Friday Aug. 6, at noon at the JACCC Plaza, 244 South San Pedro St., Little Tokyo, an interfaith commemorative service will be held sponsored by the Nikkei Interfaith Group. The service will bring together clergy from the Buddhist, Christian and Shinto faith traditions who serve Japanese American congregations throughout Southern California.
On Sunday, Aug. 8, at 10 a.m. at Nishi Hongwanji, 815 E First St., Little Tokyo.