“Kan-chan no Natsu Yasumi,” or “Kan-chan’s Summer Vacation”

By Michio Yoshida

 *** reviewed by Mainichi ***

16 palm-sized pages bring one man’s Nagasaki bombing experience to a new generation

The only thing on the yellow cover of the palm-sized booklet are the words “Kan-chan no Natsu Yasumi,” or “Kan-chan’s Summer Vacation.” The 16-page volume is the work of freelance writer Michio Yoshida, 51, who began making the booklets four years ago, and distributes them in place of business cards.

“Kan-chan” was what people used to call his father Kazuto, now 77, when he was a boy.

Michio was born in Tokyo, but his father had lived in Nagasaki, and witnessed the atomic destruction of that city. Kazuto had long been a busy member of a hibakusha group, but had never spoken of his own bombing experience. Michio, too, never asked about it, and so the years passed in silence on the subject.

In May 2005, almost 60 years after the end of World War II, Michio and his father took their first trip together to the city. After visiting Nagasaki’s sight-seeing spots and places destroyed by the bomb, Michio and Kazuto retired to a coffee shop. There, unbidden and apparently driven by his feelings, Kazuto began to talk about Aug. 9, 1945, and the destruction of Nagasaki.

Michio, momentarily caught off-guard, quickly pulled out a notebook.

On Aug. 9, 1945, Kazuto, or Kan-chan, was a 13-year-old boy standing in a long line at Nagasaki Station, waiting to buy a ticket to visit his hometown. He heard the air raid siren sound, and watched as everyone rushed to nearby air-raid shelters. Kan-chan ambled over to the shelter and took up position by the entrance, and when the all-clear sounded he rushed out again to grab a spot at the head of the ticket line.

Kan-chan was walking back to his lodgings, ticket in hand, when the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb fell. The blast wave picked him off his feet and sent him flying, but he escaped serious injury.

Kan-chan’s dash to the front of the ticket line saved his life. Scores of people at the station died that day.

Around the time he turned 20, Kazuto began to wonder at his luck that day. Perhaps because he had rushed to the front of the line, others had been late to buy their tickets and had lost their lives. Such doubts weighed more heavily on his heart as time went by.

“It’s terrible that people might think my experience can sum up the atomic bomb,” Kazuto said to his son. But is that really the case?

As his father had seen the destruction of Nagasaki through the eyes of a 13-year-old, Michio decided to aim his story at the young. As news of “Kan-chan’s Summer Vacation” has spread, Michio has distributed a total of over 4,500 copies of the little yellow book.

The A-bomb fell on normal people living normal lives, and through Michio’s booklet, 13-year-old Kan-chan has come out of the past to communicate that fact to our own time. (By Yumi Isozaki, Lifestyle News Department)

Click here for the original Japanese story

(Mainichi Japan) August 12, 2009

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