The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s March 2 issue.
Painter Ikuo Hirayama survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima when he was in junior high school. Yet even when he struggled to find themes for his work, he did not paint the atomic bombing. It was not until 34 years later that he painted “Hiroshima Shohenzu” (The Holocaust at Hiroshima), depicting a city engulfed in crimson flames.
Poet Sakon So was unable to save his mother from the fires of an air raid.
“Mother, curse me, your son” — it was 22 years later that the poet, who bore a cross-like burden to the end of his days, compiled a collection of poems titled “Moeru Haha” (Mother Burning).
Some experiences require the passage of time before they can be put to paper or canvas. It took 30 years for author Kyoko Hayashi’s experience of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki at 14 to crystallize into the Akutagawa Prize-winning “Matsuri no Ba” (Ritual of Death). It was reported yesterday that she had passed away at 86.
When her son was little, she often asked him, “Who are you holding hands with?” and made him answer, “Mama.” This happened again and again. It was impossible to know when her life would be claimed by the radiation sickness caused by the atomic bombing. She told The Yomiuri Shimbun, “I wanted to leave him the memory of a mother.”
In Hayashi’s short story “Tomoyo” (Friend), a mother says, “Had you died, this would be the 33rd year since your death.” Perhaps Hayashi herself would count the “anniversaries of her own death” every Aug. 9. She lived next to death, watching life through death.Speech