A-bomb survivor sheds light on Hiroshima

Koko Kondo, who was 8 months old when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, speaks about John Hersey’s book Hiroshima. Kondo touched on her life growing up in post-war Japan. Kondo’s speech Monday was part of this year’s International Week. (Jason Chow | Staff Photographer)

Fighting “painful” memories, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing kicked off Ohio University’s International Week with a standing room-only crowd in Baker University Center Ballroom.

OU President Roderick McDavis began the week’s festivities by welcoming the keynote speaker, Koko Kondo. Kondo was 8 months old when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

“Ohio University is an international university,” McDavis said. “It’s not until you find your differences that you find your similarities.”

Several of the international students had visited the site of the Hiroshima bombing while at home, said Satoko Takahashi, a sophomore studying English and English culture from Nagoya, Japan.

“In Japan, we learned about the Hiroshima bombing in elementary school,” Takahashi said. “I only saw pictures, but then our school went to Hiroshima a couple hours away by train and saw the site in ruin.”

The bombing site is attached to deep cultural roots and resonated with sophomore Akiko Imamura, also from Nagoya.

“It was sad to learn about this in class,” Imamura said. “I was hurt. But I want Americans to learn more about the bombing and learn from it.”

Despite living less than a mile away from the blast zone of the atomic bomb, Kondo’s immediate family survived — a miracle that was rarely discussed in the Kondo household.

“I don’t remember anything from that day,” Kondo said. “I could not ask my parents what happened after years passed. They did not want to remember. The memories from that day were painful to them.”

Kondo did recall the lives of those who were affected from the radioactive aftershock of the bombing. 

“I was at a church and children came not to seek Christianity but to find something,” she said. “They were so sweet and called me Koko-chan. One brushed my hair, and that was when I saw that the little girl’s fingers were fused together. Another’s eye could not close. I didn’t understand. I later gathered information, and then I learned.”

Hearing a survivor’s story of this magnitude is “eye-opening,” said Russell Morrow, a senior studying video production.

“It’s good to hear someone’s experiences,” Morrow said. “It makes everything real to you.”

International Week exists for a reason, added Kasey Daniel, a senior studying psychology.

“It’s important to learn from the past,” Daniel said. “It’s powerful seeing something like this can actually be a reality. This gives me more information, and it’s important to learn.”

hy135010@ohiou.edu

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