Ghosts Of The Bomb: The Tragedy Of The Hibakusha

981 words - 4 pages

The radiation that infected the air of Hiroshima and Nagasaki following the first and second nuclear attacks lends a physical manifestation to the idea that Japan was literally haunted by the ghost of the atomic bomb. It is important to acknowledge that the atomic bombs left behind permanent signs of impact that surpassed physical damage; lost in the calculations of casualties and blast radius was the psychological effect experienced by the victims of this unparalleled disaster. A dichotomy of sorts, the bomb appeared in a flash, incomprehensible, alien, and unknown, and left an emotional scar that manifested itself as the concept of the Hibakusha, which is directly translated as “explosion-affected people.” Through individual examples of victims, both direct and indirect, of the bomb, the complex ways that the bomb affected these people psychologically becomes apparent; the Hibakusha struggled to reconcile their own emotional experience within the larger national narrative, illustrating how deeply the seismic shock of the bomb ran. In many ways, the aftermath of the atomic bomb served as a far more effective agent of nationalistic erosion against the survivors than the actual attack because of the permanent physical and emotional reminders left in its wake.
While the bomb was designed primarily to inflict physical pain upon the Japanese people, the wreckage created deeper and irreparable psychological devastation that can be seen, in Hibakusha narratives such as the one of Tamiki Hara. Hara’s world, the world of the survivor, is one of uniform emotional boundary: his sincere gratitude toward his survival of the attacks is constantly challenged and restricted by the horrors he had experienced and their lasting imprints upon his life. Although he claims early in the piece, “the horror of war did not affect [him] mentally,” the entire narrative serves as a counterargument to this assertion . On page 57, he discusses an apparently metaphysical episode in which a “shock of lightening hits [his] head.” This shock, Hara later rationalizes, may have been a product of “the memory of on the morning of the atomic bomb, coming back to assault me after all these years.” This suspicion not only alludes to the degenerative nature of memory for the Hibakusha, but also to the unpredictability of such memory; Hara is unqualified to assess whether he has been mentally affected by the bomb because it is clear that there is a fundamental disconnect between him and the non-Hibakusha world. Following this chilling incident, Hara is unable to feel the warmth of spring, and seems thoroughly lost in an “earth of which [he has] yet no knowledge.” Haunted by “shadows of those… who, writhe and struggle though they may, have been thrust down into the depths of despair,” he realizes that although he is alive, he too will forever serve as a ghost of the atomic bomb until his death .
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