Hibakusha

Hibakusha DVD coverLast Thursday, while researching at the office, I came across the term “hibakusha,” meaning surviving victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wikipedia’s hibakusha entry conveys in a few succinct words and pictures some of the tragedy, including the many Korean forced laborers, the “nijū hibakusha” (those who suffered both A bombs and survived), and the discrimination against hibakusha by their own culture.

Of course I’m familiar with the rationalizations for our having dropped those bombs. “How bloody would an extended Pacific campaign have been?” and “Dresden took at least as much damage, though by many bombs instead of one.” Somehow, those arguments don’t soothe my soul.

As a poet, the only way to cope is to share my feelings in verse. So I spent Thursday evening preparing this:

Hush, hibakusha.
Hide away your shameful scars.
Righteousness is flame.

And I tossed it into the sea of social media like a tiny message in a bottle.
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Japanese Progress Report

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A couple of weeks ago, I remarked on Facebook and Twitter that I’d hit a wall with Japanese. The “Why am I putting myself through this; a year later, I still can’t really converse” wall.

Many people responded with encouragement—my favorite was “A year later, you speak more Japanese than me!”

As with many things in life, push past the wall and things change. It’s been only a couple of weeks since my lament, and suddenly Japanese is starting to feel more natural. (I’m using Pimsleur, by the way.)

I see everyday occurrences and the Japanese phrases for them are readily available. In spare moments here and there, other Japanese words and phrases pop up spontaneously—sometimes I have to look them up to remind myself what they mean. It’s as if a Japanese person is waking up inside me and trying to communicate.

That’s pretty cool—like I’m some sort of Japanese butterfly.