I think it’s a pretty fair assumption to say that war is a horrible thing. Although will will, by definition be a winning side and a losing side, I think we can all agree that everyone loses when war becomes the only viable option. It should be obvious that I would oppose war, given that it kind of goes against the whole “don’t spread suffering” thing that we Buddhist likes to tell people. But in an effort to let go of this morning’s sarcasm (like I could ever do that), there have been countless wars throughout human history; many of which we don’t even know about as they haven’t been covered by mainstream media.
Every war and/or battle has its horror and losses, but few have resonated with the world quite like the dropping of the atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Japan has always held a special place in my heart, as I’ve grown up and been exposed to its history and culture almost more so than my own. And once in a blue moon, while researching one thing I’ll stumble upon something else. This brings me to Mr. Tsutomu Yamaguchi.
I was following a routine for a while where I would write about an influential martial artist that either inspired me through their films or impressed me and drew me to the martial arts through their skills. But it dawns on me that the martial arts incorporates a lot of values that are rarely discussed. Things such as indomitable will, perseverance and survival instinct. And those values can be inspiring as well. Yamaguchi’s story resonates with me, because it shows how indomitable a person can really be, even when faced with lethal devastation.
To provide a bit of background, Yamaguchi was employed by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as an engineer. On August 6th, 1945 he unfortunately found himself in Hiroshima when “Little Boy” was dropped. He had been in Hiroshima for a period of time on business, and was a only a couple of miles away from the spot that Little Boy exploded. He suffered several injuries, including temporary blindness, ruptured eardrums and radiation burns. But he managed to make his way to a bomb shelter and take refuge. He spent the night in this shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day, which is where he lived.
Now, I want all of you to think about this for a second… A massive explosion takes place, miles away from where you’re standing. Not only does it still manage to knock you off your feet, but you find yourself temporarily blind, deaf and burned. But you still have the sheer strength of will and wantonness to survive and crawl yourself to a shelter. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty badass, all things considered. I don’t know if I’d have that much fortitude and I think that a good percentage of people in today’s society would likely curl up into the fetal position ad wait to be rescued. I’ve seen some people do that for non-lethal injuries. But I digress…
On August 7th, 1945 Yamaguchi returned to Nagasaki and on the morning of August 9th, he reported to work. Are you kidding me??? I’ve seen coworkers of mine call in sick because their SPOUSE didn’t get enough sleep but this guy survives a nuclear bomb drop and goes to work just over 48 hours afterwards, despite being injured? Like I said… badass! Anyway, to add salt to the wound, Yamaguchi was at work describing the Hiroshima blast to his boss when “Fat Boy” was dropped on Nagasaki. Once again, he found himself at a couple miles away from the blast and survived once again.
Despite being present at both atomic bombings, Yamaguchi went on to live a long and reasonably healthy life before succumbing to stomach cancer and passing away in 2010 at 93 years old. He kind of reminds me of my grandfather, with the exception that my grandfather was a soldier when exposed to war. The takeaway is that Yamaguchi was an engineer, a civilian and the unfortunate reality is that the innocent always pay a cost when wars are fought.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi’s story is inspiring to me because he continued to push on and fight, despite the deadly adversity he faced throughout that period in history. He was a husband and father of two daughters and live nearly a century. His will to survive was incredible and if nothing else, the man deserves a tip of the cap for his work ethic. I’m pretty certain that if an atomic bomb got dropped in Regina today, I likely wouldn’t be reporting to work a couple days later and discussing it with my boss as though it was nothing.
There were apparently many people to survive both bombings, but Yamaguchi became the only one recognized by his government as having done so. Either way, he may not know of the impact and influence he’s had on the world as a result of his will to survive. But he definitely inspired me. It’s important to keep on fighting the good fight and survive no matter the obstacles you face. You’ll be all the better for it. ☯