The Hiroshima Legacy: From Tales of the Yūrei

Hiroshima

A mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan – Atomic Heritage Foundation

“Five minutes out from target, Colonel. Altitude three two three three three feet. Local time zero eight one zero.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. Status of the package, Captain Parsons?”

“Parsons here, Colonel. Package armed in flight. Lt. Jeppson took the final safeties off 25 minutes ago. We’re set down here.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. We are a go for final approach and delivery. Descending to three one zero six zero feet.”

Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr. looked out the cockpit window, first to the left and then to his right. The Enola Gay was accompanied by two other B-29s, The Great Artiste was carrying instrumentation for measuring the heat and radiation of the blast, and no-name ship contained the latest photographic equipment to record what has about to happen.

In Tibbets’s mind, there was no doubt that if “Little Boy” went off as planned, it would shorten the war by months if not years and save thousands of lives on both sides. But he knew that when the news got back home, there would be those who would curse his name and the names of everyone on board his ship.

29-year-old Tsutomu Yamaguchi had been sent to Hiroshima by his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to check on a clerical error made at the plant there. As he was taking a shortcut across a potato field, he was thinking it was a good day. He was seeing his girl Katsuko tonight after work. Should he take her to the cinema again?

Then he heard the plane. It was easy to spot the B-29 because it was such a clear day. It was strange to see only one American bomber. What could a single aircraft accomplish? Then he saw one…no two parachutes.

There was the flash, like brilliant magnesium, like the sun had exploded. The shock wave blew him off his feet.

13-year-old Yoshitaka Kawamoto was teasing his classmate Fujimoto while the teacher’s back was turned to the blackboard.

“Shut up, Yoshitaka,” he desperately whispered afraid of getting in trouble. “You’ll get us both sent to the…wait. Look.” He pointed out the window and then said out loud, “A B-29 is coming.” Yoshitaka and several other students saw Fujimoto pointing out the window.

“Where is it?” Yoshitaka followed the line where his classmate was pointing into the sky. He started to stand up but was already too late. “My eyes!”

A brilliant flash burst through the window into the classroom as everyone turned away and shut their eyes tight. Then the window shattered and the teacher and students were thrown to the floor, many covered with glass. The wall collapsed trapping Yoshitaka.

“I can’t move. It hurts. Please, someone help me.”

He heard a familiar sound. Ten of his classmates were singing their school song. Someone else was sobbing. A girl was calling for her mother.

Yoshitaka joined the chorus of singers. He thought that if they sang loud enough and long enough, someone would hear and come to rescue them. One by one, the members of the classroom choir became silent until Yoshitaka alone was singing.

No one came. No one heard.

About 3.7 kilometers from ground zero, the Hiroshima District Weather Bureau’s chief meteorologist Isao Kita was listening to the wireless when he looked out the northward facing window and saw the brilliant flash of light. It didn’t seem particularly big at first, but a few seconds later, he noticed that the light had pushed white clouds, spreading them across the blue sky. He thought it quite beautiful until the heat wave came.

20-year-old Akiko Takakura had just started her morning routine as a teller at the Bank of Hiroshima which was only three hundred meters from ground zero. She looked out the window, saw the flash, and immediately lost consciousness. She woke up to hear her co-worker Asami crying for her mother.

enola gay

The Enola Gay B-29 Superfortress

“It was an attack. The Americans have bombed us again.” Akiko managed to get to Asami.

“I can’t move, Akiko. Leave. Leave without me.”

“No. I won’t leave you.”

The sky continued to grow brighter around them. They couldn’t hear anyone else. Everyone in the bank must be dead.

Akiko went to the lavatory and found that the water pipes had broken. She had her emergency helmet with her and used it to collect water to take back to Asami. She kept pouring water over her head again and again until Asami regained consciousness.

“Come on. I’ll help you. Let’s get out of here. The parade grounds should be safe.”

The two young women never made it to the parade grounds. The city was totally engulfed in flames. The air was so hot and full of smoke it was almost impossible to breathe.

“We’ll wait here by this pool.” It was a water pool used for fighting fires, but the inferno surrounding them was far worse than any conflagration either of them had witnessed. In front of them, a whirlpool of flames the full width of the street formed and headed straight for the two terrified women.

It was close to midnight and Hirohito, Emperor of Japan leaned forward in his chair in a sitting room off of his bedroom. He was alone, which he insisted upon. Two days ago, the Americans caused a second devastating explosion destroying Nagasaki and proving that the annihilation of Hiroshima wasn’t simply a one-time event. Their enemy could eliminate Nippon a city at a time using only one bomb and one bomber. To make matters worse, no one really understood the nature of this infamous weapon. Even those not killed immediately began to suffer some sort of disease.

Hundreds of thousands were dead or dying. How could he continue the war in the face of such horror? Yet he must continue for the sake of his nation.

“Hirohito.”

The voice sounded as if it were carried on the wind, as if the speaker was very far away, and yet able to utter into the Emperor’s ear.

He looked up and saw no one in the darkness.

“Who is there? I ordered that I not be disturbed.”

“What of the souls of the dead, Emperor? We are disturbed.”

Vague shapes began to coalesce in the center of the room, ghastly caricatures of men, women, and children. They were all dressed in white rags, their hair long and filthy, their flesh was burned, rotting, falling off their bones. There was a faint glow in the air. Several of them vomited blood and worms at the Emperor’s feet.

Yūrei!”

Hirohito had heard stories of the spirits of the dead, souls who could not rest because of some misdeed done to them in life, or mothers who had died leaving children uncared for.

“We have come for you, Hirohito. You must pay for your crimes.”

“Crimes?” Though terrified, he was the Emperor, the supreme leader of the nation. Even Yūrei could not speak to him thus. He stood defying them.

“What crimes? You are you that you should accuse me?”

“I was a student in Hiroshima,” one spirit declared.

“I worked at bank,” said another.

“My children died in my arms in our home in Nagasaki.” Her voice was hideous, even when sobbing.

“The bombs.” Hirohito sat back down, a realization coming upon him.

“The bombs,” said the closest spirit.

“The atomic bombs,” uttered another to the Emperor’s right.

“Atomic?” Hirohito whispered the unfamiliar word.

“You led us to war.”

“You could have stopped it.”

“You provoked the Americans.”

“They built an unthinkable weapon, and it was all because of you.”

“No, no, not me,” Hirohito addressed the chorus of the dead. “It was Admiral Yamamoto. He ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor. I tried to warn him. I said it would be self-destructive, that we would be waking a sleeping giant.” He was pushing himself into this chair, as if he could will himself to flow through the back and escape out the other side.

“No, Hirohito.”

“You are Emperor.”

Macarthur_hirohito

Gaetano Faillace’s photograph of General MacArthur and the Emperor at Allied GHQ in Tokyo, September 17, 1945

“You could have stopped Yamamoto.”

“You could have saved us.”

“Now we are dead, our husbands and wives, our fathers, our mothers, our children, all dead because of you.”

Hirohito buried his face in his hands and sobbed. “What can I do? I cannot change what is done.”

“Never again, Hirohito.”

“What has been done here must never happen again.”

“But the war?” The Emperor looked through his fingers, tears still streaming down his cheeks.

“No war, Hirohito. There must be no more war. No one else must die this death.”

“More are joining us every hour, Hirohito. It is not just the bomb, the explosion. It keeps on killing us.”

“No more, Hirohito. No more. None must ever die again. Not like this.”

The next morning on Sunday, August 12, 1945, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender to the Allies. He never told them why he had finally come to this conclusion, though they supposed it was because of the new bomb. He could never tell them the truth, that it was the unsettled souls of all who had died, the souls who had visited him, that resulted in his decision.

Three days later, Hirohito went on the radio and issued his surrender speech to the Japanese people:

“Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”

What he didn’t say, what he couldn’t say, was that the greatest enemy to Japan was the man who antagonized a large and resourceful enemy into constructing and delivering the “most cruel bomb.” He had destroyed his nation and although he could not restore life to the dead, he could, he must find a way for Japan to endure the occupation and then move forward into the future.

The Present.

Kim Jong-un had been celebrating. Today had been a grand day. His plans were moving forward toward fruition. How dare the UN continue to issue sanctions against his nation. To hell with them. To hell with Japan and especially to the hated America.

After the latest missile test, he had issued a decree from Pyongyang that North Korea would sink Japan and beat the US to death like a rabid dog.

The filthy, arrogant Japanese would pay for their history of crimes against the Korean people, and America, that stinking, corrupt, putrefied blob, would learn that it held no power over a nuclear North Korea.

He woke up with a headache and it took him a moment to remember. Oh yes. The liquor. The young virgin from some obscure village in the provinces who would not be missed. He didn’t care how she was procured or what happened to her afterward.

He had to pee. What time was it? After one in the morning.

The “Chairman of the Workers’ Party” relieved himself, closed his robe and then walked back toward his bed only to find that he was no longer alone.

“Kim Jong-un.”

The young North Korean leader stood in the middle of the room for a second wondering if he were still asleep and dreaming. He was surrounded by figures. They wore white rags. Their hair was dark, long, matted. Their flesh was rotted, some burnt, some of the skin was dripping off of their bones as if it had been melted. They vomited blood, green bile, and maggots.

“What is this? Who are you? Where are my guards.”

“Kim Jong-un. You must never launch your nuclear weapons.”

Yūrei

Yūrei

“We know the result.”

“We are Gwisin.”

Gwisin?” As a boy, one of his nannies told him the legends, spirits of the dead who could not rest, more to amuse the boy than to frighten him. He sometimes told playmates he commanded the Gwisin and if they didn’t treat him with respect, he would call upon their spirits to kill their parents.

“I…I don’t believe you.”

He had always been spoiled and defiant. Kim Jong-un thought no one could stop him. Even the Chinese seemed to tacitly approve of his actions. Perhaps they were afraid of him as well.

The Chairman’s bravado was cut short as icy claws gripped his face and chest from behind.

He tried to scream but a hand moved over his mouth, puss and maggots filling his throat. He was choking and suddenly vomited. Collapsing in his own filth, the spirits descended upon him.

“No, Kim Jong-un.”

“You will never unleash another atrocity.”

“No more will die as we have died.”

“No more children will die. No more grandparents, mothers, fathers, none shall burn in nuclear fire ever again.”

“You will disarm.”

“You will surrender your arsenal.”

“Or we will return.”

“And you will join our ranks, Kim Jong-un.”

Morning.

He woke up in a cold sweat and found to his embarrassment that he had urinated in bed.

“A nightmare. Foolish. There are no Gwisin.”

Kim Jong-un got up still convinced of his own superiority, his invincibility.

In dankness and darkness lifeless eyes watched and waited, planning unspeakable horrors in order to avert another unspeakable horror. After Kim Jong-un was dispatched, the leaders of Iran, Russia, and America would be next to receive the tender mercies of the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Yūrei of nuclear holocaust.

missile

North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off near Pyongyang. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, after writing Yūrei, it occurred to me to expand on the concept, especially after hearing the news about North Korea threatening to “sink Japan” and turn America to ashes in the wake of their latest missile test.

I considered what I needed to know to link the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two to the modern threat of nuclear holocaust against Japan.

I had to know more about the Enola Gay, her crew, and her mission to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I made up the cockpit conversation since I couldn’t find any transcripts or other information about what was said on the B-29 right before it dropped its bomb.

I did find several eyewitness accounts of the initial sighting of the bomber and the explosion of “Little Boy” at DamnInteresting.com which I incorporated into my narrative.

I created a fictionalized account of Hirohito‘s ghostly encounter, but his having warned against attacking Pearl Harbor and the quote from his surrender speech are quite real. It is also true that although he did not want the Pearl Harbor attack, he did little if anything to stop it.

Information about North Korea’s latest threats is real enough, though of course anything I wrote about Kim Jong-un’s childhood how he celebrates is purely fictional.

I just wish that any national leader crazy enough to seriously consider using nuclear weapons would be stopped by supernatural forces and prevent the deaths suffered by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from ever happening again.

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7 thoughts on “The Hiroshima Legacy: From Tales of the Yūrei

  1. The crazy man in North Corea is old news, it’s been like that for a long time. What is truly scary is that the the leader of the biggest nuclear potency in the world, Donald Trump, is answering this madman on the madman’s terms. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two of the most horrible incidents in history, and they were committed by democratically elected leaders. Let’s hope history will not repeat itself.

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    • I was reacting to the latest North Korean test plus the threats to sink Japan and turn the US to ashes. The chances of North Korea being able to defeat the US is not great, but it could destroy Japan, a traditional enemy of Korea.

      You’ll notice that at the very end of my tale, I did reference several of the other nuclear powers including the US. I suspect even Trump will not attempt a nuclear strike on North Korea and provoke China into a devastating response.

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      • Donald Trump may be trying to run America like a reality TV show, but it’s important to remember there’s a difference between being President and King. He doesn’t have absolute control over our armed forces, and I suspect General Mattis will advise him that launching nukes is a terrible, terrible idea. If anything, I suspect Trump would order an attack on North Korea using conventional weapons the way Bush did in Iraq, although even that would probably p*ss off the Chinese.

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      • That could be the beginning of the end, my friend. Some wars you can’t win, and they do not necessarily end when you pull out. Russia an China together, for example, would probably be impossible to beat, and the islamist extemist would be very, very happy about such a war. Sometimes things change rapidly in this world…

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      • The reason that we haven’t had World War Three yet is both Russia and China realize, just as we do, that they’d have a whole lot to lose in a full scale nuclear war. I don’t think anything about that realization has changed. That’s what averted war in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

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