March 2018: Hibakusha (被爆者)

After learning the story (stories) of how the Hibakusha (被爆者) were treated in Japan after the bombings during WW2, my heart was full of emotion and I had to illustrate the image that came to mind.

Materials: Gouache, ink, pen, digital photo, digital drawing. Combined in Photoshop.

(from a blog I wrote about it):

It’s the story of the bombing survivors, the Hibakusha. The people who lived. They survived the worst possible thing that could happen and then tried to get on with their lives just like any of us would. But they couldn’t, due to a myriad of reasons. If they were disfigured or scarred, people were afraid of or disgusted by them, and didn’t want to see them. If they weren’t disfigured and appeared fine and normal, people still didn’t want to marry them or hire them, because they didn’t know about the effects of radiation on the body and thought it might be contagious, or passed on to future children, infect new towns, etc.

This led to an entire group of people who survived this terrible event being discriminated against in multiple ways. If they moved to a new place far away from their homes, people would still keep away from them after they heard where they were from. If they tried to lie about where they were from, some people hired private detectives to find out if they’d been in Hiroshima or Nagasaki when the bombings occurred.

At a time when they should have been celebrated for their survival and lauded as symbols of Japan’s will to rebuild, they were shunned.

A student told me that his parents grew up in what was left of Hiroshima after the bombings. While both of his parents were fine, they still lived in an area that had been reduced to rubble. Their families were trying to rebuild and reclaim what they could, in order to have some semblance of a normal life and to make better lives for their children. The survivors who were disfigured, scarred or missing limbs were seen as a burden and an embarrassment. No one wanted to interact with them. They often had to fend for themselves.

They stopped going out during the day, when they could be seen clearly, and only went out at night when it was dark.

My student’s parents were afraid to go out at night because that’s when the monsters came out.

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