I’ve recently read a book about a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The survivors name is Shinji Mikamo and the book is called Rising from the Ashes. It’s a true story with an uncompromising account of someone who was essentially cooked by the heat generated by an American weapon of war. Shinji Mikamo was less than a mile away from the explosion as he was helping his father take tiles off the roof of his family home. Over the next few weeks Shinji and his father managed to battle their way through the confusion and collapse of Imperial Japan as well as the fallout of the Nuclear Weapon. Ultimately, Shinji lived, the rest of his immediate family died but as time passed Mikamo managed to rebuild his life, marry and have 3 children; one of which wrote the very tale that I have just read.
What is most striking about the story is that despite the horrors of the explosion, the tornadoes and the fire-storms that whipped through the streets, Mikamo (through hindsight admittedly) never retained any anger towards the American’s for the attack. In an excellent afterword Shinji’s daughter, Dr Akiko Mikamo, writes about how she was taught by her father to forgive and move on from the hurts of the past. Moreover she now leads the San Diego-WISH: Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity as well as promoting better Japanese-American relations.
It’s a highly inspiring read and I urge you to read it if you get the chance. I could never hope to capture the full force of this story in the two paragraphs above but It’s enough to make me ask you a question; what are the limits of your forgiveness?
For Shinji Mikamo he saw his country stubbornly reject the inevitability of American victory in World War Two. He directly suffered as a result of Japan’s stubbornness, as did the 90,000+ dead in the Hiroshima Bombing. In the final year of the war well over 100,000 people died during one night of bombing in Tokyo, up to 80,000 in Nagasaki as well as thousands more in other bombing raids. How would you feel if that level of devastation had happened to your country? Would you feel subdued? Vengeful? What if you added on the death of your father and brother at the hands of another nation? Surely at that point you would simply say, fuck it, and fly a plane into a building or something similarly stupid.
But no, despite everything thrown at him, Shinji Mikamo decided to forgive. This is in part thanks to some of the very kind souls who helped him survive but also due to a pretty inspiring attitude towards life that permeates the story.
What are the limits of my forgiveness? The ills I have suffered do not compare to those of Shinji Mikamo so anything I feel that has happened to me seem utterly insignificant. It is perhaps this comparison that has helped me re-build some bridges in my life. Indeed the other day an old friend of mine and I met after a seven year absence. We made some apologies and then got back to kicking around a football like old times. It felt good to simply move on past an issue that sadly caused a divide between us and I am looking forward to meeting again soon.
I would like to think that other issues may resolve themselves in the same way but that would involve the other party wanting to forgive as well. Some things are said in the heat of the moment that people take far to close to heart.
It may seem insensitive to link my personal issues to the story of one of the most horrific things to happen in human history but that’s probably because you haven’t read the book.
Rising from the Ashes is the story of Shinji’s triumph against adversity and that is something that we all can identify with and, more importantly, learn from; no matter what the issue.