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Hiroshima Survivor to Speak at 2 Schools

November 18, 2000|NANCY FORREST-YOSNOW

Miyoko Matsubara wants to abolish nuclear weapons. To that end, she tries to tell as many people as possible about her experience as a hibakusha, a Hiroshima survivor.

"Nuclear weapons do not deter war," said Matsubara, who still lives in Hiroshima, Japan, and will be sharing her story today and Monday in Camarillo. "Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist. We all must learn the value of human life."

Matsubara was a 12-year-old seventh-grader in 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on her city.

She was less than a mile from the epicenter and was one of only 50 children who survived out of 250 classmates.

After the blast, the clear, sunny morning turned into night.

Her face and legs had been burned and were swollen, with the skin peeled off and hanging in shreds.

Matsubara, now 67, described fellow survivors as looking like characters out of horror movies, their skin and flesh horribly burned and blistered.

In the next four years, three family members died of the effects of radiation exposure, leaving her to raise her brother's children.

Recovery has been an ordeal. In 1953, she underwent 12 operations to restore a dysfunctional eyelid and straighten crooked fingers.

Although acquaintances traveled to New York to undergo more surgery, she refused.

"For myself, I just didn't feel right about traveling to the United States, the country that had dropped the atomic bomb," she said.

But in the ensuing years, she gained a sense of peace by attending church, where she met Americans who didn't fit the image she had formed in her mind.

"They were extremely kind and deeply regretted their country's atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," she said. ". . . Gradually coming to like and trust Americans, I realized that had the Japanese possessed the A-bomb, we too would have used it. The real enemy, therefore, is not America. It is war and nuclear weapons. Those weapons must be abolished. I decided to devote my life to this cause."

She will speak at 12:30 p.m. today at Cal State Channel Islands, One University Drive.

She will speak at 8:30 a.m. Monday at Los Primeros Structured School, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd..

Her speech is sponsored by Soka Gakkai International USA, a Buddhist association promoting peace, culture and education.

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