Nobel Prize-winning author Oe’s memo directed to Okinawan atomic bomb survivors found

Nobel Prize-winning author Oe's memo directed to Okinawan atomic bomb survivors found

Oe's memorial written on A4-sized report paper (He wrote at the end, "1964," but it was actually 1965).

August 6, 2014 Mamoru Yasuda of Ryukyu Shimpo

Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe wrote a book about Okinawa titled Okinawa Notes. He has deep emotional ties to the prefecture. When he visited Okinawa for the first time in 1965, Oe met Okinawan atomic bomb survivors, and wrote a memoir directed at them.

In the handwritten memo, Oe said, “We have to always recognize about Okinawan people having to bear burdens.”

In the memorial, Oe describes himself as a someone who lives in Tokyo in an environment that is secure and peaceful compared to Okinawa. He pointed out that Okinawan atomic bomb survivors were clear evidence of the disproportionate burden inflicted on Okinawan people. Oe went on to say, “We need to be aware of that fact.”

Kenzaburo Oe

On March 4, 1965, Oe met Okinawan atomic bomb survivors in Naha. Ninety-year old Tsuruko Makishi, who spoke of her experiences as a victim of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki to Oe, asked him to write down his response to it as a record.

Oe did not release his writing to the public for about half a century. It is a sentimental and valuable memorial that is sympathetic to the Okinawan people. It is written by a person who has continued to remember atomic-bomb victims.

Right after Oe visited Okinawa, he published his first essay about Okinawa in monthly periodical SEKAI (The World) and described what he and Makishi talked about. In Hiroshima Notes which was published in the same month, Oe referred to the meeting with Makishi in a prologue, and wrote about the suffering of Okinawan atomic bomb survivors.

Around that time, Okinawa was under U.S.military administration. The administration did not take care of Okinawan atomic-bomb survivors. Even though the Japanese government put in force an Act for Atomic Bomb Sufferers’ Medical Care, it was not applied to Okinawan people.

A survey on Okinawan atomic-bomb survivors started in September 1963.
The World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs was held in Hiroshima in August 1964.

At the conference, Okinawan atomic-bomb survivors talked about the issue.
On August 3, Oe talked about his memorial to Ryukyu Shimpo. He said, “I have never forgotten writing that memorial in front of Okinawan people when I was young. Even into my elderly years, I have not stopped thinking of the difficulties that Okinawa faces. I will continue to remind myself that I have not done enough for Okinawan people.”

(English translation by T&CT)

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