Tsutomu Yamaguchi witnessed at close hand the nuclear devastation of two Japanese cities, and lived to tell the tale. Now it will be left to others to tell his incredible story after his death this week at 93.
Mr. Yamaguchi, the only person officially recognised as a survivor of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, died on Monday of stomach cancer at a hospital in Nagasaki, his family said on Wednesday.
The mayor of Nagasaki said “a precious storyteller has been lost”.
Mr. Yamaguchi, then an engineer for the shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on a business trip on 6 August 1945 when an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the city, killing 80,000 people instantly and another 60,000 in the months that followed. The badly burned Mr. Yamaguchi, who was less than two miles from the blast, spent the night in an air raid shelter before returning home to Nagasaki, 180 miles away, two days later.
He was in Nagasaki on August 9 when a nuclear bomb devastated the city, killing an estimated 70,000 people. Japan surrendered less than a week later.
He, his wife and baby son survived and spent the following week in a shelter.
After the war Mr. Yamaguchi worked as a translator for the US forces in Nagasaki and later became a teacher. He did not speak publicly about his past until the death in 2005 of his second son - who was six months old at the time of the Nagasaki bombing - from cancer, aged 59.
“My double radiation exposure is now an official government record,” he told the Mainichi newspaper last year. “It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die. I could have died on either of those two days. Everything that follows is a bonus.”