A survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima bombing has said she is “horrified” by Donald Trump’s suggestion that Japan might benefit from nuclear weapons and has urged the president to visit the site of the tragedy so he can “educate” himself.
Keiko Ogura was an eight-year-old schoolgirl when US forces flattened Hiroshima with an atomic bomb which slaughtered hundreds of thousands and brought Japan’s role in the Second World War to an abrupt end.
Since then, she has devoted her life to telling her story to future generations so that the inhumane cruelty of nuclear weapons is never forgotten.
Speaking to the Telegraph after a lecture at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, she spoke of her horror at discovering that America’s new president had raised the idea of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons.
“I was horrified by what he said and it made me afraid of what could be happening to Japan,” said Ms Ogura, who is now 79 and the director of Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace.
“I think he does not know the difference between conventional and nuclear weapons, and that horrified me also.”
“He said, ‘why not have one yourself?’ As if he did not even know what happened here.” “He should come to Hiroshima. He should see it, stand in front of it, and try to imagine what it is like to see the burning faces of children.” Ms Ogura was referring to a controversial interview in which Mr Trump said he was in favour of Japan acquiring nuclear weapons to act as a deterrent to threats from North Korea.
“If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us,” he said during an interview with the New York Times in March.
The president has since claimed his remarks were misinterpreted. and his current stance on nuclear weapons remains unclear.
“It shows how important it is that everyone, including the president of the United States, is educated on what happened at Hiroshima,” Ms Ogura added.
“Since he became president we have tried to accelerate our process of educating people on what happened- we are speaking to more people, in high schools, in lectures and at the museum.”
Ms Ogura escaped some of the worst effects of the atomic bomb – dubbed “Little Boy” by the Americans – as her father told her to stay at home on August 6 1945.
“My father had a kind of inspiration. He suspected something major was about to happen because there had been so many air raid warnings,” she said.
Their home was situated in Ushita Town, which was roughly one and a half miles away from the hypocenter of the atomic bomb.
She remembers a blinding flash of light, and a huge blast that threw her to the ground. When she returned to her house she found it all but destroyed, with thousands of shards of glass scattered through the rooms.
“My father was so lucky,” she recalled, “he was behind a pine tree and because of that he survived.”
Ms Ogura left the house and climbed a hill to try and see what happened to the city. On the way she passed a shrine that had become a makeshift medical centre for the bomb’s horrifically burned victims, though no doctors were in sight.
“I felt someone grab my leg,” she said. “They said please give me water.”
As a young girl in second grade, she had no idea she was not supposed to give water to severe burns victims. She rushed home to fetch a container of water, in the honest belief she was helping people, and passed it around.
Within minutes, everyone who drank the water “slumped over” and died.
“For 20 years I had nightmares about that, because I killed those people,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
Ms Ogura is among around 180,000 Hiroshima survivors still alive today. Many kept their identities as “hibakusha” – atomic bomb survivors – a secret, as victims often faced discrimintion in Japanese society.
This was usually linked to fears that those exposed to the bomb’s radiation would pass on illnesses to their children, and that they were therefore undesirable.
Whereas some of her family members kept their identities as “hibakusha” a secret, Ms Ogura chose to embrace hers, and made it her life’s work to ensure that Hiroshima is never forgotten.
When Barack Obama laid a wreath at the cenotaph at Hiroshima last year – the first sitting president to do so since Jimmy Carter – it marked a major milestone in the efforts of Ms Ogura and her fellow survivors.
Hirotaka Matsushima, the director of Hiroshima’s International Peace Promotion Department, said he would urge Mr Trump to make the same gesture.
It is unclear if Mr Trump will follow the former Democratic president’s lead. When Mr Obama travelled to Hiroshima, Mr Trump attacked him for not mentioning the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour during the visit.