8:15: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness from Hiroshima
by Dr. Akiko Mikamo
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"I was surrounded by the loudest thunder I had ever heard. It was the sound of the universe exploding."

Dr. Akiko Mikamo composed this vivid story to honor her courageous and forgiving father, Shinji Mikamo, now in his nineties and a survivor of one of the twentieth century’s most horrific acts of war, the US bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. She has styled it as a first-person narrative, enhancing her father’s minute-by-minute experience of the attack and day-by-day struggle to live beyond the tragedy.

Seconds after the atomic bomb exploded, Shinji, then nineteen, awoke under a pile of rubble. His 63-year-old father, a few feet away at the moment of the blast, managed to pick Shinji out of the wreckage, encouraging him to stand up and move despite the young man’s injuries, which consisted of a deep gash in his leg and burns over much of his body. The two went to a large river for relief from the intense heat. Hundreds of fellow citizens were there, some simply drowning as their injuries were too much to bear. For several days the pair wandered the ruined city, encountering both “demons”—Japanese soldiers still haughtily enforcing wartime regulations to the detriment of its citizens—and various “angels.” Strangers gave them a place to stay for a night and meager but welcome food to eat, and a friend suggested a means for Shinji to be transported to an army hospital outside the city. He would later insist that his father’s promptings gave him the motivation to endure. However, his own character shines through an incident at the hospital: when part of his ear had to be cut off, he asked that the dwindling supply of anesthesia be used for someone suffering worse than him.

Remarkably, Shinji recovered and slowly started a new life from the ruins of the old. He became widely known when he discovered his father’s pocket watch in the debris of his home, stopped at the moment of the bomb’s impact. He donated it to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Shinji is notable for refusing to yield to bitterness just as he has refused to hate the Americans, expressing that even the pilot of the plane that dropped the atom bomb was faithfully carrying out his duty.

Dr. Mikamo, president/medical psychologist at US-Japan Psychological Services and president of San Diego-WISH (Worldwide Initiative to Safeguard Humanity), writes with the devotion of a daughter and the wisdom of her advanced psychological study. The overarching theme of her chronicle—a revivifying look at the bomb’s terror, pain, and chaos—is found in her father’s laudable qualities of forgiveness and his thankfulness for the small, spontaneous acts of kindness that the horrendous event prompted.

There have been few personal survivors’ accounts of that seminal event, and it is salutary that the author has chosen to offer her father’s story, and Hiroshima’s, to a new generation. She has accomplished this commendable task with a keen eye to the substantial body of fact while paying particular, well-deserved homage to a remarkable survivor. Her book will appeal to all sensitive students of history and to anyone who has faced and lived beyond cataclysm. Readers will find themselves immersed in the intensity of Shinji’s memories and will do well to ponder both the factual history and the spiritual messages that permeate this dramatic account.

Category Finalist for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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