Reading the news is a great way to learn another language!

I read an article from Mainichi Daily News (毎日新聞 Mainichi Shimbun) in the section “Reporter’s Eye” (記者の目 kisha no me) about a reporter (山崎明子 Yamazaki Akiko) who interviewed her Great Aunt, a survivor of the atomic bomb (被爆者 hibakusha) in Nagasaki.

Here are some sentences that I found were interesting:

“I can talk about it now. Come ask me questions while I’m still alive”

*Grammar: (verb in plain form) + ~うちに = while (verb is taking place). See JGram for an expanded definition:

I’ve known that my great aunt is a hibakusha, but we’ve never broached this topic, despite being related. For reasons such as her deteriorating condition and my becoming a journalist, I believed that the time had come to discuss it.

3. 約束の日、大叔母は長崎市内の自宅で、ブラウスにスカートという小ざっぱりした服装で待っていた。
On the day we promised to meet, my great aunt waited in her home in Nagasaki, wearing a neat [tidy] skirt-on-blouse outfit.

*小ざっぱり is pronounced こざっぱり kozappari, meaning “neat”. 「こざっぱりした服装をする」means “to dress neatly”.
*This is what skirt-on-blouse looks like:

4. 緊張気味の私を笑顔で迎えてくれたが、鼻につけた酸素チューブが痛々しかった。
She welcomed my nervous self with a smile, but the oxygen tube in her nose was pitiful [pathetic].

*気味 means “appear”. 緊張気味=appearing nervous. In Japanese, you usually can’t say directly what a third person feels/does. You can’t say that they were “sweating due to the heat”; you have to say that they “seemed to be sweating due to the heat”.

5. 「あんまり覚えていないとよ」。居間のソファに腰掛け、小さな声で切り出した。
“I don’t remember much about it,” she said sitting on her living room sofa, breaking the ice in a soft voice.

6. 眼科診察室の入り口で受付をしていたところ、ごう音とともに閃光(せんこう)が走った。約10メートル吹き飛ばされ、全身を強打して肋骨(ろっこつ)などを骨折し、体中にガラス破片が突き刺さった。
As she worked at the reception desk of the eye check-up room, a beam of light flashed together with a thunderous sound. Blown off her feet, she flew 10 meters [sideways], the impact fracturing her ribs among other bones, smiting her whole body with shards of glass.

7. 敵機の襲来は続き、低空飛行の戦闘機の音が響いた。焼け残った手術室で、灰の上に敷いた布団に横たわり、恐怖と「死んでもいい」というあきらめが交錯した。
Enemy aircraft continued the air raid, and the sound of low-altitude aviation resounded. In the burnt remnants of the operating room, we lay down on futons spread over ashes, while dread and resignation intermingled.

8. 45歳の時に夫が亡くなり、夫の連れ子5人を抱えて70歳過ぎまで働き続けた。それでも「私は恵まれた方。かれこれ80年も、多くの人に生かされた」と感謝を口にする。
My great-aunt lost her husband when she was 45 and would continue working until she was 70 to support five children from her husband’s previous marriage. Even so, she gives thanks: “I was blessed. For about 80 years or so, many people let me live”

*According to a friend on, the concept of people allowing you to live is deeply-rooted in the Japanese mindset. You cannot live with just your own power; you must help others and have others help you.

9. これまで地元のテレビ局などから取材の申し込みがあったが、「そっとしておいてほしい」と断り続けてきた。多くの同僚らが亡くなったのに自分は生き残り、「申し訳ない」という気持ちが消えなかったのだという。
So far, many local television stations have requested to use her [experiences] to collect data, but she continued to decline, telling them leave her alone. With numerous colleagues already deceased, she says, she cannot help but feel sorry that she is still living.

10. 「真実を話しておかなければ何も残らん。ものは壊れたらなくなってしまう」。壮絶な体験をした人の、複雑な思いと深い葛藤(かっとう)を見た思いだった。
“If you don’t talk about the truth, nothing will remain. Once something is broken, it will disappear”. That was the complicated belief of someone who had been through heroic experiences and saw much [internal] conflict.

11. 長崎市によると、3月末時点で、市内の被爆者の平均年齢は76.1歳。長崎大医学部の三根真理子准教授(原爆医学概論)が指摘するように「体験の継承が難しくなっていくことは避けられない」。
According to Nagasaki City, as of the end of March, the average age of hibakusha in the city was 76.1 years. As adjunct professor of Nagasaki University’s medical department points out, “It is inevitable that passing down this experience will become harder.”

12. 「仕事をしているうちは二足のわらじははけなかった。でも、いつかは語りたいと思っていた。平和でないと世の中の繁栄はない。時間がたっても、被爆者たちが体験を忘れることは絶対にない」
While working, I did not engage in two trades at the same time. However, I always wanted to talk about it. A world without peace will not prosper. Even if time passes, the hibakusha will not forget their experiences.”

13. 大叔母の話を聞くうち、65年の歳月は、記憶を風化させるためではなく、伝えるために必要な時間だったと気づいた。これからも、そんな人たちのメッセージを受け止め、伝えていきたい。それが、直接には原爆を知らない世代の使命だと思う。
I realized while listening to my great-aunt’s story that the 65 years she passed before speaking about this was not to make her memories weather away but to give her the necessary time to finally convey her experiences. From now on, I wish to catch the messages of others like her, and impart it to others. I believe this is the mission of those who did not directly experience the atomic bomb.

I believe the author is quite right in saying that everyone must preserve the memories of the hibakusha- another atomic war would be quite disastrous! The hibakusha believe that by communicating their experiences, the world will learn and take another step towards peace.