Together with his wife, Kayoko who has supported him consistently.
A woman who saved a Japanese young man
During 1955, in Seoul, Korea, when it was still a little more than a year since the Korean War was over, lots of citizens were enduring starvation and poverty. Among them was a woman, who was trying to survive and raise four children. One day, her daughter came home, bringing a Japanese boy and said to her,"I met him at the market. He was a roaming boy, who came from Hiroshima, Japan, and had no relatives." "Live together with us," proposed the woman to him warm-heartedly. But there was hostility against Japanese, since Japan had colonized Korea from1910 until 1945. People surrounding them started booing, saying, "You are a betrayer", and "Get out of here" to the woman. Nevertheless, the woman resisted courageously and continued to guard the boy. She always responded, "He is not guilty", although she had lost her husband by violent Japanese forces and had been treated badly herself. Eventually the young boy returned to Japan and has always been grateful to the woman. His name is Tsunehiro Tomoda. The Korean woman is Ponnyo Yan.
The life of a wanderer after being A-bombed At the age of nine,
Mr. Tomoda started roaming, after having been exposed to the atomic bomb's explosion. At the moment of explosion, he was in an underground room of Fukuromachi Elementary School, which was located about 500 meters from the epicenter. His brother was burned to death on the ground, and after that his mother was missing. His father had previously died from a disease. Having been left as an orphan, he moved to Korea in the September of 1945, with one Korean male who use to lodge with his family.
Hyonjine Kim became Mr. Tomoda's new name. His Korean friend got married two years later, and his wife was harsh to Mr. Tomoda. In the winter when he was 13, he ran away from his friend's home having only one blanket. In Yoido, Seoul, located nearby was an Airport with US Air Force, Korean Diet Building and various high-rise buildings. There he earned some bread by polishing American soldiers' shoes during the day. At night he slept under a bridge, wrapped in a straw bag. He used to stave off his hunger with leftovers, which he got by also working at a restaurant. Even in the midst of such a life, he won a few trustworthy friends from orphans who also lost their families in the war. Although being different in nationality, all the boys were in the same circumstances, and being together with them was fun and saved him from loneliness. After the Korean War took place, their innocent collaborative life quite easily collapsed.
An encounter with the fierce city fight in the Korean War
The Korean War lasted for three years starting from June 1950. The North Korean forces, supported by the Chinese civil militia, occupied Seoul twice. A fierce city battle was fought and it turned out to be a great disaster, in which more than one million citizens, not including soldiers, were killed.
Three years during the war, he managed to continue escaping from the bullets and bombs which fell like a shower and Mr. Tomoda lost contact with his friends. Thinking "I have ended up alone again after all." he felt very sad. When night came, he sat on the bank of the Hangan River flowing through Seoul city, staring at the night sky and counting the twinkling stars, which reminded him of his mother's face and his hometown. His mother was so gentle, and she always took him boat-rowing on the Motoyasu River, when she had free time from the work. In the summer, he would swim with his brother in the river within sight of the Industry Promotion Hall in Hiroshima, which is now called Genbaku (Atomic Bomb) Dome. He believed his Mom was still alive in Hiroshima, and decided to live on the belief, "I will never give up!" Working very hard as a newspaper boy and as an apprentice at a baker's shop, he frequently inquired at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Korea. But he had nothing to certify that he was a Japanese, so his petitions to go home were totally neglected. In those despairing days, he met Mrs. Yan Ponnyo. Mrs. Yan, perceiving his homesickness, wrote more than thirty letters to various people and organizations concerned, including the Mayor of Hiroshima city for him. She wrote those in Japanese, which she would have never wanted to use again because the Korean people were forced to learn the language during Japan's colonization. One mother's sincere appeal, which came from her deep compassion for one miserable boy, opened the door of both the Japanese and Korean governments, at the time when there was no diplomatic relations between them.
Overcoming the after- effects encouraged by his wife Mrs.
Yan's letter reached the Mayor of Hiroshima Mr. Hamai who published the letter in a newspaper as 'Appeal for going back home'. This helped them to find the grandmother on Mr. Tomoda's mother's side. The grandmother became his guarantor, and in 1960 he was able to return home at last. However, he found out that his loving mother had already died, because of the atomic bombing.. He moved to Osaka the next year, and in 1962, his friend introduced him to become a member of Soka Gakkai. In 1966, he married Kayoko, but life in Japan, which he had longed for so much, was again full of bitterness.
He was Ridiculed by others for having forgotten Japanese, he could not help being irate and sometimes quarrelsome. Furthermore, the after-effect of the atomic bomb's exposure began to appear suddenly, around the time he got married. Bleeding from his gums lasted for a long time, and when he woke up in the morning, he found the pillow dyed real red and he was unable to get up. His wife, Kayoko, continued to support him, every time he discouraged by loosing his job. She encouraged him by saying,, "You promised me you would overcome every difficulty whatsoever with this religion, didn't you?" or "You are going to see your Korean mother when you become a respectable man, aren't you? Never say die!" But her heart was almost crushed by the anxieties. During midnight she always sobbed silently. Looking at her from the back, he encouraged himself by saying, "I will never make her sad." During the following ten years, he finally overcame the after-effects from the atomic bomb. Working very hard for a factory for processing stainless steel, he brought up five children, four boys and one girl satisfactory.
Reunion after 35 years with Ms. Cheski Kim, whom he had been yearning for as Mrs. Ponnyo's eldestr daughter (Seoul Culture Broadcast station, Marc h 1995)
Only one picture left in his hand. Taken in 1944. From left to right, Tsunehiro(9), mother Tatsuyo(30), younger brother Yukio(7)
The article of the newspaper, which reported Mrs. Ponnyo's letter, 'Appeal for going back home' (The Yomiuri dated Nov.13, 1958)
| After appearing on a TV show
So far, Mr. Tomoda has visited Korea five times. In March 1994, under co-operation with Seoul Culture Broadcast, he appeared on the TV show, titled "Making the Morning" and made an appeal that he was looking for a woman, who saved his life.
When the show was over, he received a phone-call with the family voice. It was Mrs. Ponnyo's eldest daughter, Ms. Cheske Kim. She rushed to the TV station immediately, and it was a 35 years reunion which they both rejoiced, hugging each other's shoulders. To his regret, Mrs. Ponnyo passed away 18 years ago. "How eager my mother was to see you. She had been waiting a long time to hear from you until the moment of her final breath." His mother in Korea, Mrs. Ponnyo, was always thinking of him. "I was not able to return any of her favors to me" He regretted so fervently. Ms. Kim seemed to have perceived his feelings and said to him gently, "Keeping good relations between us as a family would be my mother's greatest pleasure." Hearing what Ms. Kim said, Mr. Tomoda swore to himself firmly. "I will speak of my mother in Korea forever, and I will also continue to have the families both in Japan and Korea."
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