Tsutomu Yamaguchi

When I was a kid, my dad was a computer programmer, back when computers were still mystery machines of buttons, heavy green monitors and dot matrix printers. In the early 80s, he worked for a video rentals place called Video 4, cataloging the videos onto a computer system. Every weekend, he would bring home a video or two for me to watch.

Now at this point, I need to tell you that my dad is a genius. Like, a proper one. He’s a member of Mensa and everything. That said, as much as I love him, he had no common sense and when it came to letting child me watch films. I seem to remember that I never watched anything with sex scenes in it, but horror or anything gross was fair game (coincidentally, he showed me American Warewolf In London when I was eight, and after the dream sequence in the woods when he opens his eyes, I couldn’t sleep for about a week without the lights on).

This said, he was responsible for introducing me to some cool animated movies. Obviously, the 1978 version of Lord Of The Rings was up there, as was Kimber The White Lion (which Disney later ripped off to make The Lion King).

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, lots of animations were made and many especially for adults, such as Fire & Ice, but I didn’t discover this until I was in my late teens and discovering the vastness of the internet for myself.

It was about this time when my fascination for Weird Shit was going through the roof when I realised that in my own house with my own computer, I could happily spend entire days just researching whatever I fancied. And at some point during one particular binge, I discovered Barefoot Gen.

This is an animated movie from 1983, all about Japan during World War II. Admittedly, I didn’t see the full movie first - what I saw, linked on a forum somewhere, was this clip, which I’m sure you can agree, it’s absolutely fucking horrifying. The full version of the movie can be found here and is well worth a watch if you like indulging in old-school animations.

At the time, I knew very little about Hiroshima - researching it was on my radar, but seeing that movie made me tumble down an incredibly deep, thought-provoking and ultimately horrific rabbit hole as I discovered what actually happened when that city was bombed. In fact, even now I think all schools that are teaching kids about World War II should be showing them Barefoot Gen.

Anyway, I spent a good few weeks in this particular rabbit hole, only pausing for bathroom breaks and to refill my brew. And then - eventually - I found a shred of golden positivity in this awful tale of war and destruction.

Only two cities have ever been destroyed by atomic bombs. This man was in both of them.

Born in 1916, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was on a business trip to Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. As he stepped off a tram an atomic bomb blew up less than two miles away, destroying everything in an extraordinary way.

Eardrums destroyed and temporarily blind, Yamaguchi scrambled to figure out just what the hell happened. After spending a night in an air-raid shelter, Yamaguchi decided Hiroshima probably wasn't the safest place to conduct business, so he went home. To Nagasaki.

A few days later, Yamaguchi was in the office of his supervisor, regaling him with the story of his near-miss with this mythical city-vaporizing super bomb. And just as he was trying to explain to his boss that it's impossible to sell cars in a city that's literally on fire, there was the distinct sound that few men on earth but Yamaguchi would have recognized: that of another atomic bomb, again detonating just two miles away.

Not only did Yamaguchi survive to live a full life (while somehow not gaining any superpowers from the ordeal), he used his experiences to enlighten people on the dangers of atomic bombs. He has written books on his experience and was an anti-nuclear protester, though it seems like he'd be the one guy out there saying we shouldn't worry about nukes because, really, you can just walk away from that.

Written by EJ, who despite being a grown-up, will still find time to watch cartoons with her jimmies on.

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