A Dimly Burning Wick: Memoir from the Ruins of Hiroshima

A Dimly Burning Wick: Memoir from the Ruins of Hiroshima

A Dimly Burning Wick: Memoir from the Ruins of Hiroshima

A Dimly Burning Wick: Memoir from the Ruins of Hiroshima


In this agonizing diary, a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima relates the horror of searching through smoldering rubble for signs of her family. She documents for the world the selfless compassion of the youngest victims. The children Okuda tried to save stunned her with their dignity and enduring will to help others and to hold their families together. She, and the children, generously insist on avoiding bitterness and blame. But as responsible citizens, we still have to face ourselves in the mirror. A thoughtful introduction and supporting essays provide this harrowing memoir with a context in history and social psychology. Born in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, in 1914, Okuda was a sewing teacher on a small island some 35 miles outside of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. Even at that distance, both her sight and hearing on her right side were permanently damaged. Since 1960 and until her recent retirement, she taught home economics at a non-traditional high school in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. She still lives in the mountains she loves, close to her school.


To understand the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima, few things are more powerful than first-hand accounts. In the case of A Dimly Burning Wick, the overwhelming horror accompanies uplifting moments of hope, generosity, and caring that have the power to lead us further from nuclear weapons and war.

Many people around the world and Americans in particular have never been to a war zone; very few who are alive now have actually witnessed the devastation caused by a nuclear bomb. This book will help bring to the reader a more realistic understanding and abhorrence of the tools of war, above all nuclear weapons. All of us, I believe, have the opportunity and duty to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Bombs — even “only” conventional ones — not only kill and maim but also destroy a society’s infrastructure, its hospitals, bridges, businesses, and schools. Their use runs the risk of creating failed states. When such undiscriminating weapons are used, civilians of the targeted societies are alienated and become more militant. As we enter the 21st century, approximately 90% of the casualties (killed or wounded) in war are civilians. This statistic, which shows that war is targeting

1 Kaldor, Mary (2003) “Beyond Militarism, Arms Races and Arms Control,” in Geir Lundestad and Olav Njolstad (eds.) War and Peace in the 20th Century and Beyond, World Scientific Publishing Company, p. 159.

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