Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Issey Miyake Talks about A-Bomb

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Issey Miyake Talks about A-Bomb

Article excerpt

The Yomiuri Shimbun recently interviewed fashion designer Issey Miyake, 77, about his career and his experience of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. The following are excerpts from the interview.

I had decided not to talk about the atomic bomb. I didn't want to be called a "pika-don designer." [Pika-don is a Japanese word that describes the intense flash of light as the bomb exploded and the strong shock wave immediately afterward.] I thought it was pathetic to use the atomic bombing as an excuse. I refused an interview request from The Yomiuri Shimbun this summer.

However, I thought the world might change a little if a person like me, who has symptoms of radiation exposure, tells my story.

I was a first-grade primary school student when the atomic bomb was dropped 70 years ago on Hiroshima on Aug. 6. I heard the boom all of a sudden when I entered a classroom after a morning assembly. A broken piece of window glass got stuck into my head. I was frightened.

I was living in the town of Fuchu, adjacent to Hiroshima. My house, where my mother was, was 2.3 kilometers away from the epicenter of the bomb blast.

I told the people at the home to which I had been evacuated, "I want to go home," and they gave me lots of hard dry biscuits. I headed home alone to search for my mother.

People were burned, lying on top of each other, and others gathered at a stream for water. I found my mother, who was burned over half her body, the following day. I asked where she was receiving treatment, and went to see her.

As soon as my mother saw me, she said, "You're the oldest son, so go to the countryside where it's safe." She said that so I'd survive, I guess. My mother was a strong-minded, steady person. She was loved by her neighbors and relatives.

I developed periostitis due to radiation exposure when I was a fourth-grader at primary school. Some people died of this disease, but I was saved by penicillin. My mother nursed me while I was fighting the disease, and died soon after my condition improved.

I liked painting since I was a primary school student, and Susumu Hasegawa, my homeroom teacher in the fifth and sixth grades, taught me painting. I couldn't afford to buy brushes, so I used my fingers to paint. I even submitted my work to a newspaper. Hasegawa continued to support me after I became a designer. I was interested in basketball in middle school, but I started having trouble with my leg.

I used to pass by the Peace Bridge, whose balustrade was designed by Isamu Noguchi. I thought: "This is design. I don't know whether I'm talented, but I'll try." It gave me drive.

The Peace Bridge was built near the epicenter of the bomb blast. I got into the prefectural Hiroshima Kokutaiji High School, and I saw the bridge from my train when I commuted and crossed it by bicycle when I went to a painting class.

The balustrade designed by Noguchi creates a unique world. His expression is so simple and amazing. He was my hero.

More senior students taught me about Noguchi, and opened the door to the world of design for me. I longed to learn designing. I struggled with whether I should go to a dressmaking school, but I ended up going to Tama Art University in Tokyo. The older students also advised me on my choice, but they later died of radiation-induced diseases.

I made up my mind, thinking: "I won't live long either, so I'll do what I can by the age of 30 or 40. I won't use the atomic bombing as an excuse."

Awakening abroad

"OK, I'll go to Paris," I thought. Overseas traveling was liberalized in 1964, and Kishin Shinoyama and Tadanori Yokoo, who went to Paris, told me about their adventures, which inspired me. I went there in 1965. …

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