Tsutomu Yamaguchi

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Tsutomu Yamaguchi
山口 彊
Tsutomu Yamaguchi in 2009
Born(1916-03-16)16 March 1916
Died4 January 2010(2010-01-04) (aged 93)
Nagasaki, Japan
EmployerMitsubishi Heavy Industries
Known forHibakusha of both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
MovementNuclear disarmament
SpouseHisako (died 2008)

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (山口 彊, Yamaguchi Tsutomu) (16 March 1916 – 4 January 2010) was a Japanese marine engineer who survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings during World War II. Although at least 160 people are known to have been affected by both bombings,[1] he is the only person to have been officially recognized by the government of Japan as surviving both explosions.[2]

A resident of Nagasaki, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when the city was bombed at 8:15 AM, on 6 August 1945. He returned to Nagasaki the following day and, despite his wounds, returned to work on 9 August, the day of the second atomic bombing. That morning, while he was being told by his supervisor that he was "crazy" after describing how one bomb had destroyed the city, the Nagasaki bomb detonated.[3] In 1957, he was recognized as a hibakusha ("explosion-affected person") of the Nagasaki bombing, but was not officially recognized as a survivor of Hiroshima by the Japanese government until 24 March 2009. He died of stomach cancer on 4 January 2010, at the age of 93.

Early life[edit]

Yamaguchi was born on 16 March 1916 in Nagasaki. He joined Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the 1930s and worked as a draftsman designing oil tankers.[4]

Second World War[edit]

Yamaguchi said he "never thought Japan should start a war". He continued his work with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but soon Japanese industry began to suffer heavily as resources became scarce and tankers were sunk.[4] As the war dragged on, he was so despondent over the state of the country that he considered honor killing his family with an overdose of sleeping pills in the event that Japan lost.[4]

Hiroshima bombing[edit]

Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945 he was in Hiroshima for a three-month-long business trip.[4] On 6 August, he was preparing to leave the city with two colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, and was on his way to the train station when he realized he had forgotten his hanko (a type of identification stamp common in Japan) and returned to his workplace to get it.[5][6] At 8:15 AM, he was walking towards the docks when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the centre of the city, only 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away.[4][7] Yamaguchi recalls seeing the bomber and two small parachutes, before there was "a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over".[6] The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious radiation burns over the left side of the top half of his body. After recovering, he crawled to a shelter and, having rested, he set out to find his colleagues.[6] They had also survived and together they spent the night in an air-raid shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day.[5][6] In Nagasaki, he received treatment for his wounds and, despite being heavily bandaged, he reported for work on 9 August.[4][8]

Nagasaki bombing[edit]

At 11:00 AM on 9 August 1945, Yamaguchi was describing the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, when the American bomber Bockscar dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb over the city. His workplace again put him 3 km from ground zero, but this time he was unhurt by the explosion.[7] However, he was unable to replace his now ruined bandages and he suffered from a high fever and continuous vomiting for over a week.[4]

Later life[edit]

During the Allied occupation of Japan, Yamaguchi worked as a translator for the occupation forces. In the early 1950s, he and his wife, who was also a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing, had two daughters. He later returned to work for Mitsubishi designing oil tankers.[4] When the Japanese government officially recognized atomic bombing survivors as hibakusha in 1957, Yamaguchi's identification stated only that he had been present at Nagasaki. He was content with this, satisfied that he was relatively healthy, and put the experiences behind him.[7]

As he grew older, his opinions about the use of atomic weapons began to change. In his eighties, he wrote a book about his experiences (Ikasareteiru inochi ("A Life Well-Lived")), as well as a book of poetry,[9] and was invited to take part in a 2006 documentary about 165 double A-bomb survivors (known as nijū hibakusha in Japan) called Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was screened at the United Nations.[10] At the screening, he pleaded for the abolition of atomic weapons.[7]

Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament.[11] He told an interviewer "The reason that I hate the atomic bomb is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings".[11] Speaking through his daughter during a telephone interview, he said, "I can't understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?"[7]

On 22 December 2009, Canadian film director James Cameron and author Charles Pellegrino met Yamaguchi while he was in a hospital in Nagasaki and discussed the idea of making a film about nuclear weapons. "I think it's Cameron's and Pellegrino's destiny to make a film about nuclear weapons", Yamaguchi said.[12]

Recognition by government[edit]

At first, Yamaguchi did not feel the need to draw attention to his double survivor status.[7] However, in later life he began to consider his survival as destiny, so in January 2009, he applied for double recognition.[7] This was accepted by the Japanese government in March 2009, making Yamaguchi the only person officially recognized as a survivor of both bombings.[4][7] Speaking of the recognition, he said, "My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die".[13]

Personal life[edit]

Yamaguchi was married to his wife Hisako (1920–2008),[14] and had three children. Their children, all of whom experienced serious health problems throughout their lives, were his son Katsutoshi (1946–2005), and daughters Toshiko (born 1948/1949) and Naoko. Yamaguchi's wife, also a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, died in 2008 at the age of eighty-eight; her cause of death was liver and kidney cancer, likely related to health complications from the atomic bombing that she had experienced her entire life. At the time of his death, Yamaguchi was living with his daughter Toshiko in Nagasaki.[7]


Yamaguchi lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. He also went bald temporarily and his daughter recalls that he was constantly wrapped in bandages until she was 12.[7][Note 1] Despite this, Yamaguchi went on to lead a healthy life.[7] Later in life, he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments, including cataracts and acute leukemia.[15]

His wife also suffered radiation poisoning from black rain exposure after the Nagasaki explosion and died in 2008 at the age of eighty-eight of kidney and liver cancer. All three of their children reported suffering from health problems, which they blamed on their parents' exposures to radiation.[7][16]


In 2009, Yamaguchi learned that he was dying of stomach cancer.[7] He died on 4 January 2010, in Nagasaki at the age of 93.[5][17][18][19][20]

In popular culture[edit]

BBC controversy[edit]

On 17 December 2010, the BBC featured Yamaguchi in its comedy programme QI, referring to him as "The Unluckiest Man in the World".[21] Both Stephen Fry, the host of QI, and celebrity guests drew laughter from the audience in a segment that included examples of black humor such as asking if the bomb had "landed on him and bounced off".[22] A clip from the episode was uploaded by the BBC after the show but was later deleted. A BBC spokesperson told Kyodo News, "We instructed our crew to delete the file since we have already issued a statement that the content was not appropriate".[23]

The episode triggered criticism in Japan. Toshiko Yamasaki, Yamaguchi's daughter, appeared on NHK's national evening news and said: "I cannot forgive the atomic bomb experience being laughed at in Britain, which has nuclear weapons of its own. I think this shows that the horror of atomic bomb is not well enough understood in the world. I feel sad rather than angry".[24]

The Japanese Embassy, London, wrote to the BBC protesting that the programme insulted the deceased victims of the atomic bomb. It was reported that Piers Fletcher, a producer of the programme, responded to complaints with "we greatly regret it when we cause offence" and "it is apparent to me that I underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers".[25]

On 22 January 2011, the BBC and Talkback Thames jointly issued a statement.[clarification needed][26] In addition to the joint statement, the BBC delivered a letter from Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, to the Japanese Embassy.[clarification needed][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Toshiko Yamaguchi was 60 in March 2009 and would have been 12 in 1960 or 1961.[7]


  1. ^ 広島・長崎で2度被爆、約160人 広島祈念館が調査 [160 Double A-bomb Survivors Found, Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims says.]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). 1 August 2005. 広島、長崎への原爆投下後、両市で2度被爆した可能性のある人が少なくとも約160人にのぼることが、国立広島原爆死没者追悼平和祈念館(広島市)の調査で明らかになった。
  2. ^ "Double atomic bomb survivor dies in Japan". Tokyo: NBC News. Associated Press. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person officially recognized as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings at the end of World War II, has died at age 93.
  3. ^ Survivor's story (ABC News, Australia, uploaded 2010Jan6)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Tsutomu Yamaguchi". The Daily Telegraph. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b c McCurry, Justin (25 March 2009). "A little deaf in one ear – meet the Japanese man who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Lloyd Parry, Richard (25 March 2009). "The luckiest or unluckiest man in the world? Tsutomu Yamaguchi, double A-bomb victim". The Times. Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n McNeill, David (26 March 2009). "How I survived Hiroshima – and then Nagasaki". The Independent. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Mr Yamaguchi". www.vaguedirection.com. VagueDirection.
  9. ^ Diehl, Chad; Yamaguchi, Tsutomu (2010). And the river flowed as a raft of corpses: the poetry of Yamaguchi Tsutomu : survivor of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. New York: Excogitating over Coffee Pub. ISBN 978-1-4507-1297-2. OCLC 691426162.
  10. ^ "Twice Bombed, Twice Survived: Film Explores Untold Stories from Hiroshima & Nagasaki". Columbia University. 2 August 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  11. ^ a b Robbins, M W, ed. (August–September 2009). "Japanese Engineer Survived Atomic Strike on Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Military History Magazine. 26 (5). Wieder History Group: 8.
  12. ^ "James Cameron meets Japanese atomic bomb survivor to discuss film". Splash News. 5 January 2010. Archived from the original on 8 January 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  13. ^ "Japanese man is a double A-bomb survivor". NBC News. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  14. ^ Krulwich, Robert (18 July 2012). "If You Are Hit By Two Atomic Bombs, Should You Have Kids?". NPR. Retrieved 1 August 2023. Shall We Have Children? ... But by the early 1950's, Yamaguchi and his wife Hisako felt strong enough to try, and the early 50s, they had two girls, Naoko and Toshiko.
  15. ^ McCurry, Justin (6 January 2010). "Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivor dies aged 93". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  16. ^ Nukes: The Broadcast, retrieved 8 October 2017
  17. ^ Richard Lloyd Parry (7 January 2010). "Tsutomu Yamaguchi, victim of Japan's two atomic bombs, dies aged 93". The Times.
  18. ^ 阿部弘賢; 宮下正己 (6 January 2010). 山口彊さん死去:「8月6、9日は命日」 「青き地球」と短歌に思い. 毎日jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 6 January 2010. Mainichi Shimbun [dead link]
  19. ^ "Japan survivor of both atomic bombs dies, aged 93". BBC News. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  20. ^ "Double Atomic Bomb Survivor Dies in Japan". The New York Times. 6 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010.
  21. ^ BBC (13 December 2010). "The Unluckiest Man in the World". Retrieved 21 January 2011.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ Gavin J. Blair (24 January 2011). "BBC Apologizes for Atomic Bomb Jokes". The Hollywood Reporter. Tokyo. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  23. ^ 二重被爆者に「世界一運が悪い男」発言、英BBCがネット映像やっと削除 [BBC Finally Deletes the Video Clip]. Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese). The Sankei Shimbun & Sankei Digital. Kyodo News. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  24. ^ Richard Lloyd Parry (22 January 2011). "BBC sorry for jokes about atom bomb survivor". The Times. London: The Australian. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  25. ^ "Japan protests to BBC over treatment of 'double A-bomb survivor'". Kyodo News. London: Japan Today. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "BBC offers apology about 'double A-bomb survivor'". London: Mainichi Shimbun. Kyodo News. 22 January 2011. Archived from the original on 23 January 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2011. QI never sets out to cause offence with any of the people or subjects it covers, however on this occasion, given the sensitivity of the subject matter for Japanese viewers, we understand why they did not feel it appropriate for inclusion
  27. ^ 伊東和貴 (25 January 2011). "BBC、日本大使館に謝罪の書簡 二重被爆者笑った放送" [BBC Sends Apology Letter to Japanese Embassy for Its Program Laughed at Double A-bomb Survivor]. Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). London. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 在英日本大使館は24日、BBCから陳謝の意を表す書簡を受け取った。大使館によると、書簡はBBCのトンプソン会長名で21日付。日本人視聴者らの気分を害したことを陳謝する内容だったという。

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