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Old 01-18-2012, 11:43 PM   #1
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January 2012 Discussion: Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse (spoilers)

Let's discuss the January Book Club selection, Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse. What did you think?
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Old 01-20-2012, 10:30 AM   #2
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Already? I meant to post this in the final voting thread, but lost track of the days passing. So this is a companion ebook that some may find of interest. I know it is late to mention it. It is very short. This is a coldblooded assessment of the effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki conducted by the US Military immediately after the end of WWII. As the Inkmesh search reveals it is available for free form PG, and for a nominal amount from most of the usual major ebook sources.

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Manhattan District Inkmesh.
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Old 01-20-2012, 12:26 PM   #3
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All of things I wanted to share and /or discuss were done while I was reading the book, outside of MR. Its really difficult for me, now, 2+ weeks later, to bring all of it back together....

Black Rain was an emotionally difficult read. It is very hard to "see" people suffer and it doesn't help to know that "your" country was the cause for said suffering.
Even now, understanding some of the the basic whats & whys does little to help shield the enormity of the loss and devastation. I left the book feeling angry at the United States for building the bomb and angry at Japan for backing us into such a corner that we felt we had to us it.
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Old 01-20-2012, 01:50 PM   #4
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@Hamlet53: thanks for the tip.
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Old 01-20-2012, 02:32 PM   #5
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Ouch! I haven't quite finished it yet. That little thing called "life" got in the way... I'll do chapter 16 and maybe some more tonight.
Anyway, I do like this book. It's nowhere bear as dark as I feared it would be.
It's very interesting to read about this event from this perspective. Knowing what we know today in contrast to what they knew then. They had no idea what had hit them and what they were dealing with.
I also like the insights in their way of life, and not just the story about what happened after the bomb.
Better put the computer away and read another chapter now!
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:03 PM   #6
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So much to say about this book! I actually read it weeks ago, finished it New Year's Eve.

I virtual dogeared it while reading it in the PlayBook and then re read it on the Kobo Vox which has better highlighting. Neither allows me to copy the text unless I share the quotes to Facebook from the Vox so I guess I will have to do that...
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:45 PM   #7
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Hmm, doesn't quote long passages anyways, so much for that...

A very evenly written, unbiased account of the war. On the one hand a passage at the end of chapter thirteen quotes a school song sung by the volunteer corps:
A rifle in your hand, a hammer in mine--
But the road into battle is one, and no more.
To die for your country's a mission divine
For the boys and girls of the volunteer corps!


Sounds very patriotic but in the ninth chapter Ueda says, "That's what happens when you chase after ideals like the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere... War widows on the increase, young men on the decrease, while some people get unfair shares of certain commodities."

Chapter ten, "Had this woman who lay dead here--I kept asking myself -- made no move to stop her son from volunteering to be trained as a human torpedo? War, I concluded, paralyzes a people's power of judgement."

In eleventh chapter the narrator says, "I hated war. Who cared, after all, which side won? The only important thing was to end it all as soon as possible: rather an unjust peace, than a 'just' war!" and '"If only we'd been born in a country, not a damn fool state," said his companion wistfully.'

"Hiroshima was no more....Yet who could have forseen that its end would be of such horror as this?"

Ibuse certainly shares the horrors of Hiroshima with us yet he also makes it clear that Japan was ready to fight tooth and nail to defend its soil. And they wanted to drop the same bombs on American forces.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:48 PM   #8
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"The Japanese army in Manchukuo had therefore decided to drop on them a bomb similar to the one the B-29 had dropped on Hiroshima. The army..." Just propaganda or telling wishful thinking but it seems they would have used it if they could have.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:53 PM   #9
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The people with radiation sickness feel bad if they just go for walks as prescribed by their doctors, hence the fishing and fishponds which let them be out doing quiet, light activities without being called laggards. In the war those who didn't at least help to prepare the food feel bad, they need to help out, their sense of obligation runs deep. Their need to pay respect to their dead as well shows this.

There are two storylines, Yasuko is trying to get married but there is worry from all that she is also sick with radiation poisoning. In the end she does get sick and her marriage is called off.
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Old 01-21-2012, 05:39 PM   #10
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Yes Caleb as I think I stated at some point the book is more about the ability of people to cope and live on even under the most horrible of circumstances than it is about describing the death and destruction of the atomic bomb.

Hpulley, excellent points so far. I read this early last August, and not anticipating that it would be make it here into a book of the month I did not bother highlighting any text or making notes. I am doing a rapid read through now to remedy that, but as I said I was caught early on this discussion starting. So here is what I have so far.


I liked it that Ibuse did not shy away from the fanatical determination of many Japanese to continue fighting to defend their “homeland' to every possible bitter end. As in this quote where the village headman of Shigematsu's home town is sending of a group to provide relief to those from their village in Hiroshima:

Quote:
“Gentlemen,” he said, “you have our deepest gratitude for giving thus of your services in these busy wartime days. I scarcely need to remind you that the injured whom you will be bringing back with you are blistered with burns over their entire bodies, and to request you, therefore, to take every care not to cause them yet further suffering. It is said that the enemy used what is referred to as a ‘new weapon’ in his attack on Hiroshima, which instantly plunged hundreds of thousands of blameless residents of the city into a hell of unspeakable torments. A member of the Patriotic Service Corps who escaped with his life from Hiroshima has told me that at that moment when the new weapon wiped out the city he heard countless cries for succor—the voice of those hundreds of thousands of souls—seemingly welling up from beneath the earth. Even the Fukuyama district, which he passed through on his way back, was a burnt-out waste; the keep and the Summer Gallery of Fukuyama Castle had been destroyed in the flames. His heart was wrung, he told me, by the realization of the awfulness of war. . . . Be that as it may, however, it is an unquestionable fact that a war is in progress, and you, as members of a voluntary labor unit, are proceeding henceforth to bring home your comrades-in-arms. I must request you above all, therefore, to take care not to drop those symbols of your invincible determination to fight on to the bitter end—your bamboo spears. It is most unfortunate that I should have to see you off in this hole-in-the-corner manner, addressing my parting words to you in the predawn darkness without so much as a light, but in view of the prevailing situation I feel sure that you will understand.”
However, as some of the comments you made reveal it seems doubtful that this determination extended down to most of the actual members of the “Patriotic Service Corps” as revealed when they here the broadcast of the surrender:

Quote:
As they were eating, an unprecedented broadcast by His Majesty the Emperor came over the radio inside the house. When it was finished, they sat for a while in silence. Then the man who was leading the horse by the reins said:

“The headman’s parting speech this morning was rather long, wasn’t it?”
This led, in the natural course of events, to a discussion on what to do with their bamboo spears, and it was finally decided, by unanimous agreement, to leave them as a parting gift to the farmer whose veranda they had made free with.
Ibsue also points out the sort of regime that governed Japan at the time and how fearful people were to express anything that seemed to be opposition or to question the war. For example this from Yasuko's diary during the war:

Quote:
Both Mr. and Mrs. Nojima are always doing things for the other people who live in the same district. People say that Mr. Nojima has been friendly for years with a left-wing scholar called Mr. Matsumoto, and that since the war got more serious he’s been making himself especially nice to everybody in the district so that the authorities won’t get suspicious. Mr. Matsumoto, who went to an American university and used to correspond with Americans before the war, has been called before the military police any number of times. So he, too, is always on his best behavior with people at the city hall, the officials of the prefectural office, and the members of the civilian guard, and whenever there’s an air raid warning he’s always the first to dash outside and rush around calling out “air raid! air raid!” He’s never been known to take off his puttees, even at home. They say he even offered to take part in bamboo spear practice with the women. It’s really pathetic to see a reputable scholar like him trying so hard to please. . . .


Although Mr. Matsumoto could be evacuated any time he liked, he’s too afraid that he might be suspected as a spy, and dashes around all day frantically doing things for other people in the district. Even supposing that Mr. Nojima is acting on the same principle, I wonder whether we really ought to take advantage of it and get him to drive trucks and look after clothing for us? I expect my kimonos, graduation diploma, and the like would have seemed so much worthless trash to him before the war.
Or this from when Shigeko is recounting food rationing during the war:

Quote:
I believe it was around that time that Mrs. Miyaji was summoned by the authorities for an official talking-to. She was going out to a farm to buy food one day when she said to someone in the next seat to her on the Kabe train, “Now the rice ration has gone down to three*gō, they’ve altered some of the words in a textbook our boy uses at school.” It seems a line of verse in her child’s poetry book which had said “To each his four*gō/Of unhulled rice a day” had been changed to “To each his three*gō/Of unhulled rice a day,” so as to make it fit in with the actual amount of the ration. According to what she told me later, the poem is one of the most famous pieces by a poet called Kenji Miyazawa, a fine piece with a kind of austere beauty that gets over wonderfully the hardships of the farmer’s life.
“To change ‘four*gō*of rice a day’ to ‘three*gō’ is an insult to learning,” Mrs. Miyaji said. “Whatever would happen if the child got to hear about it? Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if he even started getting ideas about the Japanese history they learn at school. It would be different, now, if Kenji Miyazawa came to life again and rewrote it*himself. . . .”
The fact remained, though, that the textbook was a government one compiled in accordance with major policies of state, and it seems the authorities told her to “keep a curb on her irresponsible talk.” “We know quite well you’ve been going to buy black market goods,” they said. “Such people have no business making impertinent remarks about textbooks. Irresponsible talk in wartime is a matter that’s too serious for the ordinary civil or criminal code.” The way they spoke, it was almost as though they were suggesting it was a breach of the National General Mobilization Law, which was a capital offense, of course. By that time, everybody was taking care what they said in front of others.

So anyway that is all I have to offer yet.

This might be of related interest to some, but in late December I managed to borrow, through a special request through my library, the film adaption of Black Rain. To a large extent this general plot of this is faithful to the novel, but much less time is spent describing the various characters experiences in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb and much more on there life years later. I believe that some of Ibuse's other novels are draw upon as well as there is a character, a former soldier, that has what today we would call PTSD from combat. I also recall that when I first saw this film not long after it was released parallels were drawn, as many thought the film director intended, between the attitudes towards Yasuko and the way much of society looked upon those with AIDS or those positive for HIV.
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Old 01-22-2012, 08:48 AM   #11
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I wish I could get access to the original magazine articles for Kuroiame as there are places where I could tell that the translations didn't quite work, cultural references were missed.
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Old 01-23-2012, 11:43 AM   #12
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This was a powerful book which I just finished this morning. I feel the images will stay with me a long time. This must never happen again, especially as today's bombs are so much more powerful than those that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destructive power of today's nuclear warheads is unimaginable. This book should be required reading for all who would seek their use in war.
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Old 01-23-2012, 05:09 PM   #13
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This was a powerful book which I just finished this morning. I feel the images will stay with me a long time. This must never happen again, especially as today's bombs are so much more powerful than those that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destructive power of today's nuclear warheads is unimaginable. This book should be required reading for all who would seek their use in war.
Most definitely!!!
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Old 01-24-2012, 07:21 AM   #14
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...This might be of related interest to some, but in late December I managed to borrow, through a special request through my library, the film adaption of Black Rain....
Yes, I bought this and have started watching it. It is quite chilling. At some points you almost feel as if you're watching one of those end-of-the-world science fiction movies, but this is not sci-fi; for the horrors on the screen were first recorded in the diaries of the survivors that became the basis for the novel.
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Old 01-24-2012, 08:36 AM   #15
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At some points you almost feel as if you're watching one of those end-of-the-world science fiction movies,
I have not seen this movie, but that remark is true for the book as well! I have not read many apocalyptic stories, but the diary in the book felt like what little I have rad, only this was for real!

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