OSAKA, Japan >> A Japanese novel centered on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II was published this fall in English, nearly 40 years after the creation of the screenplay on which it is based.
“Two in Hiroshima” is about the friendship between an American prisoner of war and a Japanese sergeant. The Japanese version, “Hiroshima no Futari,” was based on the script written by Ryuzo Kikushima (1914-1989), a screenwriter known for the films “Stray Dog” and “High and Low.” They were among the works directed by Akira Kurosawa.
“I want many people, including non-Japanese, to read about Hiroshima so that the story can resonate with people in the future,” said Junko Ishizuka, who translated the novel.
The story is set in the present and follows a woman named Mitsuko as she traces the life of her father, Sgt. Jun Fujita, who served as a guard at a prisoner-of-war camp in Hiroshima. She learns that on the day the atomic bomb was dropped, her father was with Arthur Daniels, an American soldier who had escaped from the camp.
Fujita chased and caught Daniels in the mountains, and they observed the infamous mushroom cloud rising above the city. Following the bombing, an unexpected friendship develops between the two men who were once enemies. The story chronicles their relationship, built over the tragedy of war and recollected through time.
“Two in Hiroshima” was originally co-written by Kikushima and a fellow screenwriter, and given in 1982 to film director Nobuhiko Hosaka. Kikushima hoped it would be Hosaka’s directorial debut.
But production costs prevented Hosaka from proceeding, leaving the script unreleased for a long time.
Still, the script never left Hosaka’s mind. At 76, he decided in 2021 to rework it into a novel and published it to mark the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
The book’s publisher proposed translating it into English, and Ishizuka took on the project.
Having lived in Europe, Ishizuka recalled that whenever she was asked about Hiroshima, she struggled with the fact that as a Japanese person, she was viewed as both a victim of the bombing and a perpetrator of the war.
“I want to convey to the world the importance of dialogue, which can help even enemies understand each other,” she said.
Hosaka was hopeful the story might someday be told on-screen, as it was intended.
“With this story becoming widely known overseas, it might be made into a movie or a drama — something that hasn’t been managed yet.”