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My Grandparents
Shigeru Doi (1914-1991) and Kiyomi Doi (1926-2013)

Shigeru Doi

My grandfather, Shigeru Doi, studied medicine in Seoul, the Korean capital, occupied by Japan at the time. After his return, he accepted a position as a physician of internal medicine at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital and got married to my twelve years younger grandmother.

Towards the end of the war, when life in the city became increasingly dangerous, my grandparents moved to my great-grandparents’ house in the countryside from where my grandfather commuted to work. My mother Mioko was born in that house in May 1945. At that time my grandfather was thirty and my grandmother was eighteen years old. When my grandfather went to work on August 6, 1945, just like every Monday morning, he found a city that was no longer the same. But no one in our family ever learned anything from him about his time in the completely devastated Hiroshima.

Four years after the war, my grandparents moved back to Hiroshima. In the first years after the war, my grandmother gave birth to two more children, a son Yoshiya and a daughter Kaoko. In 1951, my grandfather opened his own medical practice where he worked until 1971, assisted by my grandmother and a nurse. During this period, he also treated many atom bomb victims. Then he suddenly became ill from an acute liver inflammation and as a consequence suffered several strokes. The following twenty years until his death he was bound to a wheelchair with half of his body paralyzed, cared for by my grandmother.


One of my grandfather’s great passions was writing tanka, traditional Japanese short poems. He wrote many tanka but not a single one about the atomic bomb. When I asked my grandmother about this, she answered:

“In his tanka the atomic bomb never comes up. There are many tankas about soldiers who were sent from the Military Hospital to the Red Cross Hospital and whom he had to treat. He also wrote funny ones. Your grandfather had a lot of humor and literary talent, but he was also someone who did not show his emotions very much. He never spoke to us about his upsetting experiences.”

Since my grandmother married and had children when she was very young she was never able to attend to her own interests. And after the children became independent her husband’s serious illness tied her down for another twenty years. When my grandfather died in 1991, a new period began for her, a time of “blossoming,” as she described it in retrospect. Now for the first time she was able to do as she pleased. She travelled in Japan and abroad and pursued her hobbies. But after ten years fate also caught up with her: Hemorrhaging in her cervical spine led to hemiplegia and a life confined to a wheelchair. In 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer; in October 2013, she passed away, just one month after the shooting of the film had been completed.

Kiyomi Doi