fohn W Dower
When Dr. James Yamazaki visited Japan in 1989, he attended a
meeting of mothers in Hiroshima who were parents of "pica babies."
Pica is a familiar euphemism to most Japanese, referring to the
blinding flash of the atomic bomb and conveying a vivid sense of
thermal burns and radiation poisoning. The "pica babies" were chil-
dren born with abnormalities, including mental retardation, after
being exposed to radiation in the womb when the bombs were
dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were forty-four years old
Dr. Yamazaki marveled at the quiet way the now elderly mothers
of these retarded child-adults told their stories, and he grieved over
the uncertainty that haunted them concerning what would become
of these children of the atomic bomb when they, the parents, died.
We, in turn, can only be impressed by the quiet way he himself tells
his own remarkable personal story, in which this is but a part.
This is a story of striking juxtapositions - a snapshot of an Ameri-
can life, as it were, that captures in a single frame racial prejudice in
the United States, the horror of the war in Europe, and the human
impact of the atomic bomb. And yet we read this brief personal ac-
count, chapter after terse chapter, with a persistent sense of how
decent and constructive the human spirit can be. James Yamazaki,
pediatrician and medical researcher, made an early commitment to
making children whole. Son of an Episcopal priest, his own vision
has been consistently humanistic, his moral sense as solid as a rock.