On 9 August 1945, the United States dropped the second nuclear bomb ever used in wartime on Nagasaki, resulting in a death toll of up to 70,000 people within the day and around the same number again from injuries within one year. Of the dead, approximately 8500 on the day were Catholic Christians, representing sixty to seventy-five percent of their own community and over ten percent of the total.

Kataribe ‘storytellers’ have been an important aspect of civil society response which Catholic survivors have taken on as their role, and my project includes interviews with various members of civil society. For example, I interviewed the voluntary director of the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, a historian of the hisabetsu buraku community and other members of the Catholic community.

My thesis argues that Catholic atomic bomb survivors of Nagasaki protest the bombing and have complex and culturally specific memories of its impact and aftermath.  For the Nagasaki Catholic survivors, these memories shed light on not only the destruction of the bombing, but also link to past experiences of religious persecution and marginalisation. The descendants of these people are my modern interviewees. My methodology is to employ oral history with a theological framework.

Project location: Nagasaki and Melbourne (Monash University)
Funding: Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship (ongoing); National Library Australia Japan Study Grant 2015

For more information, contact:
Gwyn McClelland