Characters Discussed

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Kiyoshi Tanimoto

Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Methodist minister whose energy and perseverance help him save lives after the atomic bomb falls on Hiroshima. Initially feeling the pressure of fellow citizens’ suspicions because of his American education, Tanimoto works selflessly to help others. His charitable spirit and caring for others are exemplified in his comforting of one of his earlier accusers, Mr. Tanaka, who is dying of wounds suffered in the bombing. Tanaka, an influential, powerful man, is reduced to suffering and seeks redemption from someone earlier perceived as an enemy. Tanimoto’s good intentions, however, do not keep him from being perceived as a seeker of personal glory. His willingness to remain in contact with Americans is, like his Christianity, an indication to many of his fellow citizens that he is not truly Japanese.

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge

Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest who identifies with the Japanese so strongly that he takes Japanese citizenship and changes his name to Makoto Takakura in the years after the bombing. The days immediately after the bombing prove Father Kleinsorge’s dedication to helping people. Those days also allow him to demonstrate strengths of which he had previously been unaware. For example, his practicality overcomes what had been his typical squeamishness when he discusses eating a fish right after helping give water to soldiers whose faces had been horribly burned. His own ability to speak calmly to those same soldiers and comfort them surprises him.

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki

Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a doctor who works seemingly beyond human endurance in the days after the bombing. A man motivated by challenge and personal need, Dr. Sasaki risks censure by practicing outside regular hospital hours in his small town and pursues marriage to a young woman whose father made clear his opposition to the wedding. Dr. Sasaki does not pursue research into medical effects of the atomic bomb and distances himself from his memories of its aftermath. He attains an understanding of the importance of relationships in his life after he nearly dies of lung cancer. After the near-death experience, his focus is on helping others for the personal satisfaction such help brings, a change from his earlier concern with financial security.

Miss Toshinki Sasaki

Miss Toshinki Sasaki, a personnel clerk whose left leg was badly broken in the bombing. Her dedication to her family is evident in her arising at 4 a.m. to prepare the day’s meals before she left for work the morning the bomb was dropped. In the months following her injury, she waits for healing to occur. Her own strengths, however, emerge in her work with orphans and the elderly in her middle age, when she becomes a Catholic nun, Sister Dominique.

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a widow with three small children who keeps her family together after the bombing. Never a rebellious spirit, she is the soul of perseverance, continuing to work while suffering the exhaustion that is part of radiation sickness. Embarrassed as a young woman by baldness that resulted from the radiation, she—at retirement age—takes pleasure in a folk-dance group as well as in her children’s successes.

Dr. Masakazu Fujii

Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a doctor whose home and private practice building are destroyed by the atomic bomb. Dr. Fujii is hedonistic and proud of his possessions, preferring Scotch to saki and eventually building an American-style home. He took advantage of opportunities afforded by the occupation army and advertised a specialty in treating venereal diseases. His final years are spent in a vegetative state, and his family continues in his individualistic tradition by quarreling over the estate he leaves.

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Chapter Summaries


Critical Essays