My Father Was “Atom-Bombed Out Of Prison”
At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, an atom bomb exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, devastating the city and wiping out tens of thousands of its population. My father had refused to worship the emperor and support Japan’s militarism, so he was at that time an inmate in the Hiroshima prison.
FATHER often described what occurred that memorable morning. “The light flashed on the ceiling of my cell,” he said. “Then I heard a terribly loud roar as if all the mountains had collapsed at one time. Instantly the cell was shrouded with a thick darkness. I shoved my head under my mattress to escape what appeared to be a dark gas.
“After seven or eight minutes, I lifted my head from under the mattress and found that the ‘gas’ had dissipated. It was light once again. Articles from the shelf and a large quantity of dust had fallen, making a real mess. Because of the high wall encircling the prison, no fire had come in from the outside.
“I looked through the back window and was thunderstruck! The jail workshops and the wooden buildings had all been crushed flat. Then I looked through the small front window. The cells of the opposite block had been torn to pieces. Prisoners who survived were crying for help. There was fear and panic—a scene of dire confusion and terror.”
As a boy I thrilled to listen to Father tell about, as he put it, “being atom-bombed out of prison.” He related the story without feelings of guilt, because he had been imprisoned unjustly. Before telling about the charges against Father and how he was treated during his years of confinement, let me explain how my parents became associated with the Todaisha, as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in Japan was then called.
Searching for a Purpose
Father was an ardent lover of books, and early in life he sought to improve himself. When he was still in the fifth grade of elementary school, he sneaked out of his home in Ishinomori in northeastern Japan. With only enough money for a one-way ticket, he boarded a train for Tokyo, where he was determined to become a houseboy for Shigenobu Okuma, who had twice been prime minister of Japan. But when this shabbily dressed country boy appeared at Mr. Okuma’s home, his request for employment was turned down. Later Father obtained live-in employment in a milk shop.
While still a teenager, my father began to attend lectures by politicians and scholars. In one lecture the Bible was mentioned as a very important book. So Father obtained a Bible, complete with cross-references and a Bible atlas. He was deeply impressed by what he read and was moved to want to do work that would benefit all mankind.
Eventually Father returned home, and in April 1931, when he was 24, he married 17-year-old Hagino. Shortly after Father married, a relative sent him literature published by the Todaisha. Impressed with what he read, Father wrote to the Todaisha in Tokyo. In June 1931 a full-time minister from Sendai by the name of Matsue Ishii visited him in Ishinomori.* Father accepted a set of books from her that included The Harp of God, Creation, and Government.
Finding a Purpose in Life
Almost at once Father perceived that various church teachings, such as man having an immortal soul, the wicked burning forever in hellfire, and the Creator being a triune God, were false. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4; John 14:28) He also realized that this world would end. (1 John 2:17) Wanting to know what he should do, he contacted the appointed representative of the Todaisha who visited him in August 1931, and as a result of their discussions, Father was baptized and decided to become a full-time minister of Jehovah.
After extended discussions Mother too became convinced that what she had learned from the Bible was the truth. She dedicated her life to Jehovah and was baptized in October 1931. When my father put his property up for auction, his relatives thought that he had lost his mind.
Life as Full-Time Ministers
Father left all the money received from the auction to his mother, and he and Mother went to Tokyo in November 1931. Although they had received no instructions on how to talk to others about the good news of the Kingdom, they started preaching the day after they arrived there.—Matthew 24:14.
Their life was not easy. Especially was it hard on my mother who was then only 17 years old. There were no fellow Witnesses, no meetings, and no congregation—just a daily schedule of distributing Bible literature from house to house from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
In 1933 their preaching assignment was changed from Tokyo to Kobe. I was born there on February 9, 1934. My mother worked zealously in the ministry until a month before my birth. Afterward my parents moved to Yamaguchi, to Ube, to Kure, and finally to Hiroshima, preaching in each place for about a year.
My Parents Are Arrested
As Japanese militarism increased, publications of the Watch Tower Society were banned and the Witnesses were put under strict surveillance by the Special Secret Service Police. Then, on June 21, 1939, full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were rounded up throughout Japan. Father and Mother were among those arrested. I was turned over to the care of my grandmother who lived in Ishinomori. After being detained for eight months, Mother was released and put on probation, and eventually, in 1942, I was able to join her in Sendai.
In the meantime, Father, along with other Witnesses, was interrogated by the secret police at the Hiroshima police station. Because they refused to worship the emperor or support Japan’s militarism, the Witnesses were severely beaten. The interrogator could not budge Father from worshiping Jehovah.
After more than two years in detention, Father was put on trial. During one session, the judge asked: “Miura, what do you think of His Majesty, the Emperor?”
“His Majesty, the Emperor, is also a descendant of Adam and is a mortal, imperfect human,” Father answered. That statement so astonished the court stenographer that he failed to record it. You see, most Japanese at that time believed the emperor to be a god. Father received a sentence of five years in prison, and the judge told him that unless he gave up his faith, he would be in prison the rest of his life.
Soon afterward, in December 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Food in prison became scarce, and during the winter months, Father had many cold, sleepless nights because of lack of clothing. Although cut off from all spiritual association, he had access to the Bible in the prison library, and by reading it over and over again, he maintained spiritual strength.
When the Bomb Fell
Early on the morning of August 6, 1945, a prisoner wanted to exchange books with Father. This was forbidden, but since the prisoner had already slid his book across the hallway into Father’s cell, he slid his book into the other prisoner’s cell. So rather than follow his usually inflexible schedule that morning, Father was reading when the bomb fell. Ordinarily he would have been using the toilet in his cell at that time of the morning. After the blast, Father saw that the toilet area had been destroyed by falling debris.
Father was then taken to the nearby Iwakuni prison. Soon after that, Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces, and he was released from prison amid the postwar chaos. He returned home to Ishinomori in December 1945. His health had been ruined. He was only 38, but he looked like an old man. At first I could not believe he was my father.
His Faith Still Strong
Japan was in a chaotic condition, and we did not know where the handful of faithful Witnesses had been scattered to. Nor did we have available any of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet, Father taught me directly from the Bible the truth about Jehovah’s Kingdom, the new world, and the approaching battle of Armageddon.—Psalm 37:9-11, 29; Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:6-9; 65:17, 21-24; Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10.
Later, when I was taught the evolution theory in high school and began to doubt the existence of God, my father tried to convince me of God’s existence. When I was hesitant to believe, he finally said: “Most of the people of the world supported the war and became guilty of shedding blood. I, for my part, stuck to Bible truth and never supported either militarism, emperor worship, or the war. So consider carefully for yourself which is the true way of life you should walk in.”
Knowing what my father taught and lived by and comparing that with what I was learning in school, I could see that the evolution theory could not be a sound way of thinking. Although no evolutionist had risked his life for his beliefs, my father was willing to die for his.
One day in March 1951, more than five years after the war had ended, Father was reading the Asahi newspaper. Suddenly he cried out: “Hey, they came, they came!” He showed the paper to me. It was an article about five missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had just arrived in Osaka. Leaping with joy, Father contacted the newspaper and learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses had established a branch office in Tokyo. He obtained the address and visited the branch, thus restoring contact with Jehovah’s organization.
Faithful Till the End
In 1952 our family moved to Sendai. Watch Tower Society missionaries Donald and Mabel Haslett moved there that same year and rented a house to hold the Watchtower Study. Only four attended that first meeting—the Hasletts, my father, and I. Later, Shinichi and Masako Tohara, Adeline Nako, and Lillian Samson joined the Hasletts as missionaries in Sendai.
Through association with these missionaries, our family progressed in knowledge of God’s Word and organization. Mother, whose faith had been shaken by things that had occurred during the war, soon joined us in going to meetings and sharing in the field ministry. I was moved to dedicate my life to serve Jehovah God and was baptized on April 18, 1953.
Following the war Father worked as a salesman for an insurance company. Despite the aftereffects of his imprisonment, which included a kidney disorder and high blood pressure, he had a strong desire to resume the full-time ministry as a pioneer. He did so about the same time that I was baptized. Even though poor health prevented him from continuing as a pioneer very long, his zeal for the ministry moved me to quit the university that I was attending and to take up the full-time ministry as a career.
Isamu Sugiura, a fine young man from Nagoya, was appointed as my working partner. On May 1, 1955, we commenced our ministry as special pioneers in Beppu on Kyushu Island. There were only a handful of Witnesses on the whole island then. Now, over 39 years later, we have 15 spiritually thriving circuits with over 18,000 Witnesses on the island. And in all Japan, there are now nearly 200,000 Witnesses.
In the spring of 1956, Isamu and I received invitations to attend the Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead in the United States. We were overjoyed. However, when I received a physical checkup in preparation for the trip, doctors found that I had tuberculosis. Greatly disappointed, I returned home to Sendai.
By then Father’s physical health had worsened, and he was resting at home in bed. Our rented house was made up of only one 100-square-foot tatami room. My father and I lay side by side. Since Father could not work, Mother had a rough time caring for our financial needs.
In January 1957, Frederick W. Franz, then the vice president of the Watch Tower Society, visited Japan, and a special convention was arranged to be held in Kyoto. Father urged my mother to attend. Although reluctant to leave us in our sick condition, she obeyed Father and left for the convention.
Soon afterward Father’s condition began to worsen day by day. As we lay side by side, I started to worry, and I asked him how we were going to support ourselves. To that he answered: “We’ve served Jehovah God, even risking our lives, and he is the almighty God. Why do you worry? Jehovah will without fail provide what we need.” He then admonished me in a most tender way, saying: “Cultivate in yourself a stronger faith.”
On March 24, 1957, Father quietly took his last breath. After his funeral I visited the insurance company for which he worked to settle things with them. As I was leaving, the branch manager handed me a paper bag and said: “This is your father’s.”
Upon returning home I discovered quite a large sum of money inside. When I asked the manager about it later, he explained that the money was from a premium that had been deducted monthly from Father’s salary without his knowledge. Thus Father’s words, “Jehovah will without fail provide what we need,” did come true. This greatly strengthened my faith in Jehovah’s protective care.
Decades of Continued Service
The material assistance provided by that money helped me to concentrate on recuperating at home. A year later, in 1958, Mother and I were appointed as special pioneers. Afterward, I served as a traveling overseer in Japan, and then in 1961, I had the privilege of attending the ten-month course of the Gilead School at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York.
When I returned to Japan, I again took up serving congregations as a traveling overseer. Then, in 1963, I married Yasuko Haba, who was working at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tokyo. She joined me in the traveling work until 1965, at which time we were invited to serve at the branch office in Tokyo. Since then we have served together—first at the branch location in Tokyo, then in Numazu, and now in Ebina.
Mother remained a special pioneer minister until 1965. Since then she has kept active helping many persons accept Bible truths. She is now 79 years old but is comparatively healthy. We are happy that she lives nearby and can attend the same congregation that we do near the Ebina branch office.
We really thank Jehovah God that my father survived the atom-bomb blast over Hiroshima. He maintained his faith, and it is my desire to welcome him back in the new world and relate to him how we were delivered out of Armageddon, the battle he so much wanted to see. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 21:3, 4)—As told by Tsutomu Miura.
For Matsue Ishii’s life story, please see The Watchtower of May 1, 1988, pages 21-5.
[Picture on page 11]
Katsuo and Hagino Miura, with their son Tsutomu
[Picture on page 15]
Tsutomu Miura working in Japan branch office
[Picture Credit Line on page 13]
Hiroshima Peace and Culture Foundation from material returned by the United States Armed Forces Institute of Pathology