Tsutomu Yamaguchi (March 16, 1916 – January 4, 2010) was a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb during World War II. Although at least 160 people are known to have been affected by both bombings, he is the only person to have been officially recognized by the government of Japan as surviving both explosions.
A resident of Nagasaki, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when the city was bombed at 8:15 am, on August 6, 1945. He returned to Nagasaki the following day, and despite his wounds, he returned to work on August 9, the day of the second atomic bombing. In 1957, he was recognized as a hibakusha (explosion-affected person) of the Nagasaki bombing, but it was not until March 24, 2009, that the government of Japan officially recognized his presence in Hiroshima three days earlier.
Yamaguchi “never thought Japan should start a war”. He continued his work with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but soon Japanese industry began to suffer heavily as resources became scarce and tankers were sunk. As the war ground on, he was so despondent over the state of the country that he considered killing his family with an overdose of sleeping pills in the event that Japan lost.
Yamaguchi lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. He also went bald temporarily and his daughter recalls that he was constantly swathed in bandages until she reached the age of 12. Despite this, Yamaguchi went on to lead a healthy life. Late in his life, he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments, including cataracts and acute leukemia.
His wife also suffered radiation poisoning from black rain after the Nagasaki explosion and died in 2010 (age 93) of kidney and liver cancer after a lifetime of illness. All three of their children reported suffering from health problems probably connected with their parents’ exposures.
The memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain lists of the names of the hibakusha who are known to have died since the bombings. Updated annually on the anniversaries of the bombings, as of August 2014 the memorials record the names of more than 450,000 hibakusha; 292,325 in Hiroshima and 165,409 in Nagasaki.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93, in Nagasaki.