Born in 1929 in Hiroshima
, Takenishi Hiroko was a witness to the first atomic bomb
attack in history, at the age of sixteen
. After V-J Day
, and throughout the Allied occupation of Japan
, American censor
s under the control of SCAP Douglas MacArthur
kept literature pertaining to the bomb out of the public's reach, and so the attack on Hiroshima was not chronicled in detail by the popular media
Takenishi came of age during this time, enrolling at Waseda University in 1950 and engrossing herself in postgraduate literary studies of Motoori Norinaga and the Tale of Genji afterward. She became an essayist in the early 1960's, writing about Japanese literature, and her 1964 work Yukiki no Ki ("Writings that Come and Go") won her her first major literary prize in Japan.
By that point, many Japanese were questioning the motives of the United States in East Asia, and the younger generation was already in open revolt against the goals of politicians like Kishi Nobusuke. Novelist Ibuse Masuji had published the first major Japanese historical fiction account of Hiroshima, Kuroi Ame ("Black Rain"), in 1965. Takenishi set aside her studies, and sat down to write her own chronicle of the attack.
The resulting work, her 1969 short story Gishiki ("The Rite"), marked her fiction debut, and is still one of the most graphic and frightening accounts of the A-bomb's fall ever written. It is also the only Takenishi work that has ever been translated into English, appearing in Oe Kenzaburo's 1985 anthology 'Crazy Iris' and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. In it, Takenishi presented the attack on Hiroshima through contrasts with the works of classical Japanese literature she had studied before, and focused on the psychological effect it had on its survivors decades afterward.
She followed this meme to publish two collections of Hiroshima-related short stories, 1975's Tsuru "The Cranes" and 1978's Kangensai ("The Orchestral Festival"), before leaving ground zero behind and returning to the kinder, gentler world of literary criticism, where she remains today.