Testimony: The deeply moving life of Dr Paul Takashi Nagaï (1908-1951)
Survivor of the atomic bomb of Nagasaki the Vincentian and scientist Dr Paul Takashi Nagaï dedicated his working life to relieve the suffering of all those he encountered. A renowned scientist, he was a pioneer of the use of radiology in Japan, especially for the prevention of tuberculosis. tOn ragic events that hit Nagasaki, Dr. Nagai did not keep any hatred. After the bombings, he settled in a small hut where he taught forgiveness. Until his death, people of all classes, conditions and religious beliefs of the Emperor to the street children came to visit him. Here is briefly his route.
First an atheist, Dr Nagaï gradually changed his convictions and began a steady inner journey that led, little by little, to the reading of the Bible and the “thoughts” of Blaise Pascal. A reflection of this French mathematician and philosopher struck a cord: “There is only enough light for those who wish to see it, and only enough darkness for those that hold to the opposite view”. Moved by the actions of the Christians of Nagasaki, Nagaï was baptised at the age of 26.
He then became a member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Nagaï would then go on to discover the writings of Frederic Ozanam, visiting the sick and those most in need to which he would provide support, comfort and food. Subsequently he married Midori, a young woman who was a strong believer. The couple had four children. In June 1945 Takash learnt that he was suffering from leukaemia due to the exposure to X-rays that he had come into contact with during his work. He was given two to three years to live.
Japan had been at war with the United States since December 1941. On the 9th August 1945, at 11am, the atomic bomb landed on Nagasaki. Dr Nagaï managed to free himself from the rubble, but his carotid artery had been cut by a shard of glass. After receiving emergency treatment, he worked alongside surviving doctors in providing care to the victims. Returning to his home, he found that his wife had perished. He decided to relocate to the very place where the bomb had exploded and here he built a small hut with pieces from his old house. Here, until the end of his life, he received visitors and wrote several works which received instant success both in Japan and around the world.
He died in 1951 at the age of 43. Twenty thousand people attended his funeral.