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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Hiroshima Survivor: “Tosh” Kano, Holladay’s Public Works Director

Jun 29, 2016 10:11AM ● By Carol Hendrycks

Yorie Kano and Tosh Kano visit Hiroshima Memorial. —Toshiharu Kano

by Carol Hendrycks | [email protected]


Toshiharu “Tosh” Kano, age 71, is one of the last living Hiroshima survivors along with his sister Yorie. Much to Kano’s surprise, he received a call from the White House the week before the United States president was scheduled to visit the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima. Yes, the White House called and Kano could not believe it at first that this was real. He of course graciously accepted the invitation to attend the official ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park where President Obama would recognize the people of Japan and Korea that were killed in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Tosh said that though he was not able to shake hands with the president, he was honored to have been chosen to be there in his presence and humbly received his words about the loss of lives. This was an important moment for all nations involved, as a United States president has never come to this place during his active duty. This signaled a historic time and a speech of condolence on May 27, 2016. Accompanying President Obama was prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.

You may have met Tosh or seen him around town going about the business of our community, surveying and checking on the maintenance of a variety of city projects. Tosh has a remarkable story of survival and inspiration, and a message of hope that we will all remember this pivotal time in history so this will never happen again. He and his wife have written a book called “Passage to Hiroshima” documenting a fascinating journey about his parents, his family and their devastating plight of living through such a horrific and deadly bombing that killed more than 100,000 Japanese, Koreans and Americans. 

Some 71 years ago on August 6, 1945, the world changed with the introduction of the atomic bomb. Tosh has heard and grown up with his family story, the suffering his family has had to bear, the lingering effects of a poor immune system as a child and emotional scars that still linger today, the loss of a brother two months after the bombing and family friends — an innocence that is part the fabric of who Tosh and his family are. The bomb hit 12 weeks before Tosh was born, only 800 yards from their home. There was a flash of light, with intense heat that followed with temperatures soaring up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The miracle of life and a story of survival begin there for this family. His mother, 3-year-old sister, a brother and father all survived this tragedy.

Tosh was born small with no sign of physical abnormalities; however, much sickness followed due to his compromised immune system. He fell behind in school as a child, and at times life seemed unbearable enough to him to even contemplate suicide, but his father would not have such a thing. Tosh tells of his struggles and challenges in the book and explains the injuries sustained by his family members. Though they were badly injured they were able to heal and tell an intense story of perseverance and human survival. 

Both Tosh’s parents are American citizens, as were his grandparents, who were born in Hawaii. His grandfather was placed in an internment camp in Wyoming only to later be shipped back to Japan. Tosh’s father was placed in the Japanese army as a major in the Fifth Army Corp of Civil Engineers. He played a key role in coordinating the surviving soldiers by providing relief efforts to a devastated city and its population. His father was also in charge of a POW camp with 8,000 men. He treated prisoners fairly, and impressed upon them that if they were to escape they would surely die upon entering another town. He told them, “We may be enemies today, but we will be friends tomorrow.”  They had to learn to live together until the war was over. 

Tosh’s father had a sister here in Utah, and with the loss of everything they decided to move the family here and make a life after the war, as their home state of Hawaii was forever changed too. Tosh went on to attend the University of Utah and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, and has worked for Salt Lake County as the public works director for many years until retiring and then coming to work for the city of Holladay in 2000. He also has two sons, both happy and healthy, which is also a miracle as he was told he most likely would not be able to have a child. Tosh is a walking miracle, a person of substance; he is not bitter and believes he and his family survived and were saved to tell this story, educate those around them about the horrors they endured and to help prevent something like this from ever happening again. He is an amazing man, telling a story of truth and light. The details and the significance of their miraculous story of survival as told by Tosh, his wife and family can be found in their book.    λ