Translated by Steve Leeper.

HIROSHIMA SURVIVOR

An account of what happened when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan,

August 6, 1945

 

When the bomb exploded, I was 14 years old and a mobilized student at a worksite about 2.5 kilometers away. It was exactly at the time we prayed this morning that this whole area was burned, then crushed. I could tell you more about the terrible heat and blast, but I want to talk about some things you may not have heard before.

My house was 1.3 kilometers from the hypocenter. Each school and each neighborhhood was assigned its own place of refuge in case we were bombed, and our neighborhood was assigned to a place called Furuichi, about 10 kilometers to the north. After the explosion, I headed home immediately to meet my family. I walked along a road that at first was lined with houses. But before I had walked more than 100 or 200 meters, I found I couldn't go any further. The houses had fallen into the road. Flames were leaping up all around me. I got desperate, thinking, "How am I going to get home? What am I going to do?"

Suddenly I thought, "Oh yeah, we're supposed to go to the refuge in Furuichi. I wonder if anyone is still alive?" So I took off as fast as I could to Furuichi. When I arrived at our refuge site, I found notebooks on a desk set out by our neighborhood association. Everyone from our neighborhood was supposed to write their names and addresses in the notebook. As soon as I arrived, I wrote my name and address in the book.

By the time I got there, there were already three notebooks. I looked quickly through all three, but found none of my family or relatives. When I asked the people managing these lists where everyone was, he said, "The injured are in the school building. The healthy ones are resting at the temple or the school grounds."

I just said, "Oh," and went first to the school building to look at the injured people lying there. I thought maybe some of my family were in a classroom hurt and unable to walk. Maybe they weren't able to write their names in the book. Filled with fear, I walked around looking at each face. I could usually tell if the person was male or female, but I had no idea if I was looking at a relative or not. They were completely transformed. Most of their faces were swollen up about twice the normal size. Still, I tried to see if I knew them by looking carefully at their faces or their belongings. As I walked through, a lot of them would say things like, "Water, give me water, please!" or they would just scream with pain and say, "Do something!" But I couldn't do anything. Nothing. All I could do was bow and try to encourage them. Actually I was terrified that I would find one of my relatives among these horribly injured people. If this were my mother, or my sister...what in the world would I do? There wouldn't be a thing I could do for them. This is what I was thinking as I walked among the injured.

That night, someone told me to stay at the school, so I spent the night in the auditorium. After midnight we heard the roar of an airplane. Because of what had happened that day, I was terrified. I ran to the river by myself. I dug a hole in the sand and stayed there all night. It was mid-August, but I was freezing cold all night.

Then, before dawn, I happened to look at the sky over Hiroshima. Everything was red, from Ushita to Mitaki, right to the tops of the mountains. The whole city was still burning. And I remember thinking, "I have to go there in the morning."

When morning came, with nothing to eat or drink, I trudged slowly to Yokogawa. I was supposedly walking on a big road, five meters across, but there was barely room for a single person to squeeze through. There were still flames everywhere. If I stepped off the path I would burn my feet. As I was picking my way through step by step, I came on something charred and black in my way, so I casually tried to kick it aside with my foot. But as I did, my foot sunk right into it. Then, as I tried to get it off my foot, I got a terrible, eerie feeling. I bent over to move it away with my hand, and only then did I notice. It was a person's torso. A child's torso. "Ahh! I didn't know! Oh, no, I'm sorry!" And without thinking I put my hands together in prayer. But then, over the next few hundred meters I saw the same thing, over and over again. At first I felt shock and horror at all these dead, but soon, I didn't care at all. There were corpses everywhere. A field of corpses. I just pushed them out of the way and kept on moving toward my house.

When I got home, there was a burned out streetcar by the side of the road with a message written on it. "Heading for Kamitenmacho." And there was my father's name. But only him. I read that message over and over, but his was the only name and I could find no further information.

I had to cross a river. It was a wooden bridge, of course, and burned, but I could still get across. In Kamitenmacho I went to my mother's parents' house. My grandfather, my father, and an old woman were there. When they saw me they said, "You did good to get here." But there was no energy in their voices. They spoke to me a little at first, but soon had nothing to say. I was the same way. I couldn't even ask any questions. I wanted to ask about my mother, my brother, my grandmother, but I couldn't even ask. No one said anything. I started wondering about the old lady. I thought she must be a relative, but the way she spoke and acted were so strange. I said, "Where do you live?"

She said, "Toshihiko, you don't know me? I'm your neighbor, Ogawa."

I said, "Oh." Then I said, "Are you the only ones left?"

"We're the only ones," came the answer. "We don't know anything about anyone else."

That was the second day.

After about one week, we went to my father's parents' home in the countryside. Actually, that was in Akinakano, about 30 minutes from here. As soon as we got there, my father lay down and soon was dead. He never said another word. After he died, my aunt said, "It might be best that he's gone."

"Why?"

"He said he killed your mother. He watched her die. She was thrown into the cellar. She was calling, 'Help me. Help me.' But the fire was closing in on him. He said, 'I'm sorry. Please forgive me.' And he ran away. That's why he never said anything to you."

"Ahh. I wish I hadn't heard." My father must have been in such terrible pain before he died.

After that, things just got worse and worse for a long time.

Two years ago here in Japan we had a nuclear accident at Tokai Mura. Some workers were exposed to radiation. I saw them on TV. As soon as I saw them I thought, "Poor guys." I knew they were doomed. I didn't say this to anyone, but it's what I was thinking. My father didn't have a scratch on him, and these guys looked just like my father had looked. And they went through the same stages of destruction. I really felt sorry for them because I knew they had no hope. As I watched the story, though, I started wondering how far modern medicine had come since 1945, but they died. Radiation is truly terrifying. There's just nothing you can do.

But the most terrifying thing of all is my own mind and heart. When I was going through all that hell, I couldn't feel anything at all. Really. It was too much. There were seven people in my family. Five of us died. Only my little brother and I survived. All I know now is, we've had enough. This kind of thing has to stop. It is completely and utterly useless. Every day I pray to God and ask forgiveness and beg for an end to war. We've had enough.