HIROSHIMA--Until this spring, Itsuo Taira, 74, had almost no idea of the horrors his father witnessed in the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Taira's father, Yoriaki, hardly talked with his family about his experiences in the aftermath of the event that claimed tens of thousands of lives. Yoriaki died in 2003 at 86.

Yoriaki worked for what became the Japanese National Railways both during and after World War II, handling mainly electrical equipment used in the railway system. After retiring, Yoriaki worked in his garden and made small bamboo toys for his grandchildren.

Earlier this year, Taira visited the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims that is located within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The facility has an extensive database of testimony provided by hibakusha who survived the atomic bombing.

Taira fell compelled to type in his father's name in a search mode for the database and he was stunned to find a copy of a handwritten account Yoriaki left behind with the memorial hall.

According to the account, Yoriaki was at Hiroshima Station about two kilometers from ground zero when the atomic bomb detonated. He suffered burns to his face and right hand.

At a housing complex on the west side of the station for railway employees who had left their families back in their hometowns, Yoriaki's wife, Sakae, had brought Itsuo for a visit to Hiroshima from their home in Fukuyama, eastern Hiroshima Prefecture.

After the explosion, Yoriaki went to the housing complex but could not find his wife and son.

In his account, Yoriaki wrote, "I don't know if they are dead or alive."

He added, "Not knowing what to do, I also felt like collapsing because I was overcome with despair."

As things turned out, Yoriaki met up with his wife and son sometime around noon that day.

He wrote, "My wife and son suffered burns and other injuries that made it difficult for them to walk."

Itsuo was only 2 months old when the atomic bomb leveled the city so he had no direct memory of what happened. This was the first time he learned what he himself suffered.

Yoriaki belonged to a local group of hibakusha, but he had never given his family any sign that he had provided written testimony about his experiences.

In his handwritten account, Yoriaki described the "living hell" he saw in Hiroshima that day.

"People asked for water, so I gave it to them. But many died soon thereafter," Yoriaki wrote.

Reading that account made Taira realize that his father probably shied away from talking about his experiences because he did not want to relive the horrors he witnessed.

Taira surmises that his father wrote the account because he felt "in his heart a strong anger toward the atomic bomb and the belief that he had to pass on the tragedy that he endured."

During the summer Bon holiday season, Taira's three children and their offspring are planning to visit him in Fukuyama. He plans to have them read Yoriaki's account.

"They will probably be surprised to read the horrific experiences of their kind grandfather," Taira said. "It could provide a catalyst for thinking more personally about nuclear weapons and peace. I want to pass on my father's experiences for as long as possible."

Taira took part in this year's memorial ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb as one of the representatives of hibakusha to present flowers to those who died with a renewed appreciation of the secrets his father took to the grave.