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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Itsue Okada (female)
'Chokubaku'  1 km from the hypocenter / 15 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was exposed to the atom bomb when I was fifteen years old. I wouldn't want any fifteen-year-old today ever to have an experience like that.

At the time, I was fifteen years old. In April 1945, I entered the Hiroshima Electric Railways Kasei Girls' High School. I studied half of the day and worked the other half as a crew member on a streetcar. On the day the bomb fell, I was scheduled to work the early shift from 6 am till midday. Starting from the head office building, I first traveled on a city loop-line streetcar operated by a woman driver, and returned to the head office where I had breakfast. Shortly after 8 am, I boarded a streetcar bound for Ujina. Just as it began its downhill descent after climbing the Miyuki Bridge slope, there was a sudden yellow flash before my eyes, and then everything went so dark that you could hardly see in front of you. Passengers in the streetcar were rushing about in a state of confusion.

Since I was standing at the exit door, I jumped off the streetcar, thinking that there was a mechanical breakdown. The streetcar continued to roll downhill, its brakes having failed. I had been injured in the face, but fortunately my legs weren' t hurt. I was running around alone in pitch darkness, but it gradually began to get lighter. Just as I was beginning to make out houses and people, I heard a voice calling out, "Air raid attack! Air raid attack!" I heard the roaring sound of airplanes and sought refuge in a nearby air raid shelter. Once inside, I began to notice the pain in my face, my burns were stinging and my hair was singed. I then realized that the back of my shirt had also been scorched. After the air raid alarm, I went outside and saw a massive black cloud, which had filled the entire sky, and a light rain began to fall.

Soon after, everyone started heading for Ujina on foot. I realized that I was barefoot, and put on a pair of men's wooden clogs, which I found in front of a house. I saw a man whose clothes were scorched and whose scalp was dangling from his head. I joined a long procession of different people and sought refuge under the eaves of a temple in the third block. For lunch I was given two rice balls, which I ate, even though they smelled like plaster and tasted gritty. That night a rumor was spreading that "Ujina will be next tomorrow." Together with a friend, we walked as fast as we could to keep up with everyone who was rushing toward Miyajima. We passed through Sendamachi and continued on from the Takano Bridge to Koi, the road narrowing on the way, as everything along it was burned down. My face was so hot from the burning embers that I put on my air raid hood, the only possession I had, and I tried hard to keep up with everyone. On the way, I saw people crying out names and calling out for help. In the dim light, it was like a scene from hell, something I had never witnessed before.

From Koi I was lucky to be put on an army truck that took me to the Suzugamine Women's College in Inokuchi. When we reached the assembly hall, it was already overcrowded with people suffering from burns and other injuries, and I could hardly find a spot to sit. On one particular day, I had the job of swatting away flies with a fan, since the swarms of flies could cause wounds to be infected with maggots. Mercurochrome was the only medicine available to treat burn wounds.

On August 15, the day the war ended, a man went on a wild rampage with a kitchen knife after hearing the Emperor's voice, shouting, "I'm gonna get those American soldiers!"I was really scared by his outburst. I couldn't have a bath, wash my face or brush my teeth, and, before long, my body was infested with lice and itchy all over. I was longing to get home, and, after talking with my friend from Oasa, we left the Women's College on August 17.

In April I'll be turning eighty. Thanks to everyone, I've been doing well.

The above is what I wrote in 1985 for the Chiyoda-cho Association of A-bomb Hibakusha.