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Messages from Hiroshima

Setsuko Ogawa (male)
'Chokubaku'  1.5 km from the hypocenter / 15 years old at the time / current resident of Kanagawa

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. How I have lived after exposure to the A-bomb
I got married at the age of 23, and then I got pregnant. I gave birth to a premature baby and the baby died on the same day. Later I heard from my mother that there were blue patches all over its tiny body. I got divorced two years later.

I then got a job at the municipal office of Hiroshima in 1953 as one of ten surveyors to conduct a survey of the actual conditions of hibakusha. This survey was conducted by the local government for the first time. We interviewed many survivors and heard devastating experiences, and we wrote a complete report of our findings.

When the U.S. conducted the hydrogen bomb testing on Bikini Island in 1954, fishermen aboard a Japanese tuna fishing boat were exposed to the H-bomb. Aikichi Kuboyama, one of the crew members and the first Japanese victim of a hydrogen bomb, died. Kuboyama's death inspired Hiroshima citizens to rise together with a women's society, the Hiroshima city council, and the Hiroshima prefectural assembly to voice "No more hibakusha!" This protest led to the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs.

I had been constantly followed by a fleet of media. I started going out with one of the journalists. Eventually I lived with him, but his parents opposed our marriage because I was ahibakusha. I gave birth to a baby boy, but again he was born prematurely and died within a month. Our love did not last.

As a hibakusha, I was discriminated against. When I went to see a doctor in a hospital, people there sat somewhat apart from me because they thought A-bomb disease was contagious. I was deeply hurt by the prejudice. Both the national and local governments have never allowed public access to the list of names and addresses of hibakusha in order to prevent possible obstacles to their employment, marriage, and other opportunities.

My third husband, whose mother worked at the Hiroshima Military Hospital as a director of nursing, entered Hiroshima City on August 7 to search for his mother but he was unable to find her. It' s presumed that she was vaporized at the moment of the A-bombing.

I had an ectopic pregnancy at the age of 39 with my right ovary removed, but at 40, I was able to give birth to a girl with my left ovary alone. My only child, now 31 years old, is an employee of the Kanagawa prefectural government.

Living as an A-bomb witness
I have written tanka for 55 years. In tanka, I express my agonies, sorrows, and hard life of continuous illness. It is fortunate for me to have a record of my life in the written form of tanka.

I have continued witnessing my A-bomb experiences in public since the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. I have survived up to the 21st century despite having a number of health problems. Although my health has been severely damaged, I keep speaking to young people as an A-bomb witness, always emphasizing that the most important thing is peace.

When I attended our girls' high school reunion, I found that 100 out of a total of 300 graduates from the same school had died, 60 have suffered from breast cancer, 50 have had ectopic pregnancies, and others have developed many health problems.

I am now 71 years old, and am in poor health. This may be my last opportunity to give my eyewitness account of the A-bombing of Hiroshima. The average age of survivors is now over 70. In ten years time, there will be no one who is able to talk about their A-bomb experiences.

Please let me tell all of you young people this: A-bombs should never, ever be used again. If they were to be used, human beings would go extinct. I hope people around the world live together in peace.

(Input on September 7, 2001)
(Previously published text received 2010)