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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Kenzo Ikeda (male)
'Chokubaku'  2 km from the hypocenter / 6 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo
5730

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. The Sight I Can Never Forget

In the spring of 1945, the three of us in the family -- my father (42 years old), my mother (33 years old), and myself (6 years old)-- evacuated to Ochiai, in Asa District, from Minami Sendamachi in Hiroshima to avoid war damage. But at that moment on August 6, we were in Yoshida Hospital in Futabanosato near Hiroshima Station to prepare for my father's hemorrhoid operation. We were two kilometers [about 1.2 miles] from the hypocenter.

At the moment of the explosion, I was looking at the garden from the Japanese-style corridor in the hospital. After a flash, though, I found myself alone in the garden blown away several meters by the bomb blast [1m = about 3.3 ft or 1.1 yd]. The hospital building itself was crushed in the dust. Some of the trees had fellen down in the garden, and I saw several cicadas on the ground. I remember clouds were moving very fast in the sky. (I might have seen the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb from below.) I didn' t know what had happened for a while and was in a daze. Then my father, who had been on the bed, broke through the collapsing hospital roof and came out. He told me to stay where I was and then went back toward the collapsed hospital building to look for my mother.

My mother, who had been doing laundry, was trapped under the collapsed building. She couldn't get free since her hand was caught under some wooden debris, and my father couldn't do anything. A person who seemed to be a soldier came over to my father's cry for help, but he also couldn't do anything. A fire was spreading toward them, and they were at a loss. Then, a carpenter with a saw happened to pass by, and he was able to cut through the wood to rescue my mother. He said he had already saved some people crushed under buildings and left us to help others. I can't thank the carpenter who saved my mom's life enough, and I will never forget with admiration that there was such a great person who rescued others in this hell-like situation.

All three members of my family were able to be together somehow, and we decided to walk away from the urban district toward the evacuation place beyond Futaba Hill. There wasn' t any trail, so I climbed the side of the hill behind the hospital, pulled up by my father. On the way, I turned around to see the city of Hiroshima in a sea of flames. I can still recall that spectacle when I close my eyes. When I climbed over the hill and walked to the hill behind my house, I saw many people evacuating who had been burned all over. With their skin peeled off, they didn't look human. Many of them fell down on the roadside groaning painfully, "Water, water." I wasn't able to help them at all and kept walking to the evacuation place with nothing but the clothes I had on and the shoes I wore, which were either given to me or that I had picked up, I can't remember. On the way, I drank water in an almost toppled vacant house and found some tomatoes to eat in a field by the roadside. Once, an army truck came by and we evacuees were given some biscuits which tasted so delicious that I talked about it with my parents for a long time.

We received some information that we could get on an open wagon of a train from some station on the Geibi Line, though I have forgotten the name of the station. We were able to ride the train for one or two stations to our destination, Kumura Station. Fortunately, after the ten-or-so kilometer [6.2-or-so- mile] journey, all three of us could settle down at the evacuation place in the evening, and our long summer day was over. However, this atomic bomb had greatly impacted the lives of my family in many ways afterwards.

At the evacuation place, the landlord's daughter, who had gone out to Hiroshima City that day, never came home. Her family went to search for her the next day and brought her home several days later. She got burned all over (with maggots already appearing) and died soon after. People who had survived this disaster were joyful for being alive, but soon some of them started losing their hair and had violent diarrhea and fever before dying. Survivors suspected the cause of the illnesses must have been the atomic bomb, and they all feared the same fate.

I got a blister from a burn between my right eye and nose. (I suppose it had perhaps been caused by the exposure to radiation, and I got a cataract later at the age of 40 that was probably caused by the exposure.) Though I also suffered from a fever and diarrhea, fortunately I got well after a while.

My father commuted to the University of Hiroshima for his work almost every day from the next day or two. He had been fine since then, but later he died young after an all-out battle with cancer that was caused by not only the direct exposure to the atomic bomb but also by frequent exposure to radiation in the city. He got cancer in 1950 and had several operations before dying at the age of 51 in 1953. In those days, however, the cause and effect between radiation exposure and cancer was yet uncertain.

In the autumn of 1945, due to the severe food and housing situation, my mother and I moved to my father's parents' family farm in Komono-cho, Mie Prefecture, leaving my father in Hiroshima. My father moved his employment to Nagoya University in 1948, and we were able to live together then. But he got sick two years later, and my sickly mother had to do all the work on the farm despite her inexperience. She always had a poor physical condition, and she kept consulting the doctor. Especially, she suffered from her keloid repeatedly festering.

Looking back at the lives of my parents, I simply can' t help regretting the war and radiation exposure. I' m sure my father regretted most his academic career being stopped short. My mother became a young widow but lived a long life with unexpected hardships. (She died in 2008 at the age of 96.) That war and radiation exposure cruelly destroyed my parents' lives without mercy.

Though my family's story is only one example of radiation victims, I wrote this because I think it' s very important for us as the victims to continue talking about these facts for future generations so that the atomic and hydrogen bombs, the most inhumane arms, which left a lot of cruel results and continue to afflict many people even today, will be abolished, and so that such a tragedy will never be repeated again.

(July 1, 2009)
(Previously published text received 2010)