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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Masako Saito (female)
'Chokubaku'  1.7 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. I'm going to write about the atomic bombing for the first time.
Way back then my house was on the banks of the Ota River in Hiranomachi, in a downstream neighborhood. My father, brother, sister and I had a boat moored there and would often go fishing, crabbing or gathering shellfish. In this way we pleasantly passed our summers. In my elementary school days, a lot of friends would come swimming, boating and diving, and during summer vacations, I used to go swimming about 3 times a day, spending so much time in the water that my swimwear didn't have time to dry.

The war grew more intense, and started to have an effect on progress at my girls' school. Anyway a student mobilization order was in effect, and I had to perform shift work as a lathe operator for Japan Steel Works, that is to say I had to make bullets. That day was a Monday, which was a power saving day, and we got a day off from the factory. My friends and I had gotten our teacher's permission to go to the movies, and we were really looking forward to it. I was making an extra effort to iron my work pants in order to look nice when we went out. I was working in front of the family altar, just in the middle of getting my pants ironed.

The fatal moment came. 8:15 a.m.
There was a flash of pure white light that extended from our garden to the river, and instantly I found myself trapped under the family altar. Returning to consciousness, I pushed a lot of stuff aside with a great clatter and managed to get to my feet. My sister might have been out drawing water from the fire cistern, and so I called out, "Sis! Sister!" Shortly after that I saw her hand waving at me from within the river, which was full of stuff floating on top of it. It was as if she had been walking through the corridor from the kitchen and had gotten blown into the river. On the left side of her body were some cuts made by broken glass. A member of the fire brigade saw us and said, "Evacuate to Ujina!" I found a pair of shoes, and we walked to the hospital over the Miyuki Bridge, with me supporting my big sister. Everyone we encountered on the way was severely injured - a woman cuddling a dead baby; someone with only half a nose; people who had lost their minds - one of whom came running towards us with a knife in his hand - and I found them all genuinely terrifying.

My sister and I arrived at the hospital at last, and it was devastating. So many burned and injured people crowded around the front door of the clinic that we had to give up on any idea of getting medical treatment for my sister, and in the evening we headed back home. Luckily, our house hadn't been burned down, although it was half-collapsed. On the same day my big brother and father came home too, so I was a little bit relieved, but we still hadn't been able to learn the whereabouts of our oldest brother. Every day my father went out pushing a cart, looking for our oldest brother in Tokaichi, where he had lived. I was in a constant state of anxiety that my brother would arrive home on the cart burned to death, but he didn't turn up anywhere. My dad had forbidden me to leave the house, so I stayed home, even though I also worried all the time about what had happened at my school.

A friend and I decided to go and see our school, but it was horrible. People on the verge of death lay along the roadside, wishing for water. "Water! Water!" they pleaded. Many flies were circling around them, and maggots were crawling on them. Some bodies were floating on the river, and we saw two people had died holding each other in the fire cistern. There was no doubt in my mind that this was hell. On our way to school we crossed two rivers and along the riverbanks heaps of bodies were piled up, with some corpses floating in the water. Our teacher was at the school and glad to see us arriving safe. This teacher guided us to an area where junior students had been helping with the demolition of buildings and houses, the area which is now the location of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. They were out there when the bomb was dropped, and they died in the fire cisterns, leaving their unfinished boxed lunches. They were probably in agony from the intense heat. I saw a man under a bridge turning over each body he found there to check and see if it was his daughter who had not returned home.

Over 60 years have passed since then. It was several years later, the summer when I was 15 years old, when we learned that my oldest brother was confirmed to have died in Etajima. This recalled a memory of that time, when we could see from the rental boat shop near my house some troops on the decks of a large naval ship (a vessel for transporting sand). They were steadily stacking large numbers of people who were not yet dead on the ship for transport somewhere. They accumulated a lot of them before they were carried away. I thought they would surely die before they reached Etajima. 60 years have gone by and I'm still alive, for which I should give thanks to my ancestors. And I hope that my friends who were sacrificed have found happiness in the next life. We must not make war. The news of wars from all over the world are being broadcast, but we should make every effort to keep ourselves from being dragged into another war.
I join my hands in prayer. March 11th, 2005