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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Chieko Terashima (female)
'Chokubaku'  0.8 km from the hypocenter / 3 years old at the time / current resident of Shimane
11043

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. (1)
I was a young child (three years old) when I was exposed to the radiation, so I have only a dim memory of it, but I'd like to describe everything I remember.

We had lived in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. Because my father's regiment had been transferred to Hiroshima, we (my mother, elder sister, younger sister and I) also moved to Hiroshima to live there in February 1945. The six months between then and the day of the bombing had been happy times. When our father was leaving home in the morning, my younger sister and I said "Itte rasshai"*1 to him from the top of our futon sleeping mats, which had been folded and piled up high by the window. When father came back home, he would carry my younger sister on his back, and my elder sister and I would chase after them. I loved my father dearly. At night, when I needed to go to the toilet I used to sit down by the side of his pillow and wait for him to take me. These are all the memories I have of my father.

(2)
On the morning of August 6, my father left for his army base. My elder sister, who was then in second grade, left for school. On that day, it was my mother's turn to do volunteer labor*2, so she left the house carrying my younger sister on her back and leading me by the hand. My mother's duty was to just sit in front of a big warehouse on top of some stone steps. Getting bored, I picked up a leaflet that had been dropped from a plane*3 and went to ask my mother to read it. Just as I returned with the leaflet, the A-bomb exploded.

In total darkness, a monstrously huge train flashed past at super, super, super high-speed. At the same time, a super large pitch-black bolt of lightning struck. This is my memory of the A-bomb explosion. This scene sticks in my memory and will never be erased no matter what happens in the future.

(3)
We had been pinned under the debris of the warehouse, but we were rescued relatively quickly since luckily my mother's legs had been sticking out and had attracted someone's eye. The black rain (it looked like hail to me) was falling down outside. We were taken to some place that looked like a large field. A slit-eyed dark-skinned woman with no legs, who had been sitting in front of us, beckoned me nearer. As I approached, she gave me some kanpan*4. While being transported from there to a temple by truck, we passed by the place where our house used to be. Only the bathroom and bathtub remained intact, which struck me as being strange. My father and elder sister had taken shelter in a house in our neighborhood, which escaped the fire. Then the whole family went to my mother's parents' home in Matsue right away. As soon as we arrived there, my father started back to Hiroshima. That was the last time I saw him.

(4)
On August 27, my younger sister passed away while she was picking a burn on the side of her forehead with her finger. I heard that in her last moments she blubbered out to her mother, "Pick me up; pick me up." But my mother, with a fever registering at the highest level on the thermometer, couldn't fulfill her daughter's last wish because of her own burned, inflamed hands, which had become like grilled eggplants. She couldn't recall this without weeping. My father passed away on August 31, but they said the news of his death had been withheld from my mother until September 25, almost a month later, since my mother had not been in good shape. When I think of how she must have felt at that time, it's simply unbearable for me.

I don't have any memories of my father's funeral service. I heard that I was quite pleased to have been dressed in beautiful clothes. As a young child, I felt neither lonely nor sorrowful for the loss of my father. My mother's parents died when she was only six years old, and she subsequently went through many hardships as she was growing up. My mother was happy to have married such a gentle husband. I wish my father could have stayed by her side forever. If it had not been for the A-bomb..., if it had not been for the war..., I wonder... If my younger sister were alive, she would be 60 by now. I am 63; my elder sister is 67. Someday, both my elder sister and I are destined to go to the distant world beyond, where my father, younger sister and mother (who died in 1992) are waiting for us. There, I hope to return to a cheerful, happy life with all the family, again.

(5)
I have visited Hiroshima several times with my mother, my husband and two children on the anniversary of the atomic bombing. I had repeatedly tried to talk my elder sister, who was living in Kyoto, into going with us, but she kept declining, saying "it's too hot." The reason she refused to go was not because it was "too hot" but because it was too painful to remember the past. This fall, my sister and I will visit Misasa Hon-machi, where we used to live, for the first time in 60 years.
(The paragraph below was added later.)
(During that visit we also dropped in at the office for hibakusha*5. A staff member there said, "Two sisters like you are 'living national treasures,' because you are very healthy even though you were exposed to the radiation at a point only 800 meters [about half a mile] away from the hypocenter." We visited Misasa Hon-machi and met two former neighbors as well. Since that trip, my sister and I have visited Hiroshima three times, including a visit to Miyajima, where our family then had gone on a trip for the last time. We are planning to visit there again next spring.)

(6)
Such tragic events like this should never happen to anyone under any circumstances. I earnestly hope that all the people in the world have friendly relations with each other and that peace will prevail all over the world. (Last fall a memorial service was held under the auspices of the Hibakusha Association in Matsue. When I was interviewed by NHK*6, I said that I hoped for peace in a world without nuclear weapons... I strongly, very strongly, appealed for that.)

My mother used to say, "The A-bomb is hell. Once you've seen it, you dread nothing."
(2010)

*1 A common Japanese expression said to someone who is leaving a place where s/he plans to return. It's often translated as "Have a nice day/trip" or "See you later."
*2 During the war, volunteer labor was assigned to all the people in the same district.
*3 An American airplane scattered leaflets before the A-bomb was dropped in Hiroshima.
*4 Hard, dry biscuits.
*5 The Japanese word for A-bomb survivors.
*6 The initials of Nippon Hoso Kyokai, the national public broadcasting organization (Japan Broadcasting Corporation).