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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Taeko Okamura (female)
'Chokubaku'  1 km from the hypocenter / 19 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. I was late for work at the factory that morning. On my way to work I had to stop in at my neighbors' house to ask them to look after my younger brother and sister. Without even punching my timecard I left my handbag in the office and went to the warehouse. My first task was to count the number of goods produced the previous day. While counting in the quiet warehouse I heard the sound of B-29s overhead. I rushed to the factory floor and cried out, "There are B-29s!" but they all said that the air-raid sirens had been a false alarm so kept working. I kept shouting out "Danger" as I ran out.

I ran to a large stadium-like field attached to the factory and hid in the rest area under a roof made from reeds. Using my hand to shade my eyes I looked up and saw a flash of light. I laid myself flat out on the ground as I had previously been taught in Tokyo. I felt a sensation like a wave rush over me and then I heard a loud noise; I didn't flail around but remained perfectly still as my instructors had told me. I looked up, but there was only total darkness. I thought I had been buried alive. "This is it," I thought, but I remained quiet. Eventually I felt the haze had lifted and I began to see things again. I realized that I had been spared but I worried about my younger brother and sister.

Most of the psychiatrists who prescribed tranquilizers for me have died and I feel determined to die. I have had three falls and fractured by my lower back. My hands, fingers and legs are bothering me and I have bad eyes. I've had surgery for breast cancer. I can't think clearly and all these problems are troubling me. I also have difficulty sleeping and writing.

Atomic Memories
Lyrics and Music by Okamura Taeko

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
A man half-buried alive with only his head sticking out
Calling out for help with all his might
I tried in vain to save him.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Walking across rooftops in lace-up shoes
I heard a voice from below,
So I removed tiles from the roof and saved him.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
In the factory a man screamed for help,
His ankle trapped in the debris.
I tried to lift the fallen timber in vain.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I scooped up water with a rice bin
And took it up to the roof to try to save the victims
But it was all in vain.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
All I could do to help
Was to carry bloodstained futons
While worrying about my brother and sister.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
In the pitch darkness, a fire was burning.
Large numbers of people were floating in the river.
Upon approaching, I could hear their dying breaths.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Black rain stained my clothes
Then clear rain washed them clean.
Clutching my belongings I crossed Tenma Bridge.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Even innocent girls were taken to the battlefield.
Although the atomic bomb stripped them of their skin
Some girls still survived.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
At the Geibi Bank
A man cried out for help
Gripping onto the skylight with his fingers.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
The doors to the building wouldn't open.
I couldn't see the fire
So I offered words of comfort to those trapped inside.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Flames mingled with black smoke.
I tried to smother the fire with a wet futon But it spread out of control.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I came across the injured headman of my district.
His wife pulled him along in a two-wheeled cart.
They shouted "Flee to Furuichi right now!"

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
On the far side of the river
People were laid side-by-side as if sleeping.
I didn't know if they were alive or dead.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I passed a tomato field on my right.
Struggling along, I reached a temple where I met Kiku-chan
The daughter of the tofu shop owner.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
In the temple, futons were spread out in the priests' living quarters.
He asked us to sit down
So Kiku-chan and I sat.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Upon waking the next morning
I found soldier boys laid out in the temple garden.
Every mouth begging for water.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
Upon approaching I found their eyes were swollen.
They looked pitiful, crawling with maggots.
I lay down on the sandy ground in tears.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I trudged alone from Itsukaichi Station
With my futon flung over my shoulders
Heading for my mother's family home.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
My mother and grandmother said, "Is that you Taeko?"
I learn that two of my brothers and sisters were dead.
The three of us cried a flood of tears.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I asked about my father's and brother's dogs.
Then I realized
My father's back was badly burned.

Oh the pain! the heartbreak!
I learned the dogs had been taken by train
By the young soldiers of the Akatsuki Corps from Ujina.
I was glad to hear of the dogs' survival.