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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Hiroko Ogi (female)
'Chokubaku'  2.2 km from the hypocenter / 0 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 will sing Hiroshima, my hometown." This is the subtitle I used for my dinner show. I was born in Hiroshima on February 14, 1945. It was the year marking the end of World War II. When the A-bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and caused Japan to surrender, I was just a baby, a little over five-months-old. I was exposed to the A-bomb in Danbara Naka-machi, 2.2km from the hypocenter. Naturally, I do not remember anything about it. I didn't know I was an A-bomb survivor until my mother told me when I was in the second year of the Middle School.

My mother told me that the weather was fine on that day. She removed window panes and dried the futon in the sunshine and started to do the family washing. Then, the next-door neighbor came up and asked my mother,
"Would you mind joining the bamboo-spear training in my place?" Since most people do not understand the bamboo-spear training, I will explain. It was the training even for women to fight against American soldiers in case they landed on Japanese soil. The weapon for women was bamboo with its tips sharpened like a blade, instead of real spears. This training started in the year before the end of the war.

My mother stopped her washing and she was talking to the neighbor while breast-feeding me. As she opened my mother's front door to leave, she asked my mother, "What is the time?" My mother looked at the clock and answered, "It's almost 8:15." Then, precisely at that time, the siren to call off an air-raid warning started blowing. After hearing all-clear, the neighbor was relieved and walked out of the front door.
My mother tried to put me to sleep again. Exactly at that moment, a dazzling white light flashed and then the color changed to yellow and finally total blackness descended. My mother told me that she does not remember at all how many minutes or seconds the flash continued.

After a while, she came to and found that everything in the house was destroyed, with a pile of crumbled wall mud covering the entire Japanese tatami floor. By reflex action, my mother had protected me by leaning over me. Then, when my mother found that I did not cry and made no response, she lifted me lying face down to find that my eyes, nose, mouth and ears were all stuffed with wall mud. Fortunately, my mother had a personal experience as a nurse. As soon as she finished frantically digging the wall mud out of my face, she told me that I suddenly began to cry. Without my mother digging out wall mud at that time, a singer Hiroko Ougi would not exist today in this world.

Later, when I talked about this story to a woman, also an A-bomb survivor, the same age as my mother, she began to cry loudly before my eyes because she had experienced a situation similar to what my mother did. She told me that she thought that her baby was dead because she didn't hear her baby cry and she walked away from the scene leaving her baby there. This woman was crying because she thought that her baby might have been saved if she had been more thoughtful about the condition of her baby at that time. She continued to cry openly for quite some time.

Perhaps my mother was fearful that the house would collapse; she got flustered and crawled out of the house, holding me in her arms. She found that the next-door woman was lying dead in front of the door. The horrible image of her dead face cannot be described. My mother thought that the body was most probably the neighbor woman, but she told me that she could not find words to speak to the woman lying there.

She told me that we had a narrow escape because the futon hung to dry in the sunshine just happened to face toward the hypocenter.

When she settled down after the end of the war, she began to compose tanka (another form of Japanese poetry). I want to introduce her tanka poems from her tanka collection titled "Hanaougi" (literally, a folding fan with floral designs).

"What is the time?"
The next-door neighbor asked.
I remember the exact time
As her voice evaporated in atomic explosion.

However hard I may try to forget,
I will never forget
The day of the atomic bombing
When the bell tolls to mourn
Those who breathed their last

Outside of the house, my mother, still holding me, wandered aimlessly. My mother told me that what she saw was exactly the scene from hell. Pillars of fire were swirling up all over the place. Sounds of the flames were roaring and electric street cars were turned black. At the above-ground cisterns in front of each house, many people who came there for water were dead. People with their skin inflamed, peeling off and swollen with raw flesh, were wandering around with tottering steps. In the river, the lines of corpses flowed just like a floating raft.