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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Katsuko Kuwamoto (female)
'Chokubaku'  3.5 km from the hypocenter / 6 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Here is the poem I composed in 2003.

August 6
To those who died on that day,
I have something to ask when I meet you in heaven.
How badly did your heat-ray burns hurt?
How badly did you want to moisten your swollen lips with cold water?
To mobilized junior high school students,
How badly did you want to get home where your parents were waiting for you?
To those who were swallowed by the sea after rushing into rivers for water,
How badly did you want your family to know how you were and where you were?
To those who were holding their popped-out eyeballs with both hands,
Did you believe that you could bring back your eyesight if you cherished them?
To the neighbor of mine who was erased, leaving his wife and four children behind,
Did you disappear before you had a moment to worry about your family?
To those who fortunately survived the A-bombing, but had to fight cancers shortening their lives,
How badly did you suffer fears everlasting?

(Six-years old at the time of the A-bombing)
I was born in 1939. When I grew old enough to understand the situation around me, the food supply had fallen so short that ordinary citizens could get very little. I remember I was always hungry. Because of the desperate war situation, my father, in his early thirties and rather old as a recruit, received a draft card.

After my father left home to join the military, my mother, my sister and I lived in Ko-4, Yagenbori, the central part of the city. Air-raid warning sirens came to sound more frequently, so that my eight-year-old sister was evacuated to my father's sister's in the suburbs, Nagatsuka, Gion. I remained at home with my mother. In April, 1945, at the age of six, I entered a national elementary school.

Children went to school every day, but there were very few classes. After a month or so, the city center became too susceptible to air raids and too dangerous for little children to live in and I was also sent to join my sister in my aunt's house. I didn't want to leave my mother, but when I was told that I could have a spoonful of soy beans every day there, I could not resist it.

My new life at my aunt's house started with entering Nagatsuka National Elementary School. But for a six-year-old girl, living with another family was much more stressful than I had expected. I kept telling my classmates that I would go back home to the city soon, even though I knew that I would not. One day my classroom teacher even came to my aunt's house to confirm that I was not leaving, but every weekend my sister and I walked more than 4 km to our home and stayed overnight.

It was Sunday, the day before the A-bombing. It was time for my sister and I to go back to our aunt's house. We were crying loudly saying, "We will never go back to Gion. We would rather die here together." Overhearing us, the neighbors gathered and calmed us down. In the end, we were persuaded and started walking back to Gion, nibbling on peaches in our hands. The next day, the A-bomb was dropped and burned up the entire city, including our house and our neighborhood.

I was in the school classroom with other children when the A-bomb was dropped. Every child squatted down, covering their ears and eyes with their hands as instructed beforehand. At the same moment, all the window glass broke and shattered into pieces. My classmates who happened to be by windows got many glass splinters and their faces were covered with blood. When I rushed out to the school yard, our classroom teacher was holding an injured child and strangely running around in a circle. So we, the first graders, crying, started to aimlessly follow the teacher.

I don't know how long we were like that until my sister came to me and said, "What are you doing here?" At almost the same time our aunt came to the school to get us. She said, "Oh, I am relieved that you two are all right. If anything wrong happened to you, I could never be forgiven by your parents." We went back to her house together.