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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Kazuo Kase (male)
'Chokubaku'  2.1 km from the hypocenter / 12 years old at the time / current resident of Nara

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. Hiroshima: A Record made after Sixty-Four Years

I. The Most Unforgettable Memory

At a quarter past eight in the morning, August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb dropped above the city of Hiroshima. The following is the account of my family's whereabouts at that time.
Until January of 1945, my family had been in Sendagi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Since the spring of 1944, I alone had been evacuated to the countryside, a place called Fujieda in Shizuoka Prefecture, together with my classmates of the Sendagi National Elementary School. Then, in 1945, as the air raids intensified in Tokyo, my father's company also decided to evacuate to the countryside. The candidate cities for its evacuation included Fukuyama, Onomichi and Hiroshima; the company finally chose to move to Hiroshima because my father's business partner was from there. In March, I left my students' evacuation site and moved to Hiroshima with my family. We first lived in the town of Kako and then moved to Minami town in early May.

On the day of August 6, my family experienced the bombing in different places. My father was in his office, my mother and younger brother were at home. He was in the third grade of the National Elementary School, and it was a day off from school. My elder sister had been out since early in the morning for the student mobilization at Zakoba, participating in a cleanup work after the building evacuation (i.e., removal of buildings for fire prevention). The air raid alert, issued in the morning, had been called off and I went to school, following the previous instruction from the school. I was spending the little while before work beside the school building, with light clothing, chatting with my friends. Then, there was a distant roar of an airplane.
"Hey! It's a B-29!" shouted someone, and everyone looked up at the sky. Exactly at that instant, an extremely strong flash of light surrounded us. Spontaneously, we ran from the side wall and rushed into the school building. While dashing down the hallway toward the classroom, the ceiling started to fall down above our heads. With a thunderous rumble, we became buried under the collapsed building. Fortunately enough, I was able to see outside through a dented window just in front of me, and probably able to be seen from outside, so that three soldiers, who had been stationed at the school, could stumble across me. The three soldiers removed the pillar that had been pressing down on my ankle and they dragged me out.
I realized the skin of my limbs had peeled and drooped down; the right side of my head was swollen and flabby, with blood trickling down. These injuries felt strange to me, but I felt no strong pain. I decided to head home. However, it only ended in my finding the house completely squashed and deserted. In a state of numbness, following the instruction of the local community association director, I plodded to the Military Clothing Factory.
At the factory, there was only one doctor. He was busy taking care of the wounded people coming in one after another, spreading something like oil on their burns. He rubbed the oil on the peeled skin on my head, face and limbs. Then, I walked among the people lying here and there and lay down on the floor at once.
My memory is relatively clear until this point. Thereafter, I find it difficult to reproduce the chronological order of events.
I dimly remember someone had informed me that drinking beverages would do harm right after a bombing injury, but I was driven by an unbearable thirst to suck a wet towel. Consequently, I vomited a large amount of dark, red blood. I had blood poisoning at that moment, as I learned later, barely escaping death with the help of an injection, which the doctor had in his first aid kit. Subsequently, they transferred me to a hospital at Kaigoshi of Kurahashi Island in Hiroshima Prefecture, for better recovery. In turn, only a few days later, symptoms of tetanus attacked me. This was due to the infection of germs from the burned skin. As my burn was quite widespread, it was impossible to identify the site of infection. Therefore, an injection of antitoxin serum was the only measure to get over it. Luckily enough, the last vial of the serum was left in the clinic. Although two vials were usually needed, I was given that one vial; they apparently took a gamble on it.
The long-lasting, severe fever was clouding my conscious during that time. Hence, of course, the above sequence of events is summarized based on what I learned from my mother and other people and what I could remember in fragments. Such a critical condition lasted for a while. However, I managed to get through it. I spent days after the New Year's holiday treating my burns and recovering my strength, for I was just skin and bones about that time. My legs had been too weak to walk on, but they recovered by February so that I could attend a nearby school.
In March, 1946, I left the Island and moved to Arashiyama, Kyoto, relying on my mother's brother. Saga Elementary School permitted me to start my second sixth grade there. Regarding my physical condition, aplastic anemia struck me as a result of radiation. In addition, the burn injury in my knee became chronic so that I could do without bandages only after graduating from middle school. Following the doctor's instruction to focus on gaining physical strength rather than studying, I joined the track club through high school and university. My physical condition indeed improved, albeit gradually. High blood pressure, however, remains until now.

My parents did not have severe injuries. However, my father, who spent a whole week at the hypocenter searching for his lost daughter, later suffered from cardiovascular diseases, seemingly caused by residual radioactivity. My mother also had long-lasting cardiovascular diseases and passed away at 62, leaving her husband behind. He survived longer but finally passed away at 77, having an unfavorable health condition until his death.
My sister was in the second year at Yamanaka Girls' High School affiliated with the Hiroshima Women's Higher School of Education. She was called out for the student mobilization, to remove remains of a building demolition near Zakoba (present Kokutaiji Town). Because she was still there at the time of the bombing, she may have been killed on the spot.
My brother was nine years old, in the third grade at National Elementary School. He did not have school on the day, and was at home with mother. Something might have hit him on his head and caused a laceration on his forehead. The injury did not seem severe at that time, but about a decade later, it drove him to mental illness, which lasted until he died at 49.

For several decades after the end of the war, I concealed the fact that I was an atomic bomb survivor. This is because, in the postwar period, atomic bomb survivors were regarded as something peculiar, like a patient with an infectious disease. At that time, almost nothing was known about the effects of radiation. Every atomic bomb survivor was forced to feel like he was holding a time bomb. It is therefore not quite unreasonable that the public looked upon the survivors as dangerous things, which might well infect others. Indeed, it is clear now that radiation induces various after-effects such as cancer, leukemia and microcephaly. It was a sad thing that I myself experienced such discrimination in job seeking and marriage.
I understand that the air-raid damages of Tokyo, Osaka and any other cities were equally catastrophic. However, there is something special about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in that the damage could cause various delayed diseases in the survivors, especially as it may have an unimaginable effect on their genes.
Like other atomic bomb survivors, I have been especially nervous about being viewed as abnormal or being discriminated against. Sometimes, ordinary people may wonder why I am bothering about a trivial thing. This situation has been preventing me from recalling the memory of the bombing, let alone talking about the experience. Now more than fifty years after the war, however, I believe people have a deeper understanding. Moreover, I am also convinced that we survivors are obliged to hand down our tragic experience to the next generation so that nobody will put a bomb like that in use again. Such a thing must not be used again on the planet.