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Messages from Hiroshima

Japanese version

Minoru Tsuchiya (male)
'Chokubaku'  / 17 years old at the time / current resident of Hiroshima
1812

The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages. To my late friend Yozo Kashiwabara,
What are you thinking of as you look out upon the new green leaves and the clear streams of your home village?
Much time has passed since the fiftieth anniversary of the atomic bomb when I visited the house where you were born, with our friends, M. and G., and we put our palms together to pay our respects at your grave there on the mountaintop. I have never forgotten you, but I am very sorry that sometimes I have become wrapped up in the tangible and intangible complications of life in this world.

I think it was in Showa 19 (1944), when the war was not going Japan's way, in the season when the barley is ripe for harvest, when we were students mobilized to work on the construction project expanding the runway at the Iwakuni naval airbase, that we took the photograph I still have in my album of you and some others on a rare day off under the [famous, wooden-arch] Kintai Bridge. You are standing tall with your hands on your waist, smiling brightly.
By 1945, military conditions were worsening and even eighteen- and nineteen-year olds were being inducted into the army. You were a year older than the rest of us and so you went before us.
You were assigned to the Army Western Division Second Unit based at Motomachi in Hiroshima and it was there that you were exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb.
Our classmate, S, told me that he met you at Ujina two or three days later in your military uniform so it must have been after that that you were struck with the agony of radiation sickness and became one of those who never came home.

As I recall, it was in April 1942 that we entered Hiroshima Teacher Training College. The year before that was the year of the events that shook the history of Japan: the launching of the giant battleship Yamato and the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by Japanese naval forces.
Since you were from Mitsugi County and I was born in Onomichi City, we both joined a group at the college called "Friends of Mitsugi County." Though we were in the same class, you were a year older and, since you were tall and optimistic in outlook, you became our leader.

Although we had worked hard to get into the college, we only had normal lessons in our first year there. From the time we were promoted to the second year until the atomic bomb was dropped and the war ended, we were sent to work (except when we were doing military drills) at the Hiroshima Army Ordinance Supply Depot or Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot and sometimes in drainage construction for rice fields in farm villages or, as I mentioned earlier, in preparing the ground for airfields at Iwakuni and Yoshijima Army Base. At the end of the war, we worked at the Army Shipping Unit at Ujina (known as the "Akatsuki Unit"), moving oil drums by hand, loading military supplies onto ships, and doing whatever jobs the noncommissioned officers ordered us to. We heard the news that Japan was defeated when we were on the base at Kanawa Island, assisting the victims of the atomic bomb and those who were going into Hiroshima City to help them.
How you must regret that the atomic bomb robbed you of the teaching position you were working so hard for! Of the eighty members of our class, you were the only one to die of direct exposure to the atomic bomb.

You were generous and cheerful and optimistic―what a great teacher (loved and sought out by children) you would have been! If only the atomic bomb had not been dropped on Hiroshima. If only you had not been drafted.

S, who tells of meeting you at Ujina immediately after the atomic bombing, lamented to me that, "If he were still alive, he would be over eighty years old now. What a great teacher he would have become. How he would have contributed to society. Fate has played a joke on us. The one who wished to live a long, good life was the first to die." I too am already 83 years old. The day when we will meet again and be able to catch up is not far off. Please look forward to that day, my dear friend!
(2010)