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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Yutaka Kai (male)
'Chokubaku'  1 km from the hypocenter / 20 years old at the time / current resident of Kagoshima

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
I was exposed to the A-bomb at the Mitsubishi Arms Manufacturing facility in Nagasaki City when I was 20 years old. I am 84 years old now and my days are numbered. I was thinking about sending my memoir, which I had previously contributed to the Takanomachi town history book, to the Japan Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organization when I learned of your project, so I am pleased to send you this account of my A-bomb experience.

It was not Pika-don
  ―A Firsthand Account of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki
I saw the plane above me when it was just about to drop the bomb―

Day 1

I still have a vivid memory of seeing with my own eyes the B-29 in the sky that dropped the A-bomb on the city of Nagasaki. I wonder how many of us who saw that plane are still alive. There must have been many who saw it, but I assume most died from direct exposure to the blast and heat rays while they watched the plane with fascination. Nearly fifty years have passed since then, and I find myself increasingly subject to these recollections. I used to be unable to bring myself to write about the experience in detail, probably due to the typical reluctance of a survivor to communicate his traumatic experience to the outside world. Nevertheless, I am now determined to recall what I saw 48 years ago and make a record of it.

It was five seconds before the explosion of the A-bomb --11:02 am on the 9th of August, 1945, one of those burning hot midsummer days. A siren had rung to signal the lifting of an earlier air raid alert. The young women of the Women's Volunteer Corps had just run the two kilometers or so from the Sumiyoshi Factory, built into the tunnel, to which they had evacuated earlier, back to the Mitsubishi Arms Factory where they were about to resume their work.
I was inside the factory building, and as I passed by the back door a few girls in charge of preparing lunch, who were just outside the door, called, "Look, there's a plane flying over!" So I stepped out of the building and looked up. Indeed, I saw a big plane just above us, flying gracefully, its silver wings glittering. I guess it was at an altitude of 600 meters or so. The plane was gliding fairly noiselessly in the sunny, hot summer sky, and it looked so fine that I remember I even felt a slight sense of envy. It was a very quiet moment. The air raid alert had been lifted and the siren had stopped, and we did not hear any of the anti-aircraft artillery that had exploded like fireworks during the night air raid two months earlier.
Back then, I was an assistant engineer, and was responsible for managing and supervising other workers. I was busy and did not have time to simply watch the aircraft or to stay chatting there. Thus, I said to them "Well, it must be on our side," and walked back into the factory building. I had taken five or six steps towards the factory building and another seven or eight steps inside, and was just about to go up the stairs to the guardroom, when it happened.
Everything before me turned red. For a second the entire world looked whitish red and I also felt heat, so I figured a bomb had exploded just in front of me. People are usually stunned by the light of a flashbulb in a photo shoot, but what I experienced then was thousands of times greater than the shock of a camera's flash. It felt as if I had been thrown into the blast furnace of an iron foundry. The next moment, when I regained consciousness, I found I had fallen face down on the concrete floor. Although fragments of wood and a board had fallen on top of me, I was able to stand up by myself.

Fortunately, I was in a sheltered area where the concrete walls of the storage room and the staircases created a corner. Because the corner protected me from direct exposure to the blast and heat rays, I wasn't blown about much nor did I get any burns. The jig tool factory of the Mitsubishi Arms Manufacturing site in Nagasaki City (the current Nagasaki University), which is where I was exposed to the A-bomb, manufactured 80% of our national production of aerial torpedoes. From the front gate it was the closest of all the buildings at the manufacturing site to ground zero and approximately one kilometer away the epicenter. Most people who experienced the A-bomb use the word "pika-don" to describe the moment of the bomb explosion. However, the way I remember it is that the flash of light and the sound of the explosion happened simultaneously. Actually, I hardly remember any sound.