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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Aiko Uchino (female)
'Chokubaku'  3.5 km from the hypocenter / 14 years old at the time / current resident of Tokyo

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
Shiosai, September Special Edition
Remembrance of Summer
It was 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945! At that time, I was fourteen years old and was playing on the bank of the river that flowed along the side of my family's house. It was a holiday for the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, where I had been mobilized as one of the students of Kwassui Girl's School, which was located on a hilltop in the beautiful port city of Nagasaki.

Suddenly, I heard a roaring sound that shook the earth and saw a strong flash. At the same time, the glass doors of houses blew off all together and a lot of blackened objects poured down from the sky like hail.

Though I didn't know what was what, I took refuge in the air raid shelter at home with my mother.

Before long, yellow clouds of dust rose up around us as far as the eye could see, and the sky was covered with pitch black smoke. I could not sit still in the air raid shelter, and though I was really scared, I held the hand of my mother, who was very dispirited, and pulled her toward the mountain top.

Here and there fires flared, and a sea of flames extended before my eyes. No one was fighting the fires, and my beautiful hometown of Nagasaki continued to burn for as long as one week.

Three days later, I wandered around the hypocenter to look for my father, who was a department head at Mitsubishi Arms Factory at the time. On the way, I saw carbonized corpses and a horse burned black entangled with utility poles. A person, whose whole body was badly burned, clasped both hands together and reached out to me gasping, "Please give me water!" I ran to a nearby well and presented the water saying, "Here, it's cool water!" But before he could drink the water, he had stopped breathing.

The person had just moments before said, "Water…" I was dazed and paralyzed.

At the ruins of the factory, I found a severely burned bag of rice on which my father's name was faintly signed. The bag became the only article left behind by him. I put a handful of soil into the bag and buried it in the graveyard.

We lost my father, the family pillar, that day, but we also lost my mother. Since then, she became mentally unstable. She died the following year on July 15, on a straw mattress in the corner of a barn in the countryside. Together with my eight-year-old younger brother and four-year-old younger sister, I borrowed a dirty bicycle cart and transported my dead mother for cremation.

On August 15, 1945, when the war ended, my elder sister, who had been attending school to study English literature and had been a mobilized student, found me. She had spent one week in a factory tunnel severely injured and was blood stained. She cried, "Ai-chan! You're alive!?" I will never forget that moment when my sister appeared before me and uttered those words.

Symptoms from the exposure to the atomic bomb began appearing in me around autumn.

I was restless day and night due to high fevers of almost 40 degrees Celsius[104°F]. My head was bald because all my hair had fallen out.

Every day I had violent diarrhea and stained the washbowl red from spitting up blood. My stomach swelled up like a pregnant woman, and I was teetering on the edge of life and death. I was so distraught and thought "I would rather die."

One night during my serious illness, I thought, "Oh, I'm going to heaven now…" and could see myself walking slowly in a beautiful, multi-colored flower field.

Then, my father, looking very young and commanding, appeared riding on a white horse and said powerfully to me, "Aiko! You'll be okay. You won't die now. Live again strongly." Encouraged after hearing my father's voice, the pain started to weaken little by little like peeling off thin sheets of paper one by one.

In the evening, complete strangers would come by and place a pumpkin or two potatoes at my bedside, where I lay weakened. In this way, the light of the life of a young girl, whose whole body was damaged, was kept barely burning.

Afterwards, through many transitions in my life, I moved into this home. Fortunately, Koto Ward in Tokyo welcomed me warmly as a city declaring peace. As the only people in the world to have experienced the devastating effects of the atomic bomb, we must never repeat the misery in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "As long as there is life," I will continue to keep the eternal flames of peace, Koto Ward's and Hiroshima's "Peace Flame" combined with Nagasaki's "Flame of Commitment," perpetually burning, praying for eternal world peace. I would like to communicate this message into the 21st century and use my life like a match to keep the eternal flames burning brightly so that the value of peace and the horror of war will be illuminated! That is my heartfelt desire.
(Previously published text received 2010)