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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Hiroko Matsuguma (female)
'Chokubaku'  3 km from the hypocenter / 9 years old at the time / current resident of Fukuoka

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
My sister was twenty when she was exposed to radiation while weeding the rice field of the elementary school where she worked as a teacher. According to one of her colleagues, who told us about it, she was not seriously injured and took care of the others. However, eight days later I saw her at our father's funeral, covered all over with burn blisters and pus.

At some point she started using a medicine called "Hakko." It looked just like water, but it was an iron preparation that would turn rust-colored if you left it for some time. She would use this to wash off the pus, make poultices and even drink it. My sister had an amazing will to live.

After our father died, she would say "I must get well soon so I can work!", or "I'm not going to let that new-fangled American bomb kill me. I'll get well for sure and show them!" She certainly had the appetite to get better: though she was on a liquid diet, if one of the family should hesitate to bring the spoon to her mouth she would blow up with anger. With the effort of shouting, my sister's flesh fell away and blood came from the exposed veins.

This went on for a week, and though my sister gave the impression of gradually getting better, she began to talk in delirium. If you spoke to her she would answer, but she would greet one by one all the people she had met so far, apologizing to them. Sometimes she would say, "Ah, my father's over there. It's OK, I'll swim over to him." We thought she was talking about the Sanzu River that people cross when they die, so would call her name over and over till she answered. In fact, even in her weak state she went on talking like this for two days and nights, during which time we remained rooted to her bedside. It got very late, and my mother told me to get some rest, so I lay down for a moment, but slept till morning.

When I woke up the next morning my sister was wearing a new kimono and had been made up for the first time in her life; thanks to the medicine, her face had managed to keep something resembling skin. I heard she had passed away the previous night singing the school railway song. She had been able to take her leave of all her acquaintances so her face was peaceful. The teacher who told me about her also passed away a month later, I was told.

Japan has a constitution to be proud of, which renounces war. We must never allow this country to be one that could go to war.