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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Akito Kubota (male)
'Chokubaku'  3.2 km from the hypocenter / 16 years old at the time / current resident of Kumamoto

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
I have been writing a series entitled "Memories of the Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki" for the retirees' newsletter from my workplace and also providing articles with similar contents to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. You might say I was fortunate to have been 3.2 kilometers away from the hypocenter and to have thus managed to survive the exposure, but I feel such regret for all those many who were sacrificed at the hypocenter.

It has been sixty years since the air raid on Tokyo on March 10, 1945. It is unfortunate that if hostilities had been ceased on that day, then the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have happened.

Whenever I hear about refugees of civil wars in Africa in the news, I am convinced that the efforts of each individual are necessary to maintain world peace without wars.

Memories of the Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki

It is summer again, the season when Peace Ceremonies are held in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Those who were born during the first decade of the Showa era (between 1926 and 1934), and who pent their youth during wartime had to experience so many things both in Japan and in its overseas territories. I also experienced something that I will never forget in my entire life.

After finishing the second year of the upper division of the National School 1 in 1943, I worked at a city farm cooperative. In March 1944, I was mobilized under the National Mobilization Law and was sent to work at the Mitsubishi Shipyards in Nagasaki. This is about my memories of those days.

At the shipyards, we received a week of training before being assigned to our actual workplaces. The training was about how to use a hammer, a chisel, and a file to work with steel pieces fixed to a vise, according to specific directions.

Later, I was assigned to the merchant vessel division of the #2 fitting-out yard. The work was similar to building houses.

Everything used in the shipyard was made of steel. We installed boilers in the engine rooms and fitted out the cabins of 100m-long, 10,000 ton tankers. Our work consisted of cutting and welding angle irons with gas and electric welding equipment. Inside the vessel, the noise of hammering steel plates and caulking rivets was so loud that it was impossible to have a conversation and we were given instructions in gestures.

Although I was injured several times on the job, was struck on the head by rivets and nuts falling from the scaffolds and had my eyes damaged by the arc of the electric welder, I never took a day off.

There were some young workers drafted from Korea in the same workshop, and they were very helpful when moving heavy materials. There were also some Caucasian prisoners of war with blue eyes in other workshops. Morning and evening, I saw them marching between their POW camp and work place in their work uniforms. They left an impression on me with their shaved heads, large builds, big noses, and long legs with big boots.

Our dormitory, the Ogura Dormitory, was located in Arato, three kilometers away from the opposite side of the bay from the shipyard. We commuted to work on a boat owned by the company. As it was wartime, the meals in the dormitory consisted of rice cooked with soybeans and a mixture of seaweed and kasu, the residue from the process of making soybean oil. Such food was bad for the digestion and led to ceaseless, annoying diarrhea.

As we were still growing, we could not stand having empty stomachs and, on our way back from work, we would wait in line to eat tokoroten, the agar jelly made from seaweed which was the only thing available in those days. The one good memory I have from those days is of when a farmer near the dormitory allowed us to stuff ourselves with the Nagasaki loquats that were in season.

In the dormitory, there were lots of lice and fleas. The lice laid their eggs along the seams of our clothes and no matter how hard we tried to kill them, they kept on appearing. No insecticide was effective against them. The itchiness was unbearable.

During the winter, the water from the tap was freezing cold and washing our work clothes was especially miserable. Once a week, we stopped work at noon and did military exercises in the afternoon at a youth training school near our dormitory, wearing gaiters around our calves to give the appearance of boots. Towards the end of the war, there were air attacks almost every day. Whenever there were alerts or air raid warnings at night, we escaped into the mountains near the dormitory. With the continuous air raids, operations at the shipyard became difficult, and the propellers were removed from a completed aircraft carrier and it was towed behind some islands. Motorboats made of plywood for suicide attacks were frequently seen doing test runs at the beach. One by one, my coworkers were conscripted or volunteered.