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Messages from Nagasaki

Hiroshi Nishioka (male)
'Chokubaku'  3 km from the hypocenter / 13 years old at the time / current resident of Kanagawa

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
We arrived at Keiho Middle School. The wooden school building had not been burnt, but it had completely fallen to the ground, and we could see about ten dead students between layers of roof and lumber. We went in as far as we could to record the nametags on their chests. In the midsummer sun we saw surviving teachers laying down the dead bodies of five or six teachers in the schoolyard. Assistant Principal Kanno asked, "What is his name?" "Aimonoya" came the answer. It was such a rare name that I still remember it. For some reason the dead bodies were bloated, and there were already flies swarming on their eyes.

I was told to return to school and report what we saw, so I put the useless shovel on my shoulder and headed toward Narutaki School.

Now that I was by myself, I had the presence of mind to look around. People who had fallen and were lying on the roadside had stretched their hands out toward the canteen I was carrying as they cried out, "Water!" "Water!" How could I? What would happen if I gave them my water? I would be left with no water to drink. Overcome by fear about what would happen if another bomb dropped, I pushed away one hand after another and walked on.

Does war deprive us of human emotions? Later I heard several people say that wounded people lying on the ground died after they drank the water they were given. If I had acted similarly, I might have been quietly proud of my act later. Having failed to act in such a way, might I live the rest of my life filled with a mixture of regret and self-hatred, as though being unable to dislodge a small fish bone stuck in my throat? Was I the same person who had behaved so proudly towards my friends Honda and Watanabe?

(I do not remember at all who the several schoolmates were that joined me on the rescue mission under the direction of Assistant Principal Kanno. If anyone reading this recollection of mine was among the group, I would like to urge him to come forward. I would very much like to talk about those days.)

In the summer of 1996, I was asked by Nihon Hidankyo to go to the United States and speak about my experience as an A-bomb survivor. I visited more than ten cities in the middle part of the United States, starting in Memphis, Tennessee. Local peace groups made accommodation arrangements for me to stay at volunteers' homes, in the so-called homestay format.
The last place I visited was Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the famous University of Michigan. The university campus covers a large area comparable to Chiyoda-ku and Chuo-ku of Tokyo combined, unthinkable in Japan. Professor David Bassett was my homestay host there.
Both Professor and Mrs. Bassett are devout Quakers. He had a quiet demeanor, but he was a man of discipline; he had been arrested by the authorities when he submitted his tax to the court as a protest against the use of tax for war.
During our dinner conversation Professor Bassett said, "I have an old acquaintance in Japan who is a professor. He has also been active in the antiwar movement. His name is Professor Ishitani." I thought he might be talking about my friend. As we discussed further, it turned out that indeed it was my friend Susumu Ishitani.

What a coincidence, to recall someone from Nagasaki Middle School there! I was both surprised and inspired. I phoned Ishitani as soon as I returned to Japan. He too was very surprised. Some time ago he gave me his translation of Barefoot Gen. We had talked about getting together for a chat since we hadn't seen each other for a long time even though we both lived in Kanagawa Prefecture. We never did find time to get together before his wife informed me of his death.
I would like to dedicate this writing to Ishitani in his memory. (I press my hands to pray for the repose of his soul.)