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Messages from Nagasaki

Japanese version

Chieko Saito (female)
'Nyushi hibaku'  / 16 years old at the time / current resident of Nagasaki

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.
I am an A-bomb survivor, and entered the city after the bomb had been dropped. On August 15, our summer vacation had started, and I had taken a train home to my parents' house from my dormitory in Omura.

As the tracks were damaged from Michi-no-O station onward, all passengers got off the train and trouped in a long line in the direction of Nagasaki station. On entering the old town, the first thing we saw was the big gas tank, the symbol of how the people of Nagasaki lived together, that had collapsed and was leaning to one side. I was shocked to see that it was partly buried in the ground.

The black, shiny roads, paved with asphalt, the pride of the city, were covered in ash and a thick, sticky film of rubber. Across the whole city, a thick layer of black dust completely covered the surface of the roads. The houses in the vicinity had been either completely destroyed or heavily damaged. I was struck dumb when I saw that a gateway at the entrance to a shinto shrine was only supported on one pillar. From the Nagasaki station area, I turned left, walked along the Nakamachi Tensyudo street and arrived at our small house at 63 Higashi Uwamachi.

There I saw my father standing alone amongst the ruins of the house, the the sunlight was streaming in through the roof. When I said "I'm home!", he cried out "Chieko?".

He said "You were lucky you were in Omura. Mommy and Nui ,together with Toyo and Teruko, have taken refuge in Aiko's hometown of Osedo. You should also take a boat to Osedo."

(Because rumors were flying around the city, saying that "The Americans are coming, and all the men will be forced into labour, and they're going to kill the women and children", families had fled after the atomic bomb, relying on relatives or acquaintances living in the country.)

When I asked "Where are aunt Tomiko and little Keiko, who moved to Iwayamachi?", my father answered, shaking his head, "I don't know. I've been looking for them for four days now. I haven't got a clue." He had scratches from broken glass on his neck, hands and feet.

My father made a simple evening meal, which we ate together. The next morning we set out together for Urakami to look for my aunt and cousin. We walked all day long and were both very tired. "From now on, Takahiro and I will search for them", he said on the third day. He bought a ticket for me at Ohato and made me board a ship. The ship was rolling so much, and I was so horribly seasick, that each time the ship docked at the next port, I thought I would have to get off.

As soon as I arrived at the house in Osedo, I had a fever and diarrhea, which confined me to bed for more than ten days. I lived through the summer eating rice porridge and plum pickles, running to the toilet, and losing a lot of weight. This caused my mother much worry. At the time, I was 16 years old.

I ran into a classmate from elementary school, who happened to pass by my house. She had been mobilized at the arms factory and been exposed to radiation. She stopped and said "Chieko! You're still here! It's been such a long time!" Then she said "Look at me. Look how my hair is falling out!" Then she stuck her fingers into her long, braided hair and pulled out handfuls of hair.

I haven't seen this friend in the 60 years since that time. I've seen the names of several of my classmates on the list of those who were killed by the atomic bomb. I've shed many tears of sorrow because we had to part.

One month after the end of the war, we heard from uncle Takahiro that little Keiko's skeleton had been found behind their house in Iwayamachi, just in front of the air raid shelter. She was just four years old, and very, very cute.

Aunt Tomiko, who worked at the arms factory, survived the atomic bomb, and aunt Aiko rushed to see her in the Omura navy hospital. Maggots were crawling around in her gaping wounds. She was dying and didn't have a thread of clothing on her body. The next time aunt Aiko visited her, bringing underwear and a cotton kimono, aunt Tomiko asked in a weak voice "How is Keiko? Please, take care of Keiko." And then she died. I was very sad when I heard that aunt Tomiko had died.

I believe my family members, friends, acquaintances, and all the many, many other people who died in the atomic bomb have sacrificed their lives for Japan.

Compared to us, blessed with economic prosperity and a life of luxury 60 years after the end of the war, what grief the people who were killed by the atomic bomb must have suffered. I pray with all my heart that they may rest in peace. Whatever hard times Japan may face in the future, we should be determined never to go to war again. I think it's essential that we keep building up our country.

As I'm getting older, my eyesight is getting worse and I am forgetting things. I am forgetting my Japanese characters, and my sentences are not as beautiful as I would like; I am sorry about that.

I wrote this in my hospital bed.