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For Those Who Pray for Peace
Between the Pews of the Chapel
- Kiyoko Mizuno (ｍaiden name, Hiraiwa)
Honorary graduate of 2nd Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin College of Health
Residing in Musashino City, Tokyo
Time flies, and this year it is the 60th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II. This means it was also 60 years ago that I was admitted into Hiroshima Jogakuin College.
How I lost my school registration but was admitted as an honorary graduate
Until a few years ago I didn't even know that I wasn't registered at Hiroshima Jogakuin. I had told many people that I was in the chapel of Jogakuin College before the war when the atomic bomb was dropped. After the bomb, I was immediately troubled by symptoms of atomic bomb disease, and I went to Tokyo in mid-October of that year to seek treatment. At that time it didn't even occur to me that I was supposed to have re-registered at school. My health improved, and my brother and I decided to live together in Tokyo. Jogakuin's school principal, Mr.Takuo Matsumoto, wrote me a letter of recommendation to transfer to Aoyama Women's College, and I began attending school there on the 4th of November.
Later on, I applied for the Atomic Bomb Health Book and was required to have two witnesses and a registration card from the school I was attending at the time of the bombing. That's when I realized that Jogakuin didn't have me on the school roster. They denied my request to issue a school registration card, and at the time I accepted their answer. But as the years went by, I reflected on how, had I not been at Jogakuin on August 6, I would not have been in the bombing. The fact that there was no record of my school attendance began to bother me. I asked Ms. Miwako Takano (54th class of Jogakuin High School) to introduce me to the Tokyo branch of Jogakuin Alumni Association, and the association gladly took me in as a member. That is how I came to join the Summer Cloud Gathering in 2002.
At the gathering my seniors shared their stories about Jogakuin and the bombing. I shared my experiences of the war and how I wasn't on record as a Jogakuin student, regardless of my initial school admittance. Former principal, Mr. Keizo Nishi, who was at the meeting, suggested I try again for a school registration. Encouraged, I contacted the school, and this time they admitted me as an honorary graduate. I would like to thank Principal Tsugikazu Nishigaki and the kind staff in the administration office. Sharing my stories with my classmates, whom I met for the first time at the Summer Cloud Gathering, was a strange experience. There was something dreamlike about speaking of being trapped under the concrete Assembly Hall. The time I spent at the Summer Cloud Gathering will remain in my memory forever.
What is that light?
In my old age, it should be difficult to remember something from 60 years ago, and yet that flash of light will never leave my mind. That day after chapel, I believe the students were just exiting the hall as the piano played in the background. I was still standing between the chapel pews. There was a very strange and strong flash and it looked as though the whole chapel swelled with this light. It was a kind of light that makes you mouth dry. Then the ceiling caved in. I was showered with pellets of concrete and sand. I wanted to escape, fearing being buried alive, but I couldn't move. My mouth was filled with sand and dust. I cupped my hand over my mouth so that if I was buried in sand, I would at least have a handful of air left to breathe. Before I knew it, it had become completely dark and the screams of my classmates stopped. I felt a sort of a calmness of surrender. I wondered if others were feeling the same way.
I'm not sure how long I was there. Suddenly there was a hole that opened up above my head and I saw some light. However, I was unable to get out because a bent metal beam was in the way. Then the wall collapsed and the size and shape of the hole shifted. I carefully looked for a way out. The hole behind the bent metal beam seemed big enough to escape through, but it was high up in the air. Back then I was very athletic for my size, and I felt that I could reach this hole. I was gathering my courage when I heard a voice in my heart: "Don't act alone. Cooperate with others." When I look back on this, I wonder whether this was God speaking to me. I'm alive today only because I cooperated with the few survivors under the rubble to climb out of the hole that none of us could have reached alone.
People's faces were bleeding, and some were about to faint. When I crawled out of the hole, I was shocked to see that the other school building, built from reinforced concrete, had also collapsed. I helped a friend down the slope of the exterior wall and ran into a teacher, Mr.Toru Ingu. I remember saying "What happened?" but he didn't know either. He had also been holding up another injured student. I wondered what to do next.
When I was admitted into Jogakuin back in April, the government had ordered us to keep working at our Mobilization Workstations until the end of July. However, for one week at the beginning of August, we were allowed to attend class on the Jogakuin campus. One day, while school was in session, students were given the instruction to evacuate to Sentei Garden (Shukkeien) in the event of an emergency. I was not at school that day. I had taken the day off to take some belongings to a house in the countryside, where my sister was staying in refuge. This is why I didn't know to go to Sentei Garden and instead ended up alone.
When in a fire, run downwind
That was a tidbit that crossed my mind. The area around Jogakuin was covered with piles of debris and people wandering around. I sensed there would be a fire. In the chaos, I saw a fire start so I ran downwind. I'm not sure what direction that was, but I came to a streetcar line. I realized it was the rail that led to Hakushima, where a childhood friend of mine lived. Telephone poles were bent over and power lines were hanging. I saw the entrance of Teishin Hospital.
There was a small group of people walking by. Their clothes were torn to pieces, their hair stood on end, and the skin on their hands and upper body was peeling off. Some were pulling a cart carrying belongings. They seemed to be headed to the river and I followed them.
I arrived at the riverbank by Tokiwa Bridge. The area was overcrowded with people. There was a man flailing around on the ground in pain. I assumed he was a soldier. His jacket had been burned off and his skin was completely red. There were many begging for water. Someone shouted, "Don't give the burn victims any water, or they'll die!" All vegetable patches and chicken coops in the homes along the river were raided. I thought I was in hell.
Then I heard a noise that sounded like shooting from an airplane. "Everybody get under a tree!" "Students of Jogakuin wearing white should hide!" I heard people yell. "The river is overflowing; the sandbars are being flooded!" That was when I decided to leave. Burn victims who came for water fell into the river. The pile of floating bodies was getting bigger by the minute. I looked downriver and remembered a scene I saw in the past, when I watched a person washing a horse in the peaceful river in that exact spot. How terribly different the scenery looked now! The woods behind Nigitsu Shrine across the river were catching on fire.
I didn't go to Sentei Garden or to the drill yard at Mt.Ushita like the rest of my classmates. I decided that my evacuation site would be the school machine factory in Kawauchi village, where I had been working a week prior to this. I left the riverbank of Tokiwa Bridge.
I chose my evacuation site, after which my memory is vague
I headed for Kawauchi village, which was along the Kabe railroad. A grade school building had collapsed and blocked the road. I suspected it was Hakushima Grade School. That's when my memory started to fade. I believe witnessing so many cruel injuries and deaths was too much for my young mind to handle. For the longest time I had assumed that I traveled up Kyobashi River along the dikes from the Nigiitsu Shrine to get to Kawauchi village. But my memory is vague, and fear has festered whenever I tried to recall what happened.
Years later, I had a chance to speak about those days when Ms. Misako Ogawa (maiden name, Yamashita) needed a witness to apply for The Atomic Bomb Health Book and Insurance. She had just left Seinan College and transferred to Jogakuin the day before the bomb. She found me because she remembered my maiden name, Hiraiwa. Speaking with her cleared up my foggy memory.
Ms. Ogawa was with me at the riverbanks by Tokiwa Bridge. She walked with me as we crossed the Misasa Bridge, passed through Yokogawa and Gion to arrive at the Kenjo High School of Women Worksite in Kawauchi village. Ms. Ogawa was barefoot, and I took one of my shoes off and gave it to her. (My recollection of sharing the shoes matched.) Ms. Ogawa took the Kabe train the following day and made it home to Fukuoka with much difficulty. She filled in the rest of the blanks in my memory. I am grateful to have been reunited with her.
The city was burned down: where did my family go?
After staying in the training hall of Kenjo High School for Women for a few days, I took the Kabe train to Yokogawa Station. Avoiding dead bodies, I crossed the burned field to Koi Grade School. Before the bomb was dropped, it was a Provisions Depot where my sister had been working as part of the Student Mobilization. However, the site was no longer in operation, and not a single person was around. Then I went to my father's lab at Hiroshima University of Literature and Science (currently, Hiroshima University) in Senda-machi. Wire netting from the lab animal cages was tangled everywhere. I saw a typewriter with its keys melted and felt a sense of loneliness. It showed the intensity of the fire that had swallowed the building. The inside of the university building was completely silent. I headed to my house in Takara-machi, approximately 800 meters away.
I was afraid to see what had become of my house. There was a note on the second step at the front door, written in charcoal. It read; "We're going to the residence of Mr. Genjirou Sawano in Ushita." Suddenly, tears that had eluded me up to this point started to flow from my eyes. I felt like staying in front of my house for a little while longer, but it was a long way to Ushita, so I left.
Hearing the news of my mother's death
My father was crushed under our home and became partially paralyzed. After hospitalization and rehabilitation, he regained his ability to walk and returned to work. Since then, I heard he was invited to teach lectures at Hiroshima Jogakuin University. My brother and sisters were safe, but my mother was missing. That day she had left early in the morning to help at a building demolition site. Her body was found when Typhoon Makurazaki washed it up on September 17. We suspect she had died instantly. We identified her body by the clothes that remained on her body and the sandal strap that I had made for her. We think the site of her death was near the 387th block of Takara-machi. My brother, sister, and I cremated her in our front yard on November 3. I had been experiencing bloody stool for a few days after the bombing and could hardly walk for about a month. I went to Tokyo University Hospital to receive treatment for radiation exposure. The doctors told me that my white blood cell count was at 3,000. They believe that it could have been as low as 1,000 a few days after the bomb. Today, 60 years later, I am healthy.
My life today
After graduation I worked until retirement, seven to eight years ago. In the meantime I got married and was blessed with two daughters. Now I spend some of my time volunteering with other seniors. From time to time, I become consumed with the urge to do something to prevent war, so I attend peace rallies and demonstrations. I hope the Japanese citizens will continue to protect peace under our constitution.
… 77 years old