The text area starts here.

  • Before reading this site


For Those Who Pray for Peace
700 Meters from the Epicenter

Sumiko Ogata (maiden name, Miyoshi)
56th Graduating Class of Hiroshima Jogakuin High School before the war Residing in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima prefecture

 My family lived in Eno-machi of Hiroshima but moved reluctantly to Tokaichi-cho (closer to the epicenter) when we were forced to give up our house so it could be dismantled . On August 6, my aunt, two brothers (5 and 3 years old), and I were at home. My mother had left on August 5 to go see my brother (5th grade) who was away for the Pupil Evacuations. My father had left his five family members when he received the Red Paper (draft call) in August 1941 to fight in the Japan-China War.

 At that time I was in the second year of high school. I was staying home that day, not feeling well due to lack of sleep: the air raid warnings kept going all night. The moment I came out of the bathroom that morning, there was a sudden roar. I was trapped under the house, and I fainted. I regained consciousness when I heard my aunt calling me from somewhere above. I answered in desperation. My aunt was peeling the shingles off the roof, one by one, from where she could hear my voice. I fought tooth and nail to get out to the voice calling me above. By the time I was free, we were surrounded in a sea of fire. I couldn't even scream from the fright. My aunt dug out my bothers from under the rubble and we fled, the 3-year-old on my back and the 5-year-old on hers.

 We used the building of the Western Telephone Company as a target to run to, but the streets were completely covered in debris. We weaved through people crawling out from under the destroyed homes, groaning and unable to move from their injuries. We dashed like mad and came to Hirose Bridge. The rails were already on fire and the bridge was about to collapse. We kept walking due west. The river was full of people who jumped in to escape the heat. I'm not sure how many hours we had been walking. I ran out of strength and sat down when we came by the next river. I reached to my back and noticed my brother was still clinging on with all his strength. I was overwhelmed with joy and hugged him tightly. Tears flowed from my eyes. Then I started vomiting and experienced uncontrollable diarrhea, and was unable to leave the river.

 Suddenly the sky was covered in clouds, and black rain showered us. As I got soaked, I watched in a state of bemusement as my brother and others were dyed black. Then, snapping out of my daze, I looked at myself and realized that the bottoms of my bare feet were tingling in pain from burns. My clothes were tattered like everyone else wearing rags. Red and swollen dead bodies lay about.

 We moved towards the railroad and climbed up to the tracks and saw the city completely engulfed in flames. We spent the night together and the next morning received a rice ball from the relief workers. I will never forget how delicious this rice ball was. We camped out for a whole week.

 Maggots ate away at dead bodies, and the burn victims with skin dangling from their bodies wandered around saying, "Where is the first aid station? Would you please give me some water?" The number of casualties increased by the day and an awful stench hung in the air. The scene from hell burned an image in my eyes.

 We decided to stay with our relatives in the countryside (Gono village of Takata-gun, Hiroshima Prefecture). Fortunately, we didn't suffer too many injuries because we were inside of the house at the time the bomb was dropped. About 20 days later, all four of us took to bed with a high fever. My aunt's internal organs bled and she continued to discharge bloody stool. She suffered until the end of her life of 32 years. I was unconscious with a high fever for several weeks, so I didn't know my aunt passed away while she slept next to me. The one thing I remember from that time was how she spoke to me in a rare waking moment: "Judging by the way of things, we're probably not going to survive. Let's meet in the next world. Don't be afraid of dying." In those days our minds were engraved with the idea that dying during the war by "being a shield for The holy emperor" was an honor. And yet the death of my aunt was such a pity and brought me remorse.

 My hair started to fall out and my body was covered with purple spots. My skin began to swell up and pus seeped out. I spent six months lying on the floor before I could receive treatment. My wounds were finally treated but have left keloid scars today. My brothers also lost their hair, but they gradually began recovering as fall came around.

 For 57 years I could not bring myself to think of that time, much less speak about it to others. It was not until recently that, at the urging of my distant relatives and friends from the Ladies' Club, I realized the importance of sharing my stories as a living witness of the atomic bomb. I felt as though my deceased classmates were calling out from heaven to encourage me to speak. This memoir is the result of my hope that it may in some way help the world. It truly took a long time to come to this resolve. There is absolutely no need for nuclear weapons, and I am troubled by the state of the world today.

 This may seem short, but this is the fruit of my labor of remembering and crying, crying and writing.

(Taken from a magazine article 2002)

… 73 years old