JAPANESE

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    "Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


    Bread incident


    My school, Nishi-Urakami Elementary School, had been called Nishi-Urakami National School during the war located about 1.7 kilometers from the bomb hypocenter, it had about 900 pupils. Among them were only about a dozen Hibakusha who had visible scars.

    There were not many atomic bomb survivors in the school because most of the district was far from the hypocenter (2 kilometers or more). Besides, many of the small children who suffered terrible burns like me died after one or two days.

    Hibakusha without burns normally pretended that they were not Hibakusha. I quite often heard that a child without burns had died. One of my classmates died during summer vacation. I had not known that he was a Hibakusha.

    Most of my 40 or so classmates were children of farmers. Most boys had their hair close-cropped. Our clothes had many patches, and our lunchboxes were usually filled with simply a cooked mixture of rice, barley and potato. Some poorer kids didn't have anything to eat for lunch. Some had to walk more than 2 hours to school. They had lanterns in winter, because they had to leave home before dawn. Clothes and food were in short supply, and many children were poor. Therefore, we often felt unsettled. I was often also bullied.

    Each time I had to endure the pain of being bullied, I said to myself "Remember! When my legs recover, I'll be strong enough to retaliate."

    There was one boy from an urban area, the only boy in class who did not have his hair close-cropped. One day, he said, "My bread is gone." In those days, eating bread was a kind of luxury. I had longed to eat some. Everyone in class stared me, because I was often left alone in the classroom during the PE classes and breaks when everyone was outside. I had to stay inside and watch my classmates through the window. Unfortunately, everyone had a good reason to suspect me. The teacher shouted.

    "Komine! Stand up! Show me everything you have. Put everything on the desk."

    I was stunned. For the first time in school, I talked back.

    "Sir, I never steal anything from anybody."

    I was quite surprised at my loud voice, too. I could not believe that the teacher doubted me.

    He turned to the boy and made him search again, more carefully. The bread was found. He had put it deep at the bottom of his bag. The teacher did not say anything to me. How I wished he would apologize!

    Another day, when I was left alone in the classroom, looking through the window at my classmates playing outside, I saw a US military jeep coming. It moved so fast that the children were almost dispersed. "Again, it came. I hope they are not after me." I thought.

    "Komine, ABCC wants you. Hurry!"

    At ABCC, I had to be naked, receive a lot of injections, and have my blood taken. I was occasionally taken to ABCC until I was in junior high school, when I refused to go there anymore.

    NOTE: ABCC: Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Established by the USA in 1946 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to research the atomic bomb's effect on the human body. Reorganized in 1975 into Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a cooperative Japan-US research organization.