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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"
Facing discrimination and bullies
Groundless rumors had always gone around ever since the day of the atomic explosion. As medical specialists knew very little about it, nobody could stop the rumors. And Hibakusha had to keep a low profile.
One of the rumors was that no trees, no grasses would grow for several years after the "new type of bomb" was dropped. My parents were troubled for some time by such rumors. They seriously questioned if they could keep living on agriculture.
However, despite all those negative prospects, people kept working hard. They built their own houses. There was a saying that "Hammering is heard every day, even if the crows keep quiet some days." Foundation work was done by a large weight of dozens of kilograms. A scaffold was set up, and the weight was lifted with ropes by a lot of people, while a woman with a towel around her face sang songs loudly to cheer up the workers. It was a kind of heartwarming scene.
At school, I was victimized more often and more severely. I was hit and beaten almost every day. Some of my classmates were never satisfied. They kept on sticking me with the sharp tip of pencils, for example, whenever the teachers do not see us, even during the class.
They always called me by nasty nicknames such as "rotten foot," "bird's foot," and "crab." I was wearing out because of such bullying, discrimination, prejudice and fear of death. When I was hurt mentally and physically, the only hope that drove me to keep on living was that "I will surely feel less pain tomorrow."
They gave me a lot of tortures; including staring at me, pointing at me and mumbling "Something smells bad." or "Ugly." Knowing that everyone would go to the same junior high school after finishing elementary school, I thought it would be impossible to endure the violence and unfair treatment. I also hated myself because I could not do anything to retaliate. I had been determined to revenge myself someday, in order to liberate myself from misery.
That day came. I was in the 5th grade; it was spring time, when the barley was turning brown. I had prepared so well, learned and practiced how to fight. And I had proposed a duel, a fight between me and the one who had bullied me most for almost 5 years. I was on edge and I could hear my own heartbeat. I bit and stuck fast to my enemy. I did not release him till the end, even though I was struck hundreds of times. Finally, he said, "Crab! We should stop." Probably, he was annoyed by my persistence. I was quite stunned by his words, but I did not stop. I kept on clinging. He tripped on something and fell backward into the barley field. The next moment, I was sitting on his stomach, beating him all over with all my might and resentment, because he was the one who had hit me most often during the past 5 years, even when we belonged to different classrooms.
"Komine! Stop!" Two other boys, followers of the one I was beating, grabbed my arms. They called me by my real name for the first time in years, which showed that I was winning the fight.
"Hey, you two! Are you fighting me, too?" I shouted in a shrill voice. "Hit me once again and you'll be flattened like this!" They remained silent.
My enemy's nose was bleeding. His lips swelled round quickly. I, of course, was beaten as well. I went back to the ridge by the barley field to pick up my school bag. Suddenly, something hit me on the back of my head. I turned around and saw that they were throwing stones at me. "What's that?" I shouted. And they ran away.
I still have the scar on the back of my head.
I touched my head and my hand was all red with blood. I fell down and sat on the ground. My foot was also bleeding at the keloid scar.
On my way home, people stared at me with wonder, as my face and body were scratched and beaten all over, and I was almost all red with blood. However, it did not matter to me at all. Strangely, I was feeling so very nice. "I won!" I kept on shouting in my mind all the way home.
When I got about 300 meters from home, I found my mother working on one of the terraced vegetable fields. I figured out the layer she was on, climbed up the slope and got closer to her. "What did you do?" she said in astonishment.
"I had a fight, mom."
"Yes. Mom, I won."
"Did you really win the fight? Look at yourself soaked in blood!"
"I did. I really won."
I thought I would be scolded. Surprisingly, she said, "Good. It's nice to hear you won." I noticed that she was aware that I had been bullied.
After that, there was much less physical bullying. However, mental bullying and various other kinds of discrimination escalated. I am sure that all the Hibakusha suffered from such hazards. There were so many factors that magnified prejudices against Hibakusha, including the fact that many Hibakusha suffered from leukemia and cancer because of the radiation effects, and the possibility that their children might inherit such problems. Many Hibakusha lost their jobs, because many factories, including Mitsubishi and its affiliates in Nagasaki, were severely damaged by the bomb. So many people barely survived in humble sheds after losing jobs and strength. All they could do to survive was grow some potatoes and vegetables around their lodgings.
Once, there was a persistent rumor that radiation effects are contagious, which made people turn away from me. A neighborhood woman who had often spoken to me, saying "Poor Hide, are you feeling any better? How is your foot?" One day when we met, she tried to stay away from me. She stepped off the path onto the field and waited for me to pass.