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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


Father and mother


In that year, we had our house built by a relative who is a carpenter. It was mainly made of used materials, because we did not have enough money. Not only money, but many other things were in short supply. I was quite surprised to hear that the carpenters are not paid for their daily labor, and that they receive rice, potatoes and vegetables instead.

It was hard for me to understand why my parents chose to live in an inconvenient place, on the other side of a hill from the city.

When I asked my mother some years later, she explained as below.

My parents used to live in Hiradokoya-machi, which was close enough for my father to commute to Mitsubishi Electric. In 1938, he was hospitalized for 4 months to treat pneumonia. The doctor advised him that he would not be able to work in the factory again and that he would not live long unless he moved to where the air was clean, and did some agricultural work. In the hot summer of July 1938, therefore, when my father was 31-years old and my mother was 32, my parents bought 2 hectares of land and a 2-story house for 3400 yen.

My father Yoneo was elected a member of the Agricultural Committee when I was in elementary school. He often went to City Hall and to land owners to negotiate a plan for building a new road in our neighborhood. People wondered why a big road was needed in such a remote area. They became annoyed, but quite used to my father's saying, in the middle of his work in the field: "Oh, I just remembered something important I have to discuss. Will you take care of this?" My father did not care when they replied, "There you go again. Can't you do farming as seriously as negotiating?" Surprisingly, the road was actually built when I was in junior high school, not only because of my father's persistence, but also because the city needed the road. He helped the neighbors in many other ways. He worked as a leader of a fire-fighting team, the chief of our neighborhood association, and probation officer.

After moving to the farm, my mother Tamano had to work so hard to learn how to manage the farm and to help the seven people in the family; a recuperating husband, his parents and four children, even before I was born.

In order to write this autobiography, I asked her about those days. Her story was so amazing that I renewed my notion that she was really great. She said very seriously: "I worked, worked and worked, though I was wearing out. One night, your grandmother repeatedly said, 'Sorry, I'm so sorry, Tamano-san.' It was the only occasion that I saw her in tears. Remember, Hidetaka, that patience is very precious. To work means to lighten the burdens of other people, you know."

However, as far as I remember, she was not very gentle to me. She never compromised. I often thought that she was too stern. Sometimes I hated her. After growing up, I asked her about what she thought when I was in elementary and junior-high school. She recalled, "I sometimes acted so severely because I wanted to teach you to support yourself, to be independent. Your brothers and sisters had learned to take care of themselves, while you needed so much care. You often made me cry."

I had never heard her complain, though her hands were so gnarled because of poverty and hard work.

Every evening, she was washing, by the well, Daikon radishes freshly taken from the field. Early the next morning she would yell at me, "Wake up, Hide!" On cold mornings, I could see my white breath. A cart full of vegetables was pulled by my mother in front, and pushed by me from behind. We walked toward the market.

When we got to the side of Peace Park in Matsuyamacho, only 200 or 300 meters from the market, we had to go down a steep slope. "Pull, Hide!" mother would shout. My knees trembled when I had to pull after pushing so hard for so long. I was not good at moving so quickly, partly because my legs were not built very well. Anyway, I did my best to hold the cart back, my face turning all red, because it was easy to imagine how miserable it would be if I did not pull hard enough. After that heavy duty, we got to the market, sold our products and joined the people warming themselves at a bonfire. I used to spend some time before going to school, watching the faces by the burning firewood. There was a towel around some faces, others used a towel as a cap, and some had beards. Their faces looked different, but their hands looked alike; they were all gnarled. "Come here, Hide. Get closer to the fire." One of them said, and I put my small red hands below their big gnarled hands. It was very warm.

At school, I always felt that I did not belong. Besides, I was always afraid that I might die before long. I was so frightened when my nose bled or when I had a small festering sore, because those were typical first signs of leukemia. At least, I believed that.

NOTE: By 1975, according to "War Damage Report in Nagasaki" Volume 4," 512 cases of leukemia had been reported among Hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.