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"I have to pass these down to future ages." She tends the second and third generations of Phoenix trees exposed to the A-bomb (Tajime-cho 6-chome, Fukuyama)
Present at the deathbed of her younger brother who had large burns
Teruko Hikosaka (female, 86 years old)
By Toru Okuda (male)
Ms. Teruko Hikosaka, passing down her own A-bomb experience from generation to generation as a storyteller, was present at the deathbed of her younger brother, Hideki Tsuyama (then 14 years old), who had burns all over his body. "I should have given him water." She talked about "that day" sometimes in a choked voice.
* * *
In 1945, Teruko finished girls' high school at age 18. In the spring, she started working at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Hiroshima Shipyard, located in Eba-machi (present-day Naka Ward), Hiroshima, to supervise the forcible removal of Korean people.
On August 6, a loud "Boom!" noise suddenly echoed and light flashed during the morning roll call. Everyone in the area suddenly fled in all directions. It was about four kilometers [2.5 miles] from the hypocenter. A mountain blocked her from being directly exposed to the violent wind and heat rays. However, "I immediately understood that a big bomb had been dropped," she recalls.
Teruko headed to her home in Kusunoki-cho (present-day Nishi Ward), about two kilometers [1.2 miles] away from the hypocenter. Houses around were destroyed and roads had disappeared. She walked and walked, through Tenma-cho and Yokogawa-cho (both present-day Nishi Ward).
There were mountains of burned corpses all around. She remembers, "From there, some survivors tried to grab my leg asking 'HELP!'" But there was nothing she could do. "Sorry." Apologizing in her heart, she hurried on her way.
Finally arriving home around sunset, she found her house half destroyed.
Her mother was crouching inside the house, with a piece of the pillar wood stuck in her head. Using some soy sauce, she wet the pillar to desperately pull out the piece of wood. When it was out, her strong-willed mother instantly said, "The house will get burned." So she took a bucket and dashed out into the street.
Then, she heard a voice shouting "Older sister!" and saw a human figure - a blackened body, swollen all over with skin hanging down, in the direction of the voice. It was her younger brother Hideki. He had been completely changed.
"Welcome back." When she hugged him, his skin peeled off and stuck to her arm. Hideki had been directly exposed to the heat rays while working in the school student mobilization in Kanon-machi (present-day Nishi Ward).
* * *
At night, she put Hideki in the baby carriage since he couldn't walk, and went to seek refuge on the Ota River bank. "I want to drink water," Hideki begged. But she persuaded him not to drink, saying "Be patient." She had heard people saying that, "If he takes water, he will die."
While she was drowsing, the day began to dawn. When she looked to her side, Hideki wasn't breathing. "Hideki!" Although she immediately brought water to his mouth, the water just ran down. "I wish I could have given him water when he wanted it…"
Leaving her mother, she carried Hideki to the first aid station. "Too late," the doctor said. Covering the dead body with a blanket, she pushed the baby carriage to the precincts of a Shinto shrine in Gion-cho (present-day Asaminami Ward). "Here it is cool. You can rest well." The area where she placed him was his favorite playground.
But flies gathered on his dead body and maggots instantly bred. "I hate maggots, so I took them out with my hands and madly crushed them under my feet," she recalls. She burned the powder used by the military to repel mosquitoes. It was for agriculture, but she simply wanted to protect her brother.
"Here you are!" said her neighbor who had been looking for her. When she finally collected herself, it was dusk. She brought back her brother's dead body and burned it at the foot of the mountain in Mitaki-machi (present-day Nishi Ward) the following morning.
* * *
After the war, she got married and lived in Fukuyama, in Hiroshima Prefecture, where she ran a beauty salon. Nonetheless, she has repeatedly been hospitalized for heart disease and other ailments because of bad health caused by her exposure to radiation. Her first daughter developed cancer and her granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia. The shadow of anxiety has not been removed even now.
In the summer of 1994, she saw that the Phoenix tree that had been exposed to the A-bomb, now in Peace Memorial Park in Naka Ward, was vigorously spreading its roots. It gave her courage. She resolved, "I will pass down to others the fear of the A-bomb." Since then, she has committed herself to being a storyteller and spreading knowledge of the second generation of the Phoenix tree. In 2010, she donated the mosquito repellent powder that she had carefully kept for many years to the Fukuyama City Human Rights & Peace Museum (Marunouchi 1-chome, Fukuyama).
But the wheel of August 6 has again turned round. Nuclear weapons are still overflowing in the world. "Is it now really peaceful? It is too late to talk about it after another tragedy happens."
* Originally published in Japanese in the series "聞きたかったこと [So tell me… about Hiroshima]," The Asahi Shimbun (Hiroshima morning edition), August 6, 2013.