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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

So tell me... about Hiroshima
Left with strong remorse in my heart
Masayo Mori (female, 88 years old)
Naka Ward, Hiroshima
By Hiromi Minami (female)

photo Photo taken around 1944. Ms. Mori is in the back row, second from left. Photo provided by Masayo Mori.

photo Ms. Masayo Mori (living in Naka Ward, Hiroshima) told the reporter, "The war robbed me of my emotions."

To the reporter, "As I searched for my classmates in the area where death felt natural and being alive felt like a wonder" is how Ms. Masayo Mori (88) reflected on the scenario that day. She lamented "Why couldn't I do anything more at that time" repeatedly to the reporter who went to meet her after learning that Masayo-san was a classmate of the elder sister of the Kochi Prefecture person whose story was reported in January.

* * *

In August 1945, Masayo was 19 years old and in the third grade of Hiroshima Girls' Vocational Training School (present-day Hiroshima Prefectural University). At the moment the A-bomb was dropped, she was in one of the barracks of the Army Marine Headquarters that was partly evacuated in Iguchi Village (present-day Nishi Ward). The regular morning meeting was being held, when a huge white light flashed through the site and the building was jolted by the thunderous volume. She ran with other students into a nearby bomb shelter.

Later, she learned that the A-bomb was dropped exactly on the place she passed through on the streetcar only half an hour before.

The next day, from Iguchi she took a boat to Ujina (present-day Minami Ward) to check the safety of her younger brother staying at a relative's house in Minami-Danbara-machi. Her parents and other siblings were all safe since they had already evacuated to Tsuyama City in Okayama Prefecture some time ago.

Ms. Mori inadvertently sighed while talking in detail about the education program during the war, the student mobilization order, and the overall situation just after the dropping of the A-bomb.

"Whenever I water the plants I grow in my balcony, I recall the thirst I experienced there at that time." After a short silence, she started to talk, saying, "Every time I recall and talk about this story, I become shaky and my heart throbs heavily, but I will get through it for you despite the hardship."

* * *

On August 8, 1945 she headed to the central area of Hiroshima in search of her classmates. The area, as far as her eyes could see, was fully burned down, with the foul odor of burnt-dead bodies drifting around. Dead bodies of soldiers with bowl-sized blisters on their legs were scattered here and there. In the city of the dead, flies were the only ones that appeared to move round lively in the air. Several thousands of flies crowded like black balls on the ragged, blood-stained clothes on the backs of survivors quietly walking around.

A number of injured people were gathered on the premises of the shrine located on the north side of Hiroshima Station. She loudly shouted the names of her classmates, "Yasuko Nakazawa" and "Mariko Handa," while wandering among the injured people lying there.

"At the time, I heard one 5-6-year-old girl hunched over on the ground asking in a feeble tone, 'Give me water, sister', extending her hand with a piece of clay on it."

However, Ms. Mori just ignored the voice and passed quietly without doing anything. She was numbed and didn't feel anything at the time. Eventually, she wasn't able to find the classmates she was searching for there.

* * *

In the postwar years, she was involved in teaching Japanese at Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School (in present-day Naka Ward) for 45 years. In the homeroom hour during those classes, she purposely chose topics related to the colonial policy the Japanese government followed toward Korea, civilian slaughter by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, etc. By doing so, she tried to convey to the students the misery brought on by the war.

During such times too, the bruised feeling in her heart persisted.

Masayo continues lamenting. . . "Among all the people there, the girl specifically asked me for water, no one else, so why wasn't I able to even call out to her then, what had happened to me at that time?"

In 2010, she applied for the NHK program Letters from A-bomb Survivors where she talked about a classmate who had passed away due to leukemia at the age of 84.

She said, "the major reason why even after long years of close friendship, they did not talk to each other about their experience of the A-bomb was because it was not an event that occurs in the normal everyday lives of human beings," and continued that "many such embarrassing and miserable feelings that one cannot talk about remain locked up inside our hearts."

In August the following year, in a lecture at a meeting held in a church in Naka Ward, she mentioned, "I deeply regret that the war ruined my humanity."

Ms. Mori currently feels uneasy if she were to die without doing anything about the recent rapid political changes such as revisions to the Constitution, the Special Secrecy Law (officially, Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets), and Japan's right to collective self defense. She also said, "All of us should have a keen interest in political matters. Otherwise, before we realize it, we may be already in the midst of war. The fact that women now can act in ways that weren't possible for our generation is precisely because of the peace we have now."

* 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), April 9, 2014.