JAPANESE

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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

So tell me... about Hiroshima
Her Calling to Write about Her Family's Experiences
Hiroko Tamari  (female, 71 years old)
Asaminami Ward, Hiroshima
By Makoto Hibi (male)

photo Hiroko Tamari, holding the book she has published (Naka Ward, Hiroshima)

Hiroko Tamari (71), a poet who lives in Asaminami Ward, Hiroshima, was exposed to the A-bomb when she was one year old. She also lost her grandfather, who gave her her name, and her aunt. This summer she privately published a book about her family's experiences of the bombing to mark the A-bombing's 70th anniversary. I asked her about the feelings that drove her to write it.

The first Chinese character of her name, "Hiro (紘)," is from the Japanese war-time slogan "Hakko-Ichiu (八紘一宇)," which means "all eight corners of the world under one roof," or the "whole, wide world" Masakichi Shimamoto, her grandfather on her mother's side, chose this character for her name. During the war, her family was living on the Korean Peninsula, but her father went to war, leaving his wife and daughters behind. Masakichi worried about them and called them to stay with him in Gion-cho (present-day Asaminami Ward) in Hiroshima.

Her grandfather Masakichi was a part-time farmer and kept a black farming bull. He had named him "Kuro" ("black" in Japanese) and cherished him. Whenever little Hiroko cried, he would calm her by holding her in his arms and going to the barn to show her Kuro.

Later, her grandmother and mother told her about what had happened on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima.

They lived about 4.1 kilometers [2.5 miles] from the hypocenter. Suddenly that morning, they heard a big "boom" sound. At the same time, they were hit by a powerful gust of wind. Her mother, who had been hanging out the wash, lost her balance and had to cling to a nearby pillar. All the laundry together with the bars it was hanging on was blown away to a field to the north.

Her two elder sisters and her grandmother, who were out in the garden, immediately took refuge in an air raid shelter. Little Hiroko, who was on the porch, was blown off her feet onto a tatami mat, where she landed on her stomach, crying.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the morning Hiroko's grandfather Masakichi had left for Sakai-machi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima with Hatsuko, Hiroko's aunt, and Kuro to get scrap wood from building demolition sites. It is still not known where they were when the A-bomb hit, but her grandfather and aunt managed to finally make their way home by the end of the day. Masakichi was burned all over his body, with all his clothes except his underwear burned off. The account he gave to his wife and daughter was as follows.

After the A-bomb hit, we became trapped under a pillar of a collapsed building along with the bull cart. Hatsuko tried in vain but was not able to move the pillar by herself. A young man with burns on his face and limbs soon appeared and helped her, but could not rescue Kuro the bull, who had fallen sideways. Raging flames were approaching, so we had to leave quickly. Black rain began pouring on our burned skin, making it even more sore.

Masakichi was concerned about Kuro's last moments and asked his family many times to hold a memorial service for the bull, but sadly he died the next morning (on the 7th). Hatsuko died on the night of the 10th. "My grandfather was kept alive until the next day in order to be a witness to what happened," Hiroko believes.

* * *

Hiroko has an A-bomb Survivor Health Book, but she often was not conscious of being an A-bomb survivor in her daily life. After graduating from a local junior college, she worked at a securities company, a car dealership, and other jobs. But she quit working at the life insurance company at age 57 in order to devote herself to caring for her mother. In her fifties she earnestly started writing tanka (a Japanese verse form consisting of five lines of 5, 7, 5, 7 and 7 syllables).

However, she was greatly shocked by a TV show she watched on August 6 the year before [in 2014]. The young people being interviewed didn't know that on August 6 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

"The atomic bomb tore people apart from their loved ones. I realized then that while I am still alive I have a responsibility to write about my family's experiences, and pass down the message of the misery of atomic weapons." She feared that the memory of the atomic bombing would fade away, and this filled her with a strong sense of purpose as an A-bomb survivor.

In November of 2014, she started writing a book based on notes she had been taking until then. She also went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum again and read books on the atomic bombing. When finished, she brought the work, whose story develops around Masakichi and Kuro, to a publisher so that many people could read it.

* * *

Her book is titled "あの日(8月6日)牛のクロは逝った" Ano hi (hachigatsu muika) ushi no Kuro wa itta [On that Day (August 6), Kuro the Bull Died] (published by Bungeisha; ?1.200, not including tax). She also included 58 tanka that she wrote about the atomic bomb's aftermath and her wishes for peace. One of the tanka is as follows:

Seventy years have passed since the atomic bomb exploded, But I will never forget, even after all these years.

She hopes that publication of the book will be the memorial to Kuro that her grandfather Masakichi desired. And she says, "My wish is that this book will give its readers an opportunity to think about the cruelty of war and the importance of peace."

* Originally published in Japanese in the series "聞きたかったこと... 広島〜被爆から70年〜 [So tell me... about Hiroshima: 70 years after the A-bomb]," The Asahi Shimbun (Hiroshima morning edition), September 9, 2015