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From Asahi Shimbun

'The letters from the Hibakusha'
(3) Letter from Takashi Totsu


Mr Totsu was 19 years old and with his army regiment in Isahaya, 10km away from the hypocenter, when the Nagasaki bomb was dropped. His regiment was ordered to go to the hypocenter area to recover the bodies and burn the dead. Having worked there day and night for ten days, he became ill. He was now a Hibakusha. In search of help, he left his sick bed and walked to the village of Yagami-mura 8km away from the hypocenter. There, he met Mrs Tei Udo who was helping the injured at a doctor's surgery. The village itself had more than two thousand causalities. Mrs Udo felt sorry for Mr Totsu and looked after him. After the war, he left Nagasaki, graduated from university, and became a biology teacher at a highschool in his hometown of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture. He stayed in touch with Mrs Udo, but did not meet her again until 1958 when he visited the Nagasaki Peace Park. "What a fine man you have become" said Mrs Udo. After that, he began to tell his students about his experiences of the atomic bomb. He had been unable to do this before because it was too painful to remember them. He has suffered several illnesses since his exposure to the radiation, including prostate cancer, and has recently been confirmed as a patient suffering from a recognised atomic-bomb disease. Mrs Udo died in 1991 at the age of 90.

Dear Mrs Udo,

"It's a parachute!" shouted someone. Almost at the same time we were hit by the heat wave and we all groaned when we were hit by the blast. It was the moment when the atomic bomb exploded in the air above Nagasaki. We newly recruited soldiers were abruptly ordered into action. We secured our iron helmets on our heads, swapped our guns for shovels, and got on a special army train. Shortly after setting off, the train stopped suddenly. The railway track was buckled, damaged by an unidentified heat. Looking ahead, I saw passengers from another train who were burned black and had fallen in a heap. In the burned paddy field alongside the railway there was a cow with its eyes jutting out from its face, and next to it a farmer lying in a cruelly damaged state. The trees on the mountainside were burning. The situation in the city center was beyond description.

Mrs Tei Udo, it was fortunate that I met you. The merciful love that you gave me is engraved on my heart, and it is still very much with me after sixty-five years. About ten days after I started to recover the bodies from the hypocenter at Urakami, I began to suffer from a fever and diarrhoea. I became so weak that I was unable to even hold my dish, and I had to lick the pumpkin porridge from where it had spilt on the floor. There was no army doctor or nursing help available, and after being discharged from military service I spent many days in bed. One day, dragging my heavy legs, I went out to look for help. I wandered about in Yagami-mura village with the last energy left in my body. I was looking for a doctor when I saw the sign "midwife". My legs were paralyzed with exhaustion, but I could sense the presence of medical help. I banged on the door and you, who looked so graceful and motherly, answered. You understood what I needed and gave me some rice balls made of white rice. It was the pure rice that I had been dreaming of. It was you, Mrs Tei Udo, who gave me the strength to live and who, later, warmly welcomed me whenever I called on you. You even turned down my small token of gratitude when I took the advantage of your kindness. Funerals were continuously being held in the village, so you must have been very concerned for the Hibakusha.

As time went by, I had the opportunity to visit Nagasaki as a highschool teacher in charge of a school trip. The feeling that I had in front of the Peace Statue when I met the person who had saved my life, reminded me of our first meeting when you had appeared as a flower blooming in hell. We swore to one another that we would make it our responsibility to pass on to future generations the stories of the people who so cruelly became the victims of the atomic bombs. I will never forget the black sweat I shed at each funeral at which I helped, and I will devote my life that was saved by those white rice balls to the search for peace. I will continue to live in my old age as a witness who has seen the hell of the war.

I dedicate my gratitude to the late Mrs Tei Udo. I put my hands together and pray for her soul.