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From Asahi Shimbun

'The letters from the Hibakusha'
(4) Letter from Sumie Noguchi


Mrs Noguchi was 16 years old and at home, 2.1km from the hypocenter, when the Hiroshima bomb fell. She saw the B29 bomber against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and then, a few seconds later, she was engulfed by a flash like a giant firework and was lifted up and thrown to the ground. She ran from the ruins, the loose skin from her burned arms and face hanging from her. When she saw a piece of broken mirror lying in the street she picked it and looked into it. She thought that she was looking at a ghost. It became her habit to hide her face when she talked to people, and she told her mother that she wanted to die. Her mother, who was 38 years old at the time of the bomb and was also severely burned, replied "You should never think of dying. Other people have died to give you the chance to live". This letter is from Mrs Noguchi to her husband Tsutomu.

Dear Tsutomu,

I have never written to you before in the fifty years that we have been married. Last October was our golden wedding anniversary. Do you recall when we got married you said to me "It would be wonderful if we could be together until we become an old man and an old woman"? We have become just that.

In the autumn of 1954, I started work at an oil company in Hiroshima. In my forth year I was transferred to Tokyo where I was given the desk next to yours. You had joined the company a few days earlier having left a job at a bank. Many of the people with whom I had worked in Hiroshima had been transferred from other parts of Japan, so it did not feel as if I had moved. I thought that you were strange because you sat working quietly at your desk in this lively office. One day there was quite a big earthquake, wasn't there? Most of our colleagues working on the same floor rushed to the door to leave the building. When I stood up, you shouted at me "Stay there" in an unbelievably loud voice, and grabbed my coat. Do you remember? When we looked around, we were the only two people left in the office, weren't we? After that, I was always conscious of someone sitting next to me. We shared the same work, worked late, and sometimes missed the last train. When this happened, we walked together from Tameike to Shibuya. One night we walked along the railway line from Roppongi to Takagi-cho, climbed down some stone steps into what looked like a ravine, and when we climbed out we found ourselves in the Aoyama Cemetery, which really surprised us.

I know that you dislike tragic stories, and you have only mentioned radiation once. Do you remember? It was when I told you that I had no intention of ever getting married because having been exposed to the radiation my life could end at any second. You replied "After saying good-bye to you, I could be run over and killed by a car. It is the same for all of us whether we have been exposed to the radiation or not." Your mother and sisters were against our marriage for three and a half years, but you still wanted me, this unsuitable woman.

We now have a son and a daughter and whenever I tell them about my experience of the atomic bomb, you soon go to the next room. You do the same when I tell to our grandchildren. You are fearful of violence and tragedy, but you are brave with earthquakes and ghosts. Thanks to you, I have managed to live for a long time. You tell me that we will live until we are one hundred years old, but why don't we take it easy and stay together for as long as we can. I am now covered with wrinkles that hide my scars. I was allowed to live at the expense of my friends whose lives were sacrificed when they died young. Thanks to them I was able to meet a nice man. Thank you very much for the days that are gone, and thank you for the days yet to come.