JAPANESE

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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

Notes from Nagasaki
No Information about Radiation in Okinawa
Tsuruko Makishi (female, born 1924)
By Sei Ito (male, born 1971)

photo Tsuruko Makishi photo Certificate of damages for the Makishi family as issued by the mayor of Nagasaki at the time

She was feeling unbearably tired. Ms. Tsuruko Makishi (now 84) of Naha had been suffering from an inexplicable malaise since about 1955. When she went for a medical examination, the doctor told her scornfully, "There's nothing wrong with you. Why are you here?"

Several years after Ms. Makishi was exposed to the A-bomb in Nagasaki, she returned to her birthplace in Okinawa, which was under U.S. occupation. She had a vague feeling, "Isn't what I'm feeling the effect of A-bomb exposure?" Unlike on the main islands of Japan, there was little or no information about radiation in Okinawa.

Through an acquaintance of her relatives she was hospitalized in Kanagawa for a month. She could not sleep at night and her palpitations were very violent. She seriously thought, "I'll go crazy like this."

About that time she read somewhere that A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki were suffering from "A-bomb bura bura (chronic fatigue) sickness" and tired easily. Also known as "idleness disease," its symptoms included mental instability, numbness in the hands and feet, and insomnia. Later she thought, "Maybe I have the same sickness."

She was forced to quit work. She had to pay all medical expenses for herself.

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Ms. Makishi's brother Koho, who was seven years older, was working in a Mitsubishi munitions factory in Nagasaki during the war. After finishing school in Okinawa, Ms. Makishi lived with her brother and his wife for several years. She later found a clerical job in Tokyo.

In 1944, she received a letter from Koho that said their mother Oto, who was living with him and his wife, wanted her to come back there. So she went back to Nagasaki. On March 10 of the following year (1945), Tokyo was subjected to devastating air raids. "I was spared, but I don't know what happened to my co-workers in the air raids."

Her brother and sister-in-law's house was in Motohara-machi. It was a single family house but they shared it with another family who were also from Okinawa. The house was in the middle of fields. There were just a few houses here and there. Periodically they were rationed raw sardines and they would dry and grill them. Ms. Makishi knew there was a food shortage in Tokyo and felt herself to be lucky in Nagasaki. She found a job in a medical insurance company in Nishihama-machi (in the area of present-day Hamamachi) through an acquaintance.

On the morning of August 9, 1945, a warning alarm and an air raid alarm sounded. Her mother told her not to go to work but she said, "Everything'll be all right," and took the streetcar to the office just like any other day.

She was working at her company when she heard an intense sound shortly after eleven o'clock in the morning. She was about 3.5 kilometers [2.2 miles] from the hypocenter. The company building shook and ceiling boards fell to the floor. She thought something had fallen on the Denkikan movie theater located behind her company. A thick cloud of dust was rising.

Ms. Makishi went outside and joined the flow of people running. She reached Yasaka Shrine in Kajiya-machi. After a little while she began to worry about her house in Motohara-machi and decided to go home. When she got to Nagasaki Station she saw people going this way and that. She followed a soldier she met there over the mountain toward her house. They met people coming up from the direction of Urakami, moaning in pain as they walked, loose skin dangling off of their hands, and blood pouring from their heads. Some fell down with exhaustion here and there. She thought she was seeing a parade of ghosts. Her mind a total blank, not even a sense of pity occurred to her.

When she reached home, she found that the house had collapsed. Her mother had been trapped under the collapsed house and sustained a head injury. Ms. Makishi found her in the back of the air raid shelter they and their neighbors had dug. Her brother and sister-in-law were not there.

On the 14th of August she received a note from his brother saying, "I've been taken to the national school."

The floors of the classrooms were covered with the wounded. Ms. Makishi found her brother, who had been exposed to the A-bomb explosion near Urakami Station and suffered burns all over his back, lying on his stomach.

Two friends of her brother's brought him home on a two-wheel cart. When he reached his mother, he mumbled, "We have lost this war. It's over now," and took his last breath.

The whereabouts of Ms. Makishi's sister-in-law Michiko were unknown for a while. Ms. Makishi's father Kozen, who had been working for the army in Fukuoka and escaped direct exposure, spent every day looking for Michiko in the burned fields of ruins.

About two months later Kozen found a note on a board at a burial site for A-bomb victims: "Died on the 11th; was wearing women's loose work pants (monpe) with an Okinawan kasuri pattern." Back then, there were very few women from Okinawa in Nagasaki, and the dead body was identified as Michiko's. Kozen recovered the remains and brought them home with him.

Michiko was 22 years old. Ms. Makishi was told by her mother that her sister-in-law was pregnant with her first child.

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