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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

Notes from Nagasaki
Masako Does Not Collapse. . . Beyond Censorship
Masako Yanagawa(female, born 1931)
Reported by Shohei Okada (male, born 1981)

photo Ms.Masako Yanagawa. At own home in Tokyo.

photo The book, titled Masako taorezu. It had been censored(from the Gordon W.Prange Collection)

photo The official residence which was in the town of Yaoya-machi is now in the Glover-Garden.

photo The autograph manuscript of Masako taorezu

photo Described in Japanese "devilish atomic bomb"(from the Gordon W.Prange Collection)

In October 1945, shortly after the atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki, a 14-year-old girl lying in her sickbed began writing of her experience of being bombed. The chronicle of her experience, titled Masako taorezu (Masako Does Not Collapse), was finally published as a book for the whole world to read, despite attempts by the General Headquarters' to suppress it.

At the time, the girl, Ms. Masako Yanagawa (nee Ishida, 83), was in her third year at Nagasaki Prefecture Girls High School. Ms. Yanagawa wrote her experience in order to record it in the "Ishida Newspaper," which was put together by her brother, Joichi (86), who lived in Tokyo. Joichi gathered recent relatives' situations into a self-made newspaper to record the news of relatives who were scattered and evacuated.

Joichi decided to record his sister's experience for the relatives who were worried about her. Masako was not enthusiastic about writing her story, but she sent it in four separate installments. She recalls, "There were many things that I didn't write; my arm was hurting from writing and I didn't want to recall it all. I skipped many details and only wrote the main points, but I saw them so clearly." There was something that she purposely did not record in the book, though, something she withheld out of a sense of guilt.

Ms. Yanagawa was originally from Tokyo. In April 1945, she moved to Nagasaki due to her father, Mr. Hisashi Ishida (1895-1962), a magistrate, becoming the Chief Judge in the Nagasaki region.

* * *

In August 1945, she worked as a mobilized student at the Mitsubishi Arms Factory Ohashi Plant, which was in the same area as present-day Nagasaki University. Her work was to seal torpedoes to prevent water leakage by riveting them with a hammer.

On the morning of August 9, she and her classmates went to an air raid shelter in response to the air raid warning. Everyone was talking about a "new type of bomb" that had been dropped on Hiroshima three days before. The year before, there was a talk of her father possibly relocating to Hiroshima, but her classmates were now saying, "Good thing you didn't have to go to Hiroshima."

That morning, at two minutes past eleven, Masako returned to the factory and was leaning on the desk while resting for a moment. All of a sudden, an intense flash of light full of heat struck her from behind. Everything around her became soaked in a pink-colored light. Masako had experienced many air raids in Tokyo, but thought, "This is not an air raid; maybe a torpedo exploded violently." Two seconds later, she was being blown backward.

The bomb blast had thrown her down against the ground. She felt as though she had been thrown about 10 meters [33 feet]. Pinned down by fallen debris, she was eventually able to crawl out somehow. Pieces of broken glass and many other things were scattered all around. A mass bleeding around her neck made her think she had injured the back of her neck.

* * *

The factory soon became as an ocean of fire. The memory of how she escaped from the scene has stuck with her until this day.

There, several people were beneath of the crumbled building. "Help, help!" Hands seeking help were reaching out, but she was unable to help them. "I was so desperate to escape myself."

She thinks those people were engulfed in the blaze of a fire and were killed. "I abandoned them; and up to now, I have suffered from a tremendous sense of guilt."

The sense of seeing such a horrific sight was indescribable in her work of Masako Does Not Collapse . Several years ago, it was summarized in a tanka (a Japanese poem consisting of 31 syllables in 5 lines).

"Help me!! ... Help me!!" the voices rose, from the turbulent sea of fire all around, Forgive me for ignoring your cries for help, so that I could escape.

Masako left the Mitsubishi Ohashi factory. A tied-up horse was acting wild inside of the gate. The field was shrouded in smoke and had turned gloomy. As far as you could see, people were lying here and there. Ms. Yanagawa talks about this scene:

"Perhaps nobody will believe me but, there was a black charred body of a person, half of whose head had been hollowed out, standing and eating a raw eggplant. It was an impossible sight; it was immediately after the bombing, so perhaps the nervous system was still connected and wanted to have water or liquid and, therefore, bit into a raw eggplant."

During the escape, she fell into the river and her geta (traditional wooden sandal) were swept away. Then she saw someone's hand extending out from the bank and she was pulled out. Years later, she found out that this woman was her classmate.

Masako reached some railroad tracks and ran madly toward Michinoo Station. There were so many people in similar situations: "It was as if the station was the starting point of a marathon." Occasionally, U.S. military planes flew overhead. "I was so scared, it was unbearable." Finding a hollowed-out area, she dove into it to hide, and began trembling.

Running frantically Masako finally reached Michinoo. Without her knowing, her geta had come off and she found herself barefoot. At the tunnel-built air raid shelter, they recommended that she go to the temporary clinic. There they treated her wound with mercurochrome and peroxide. For the first time, she realized that she had injured the back of her head.

She was then told to lie down, and so she lay down alongside other injured people. A man who was accompanying and taking care of the woman lying next to her couldn't look away without noticing her, so he also waved the fan over her. His name was Mr. Taira.

Masako accompanied Mr. Taira, the woman with him, and a boy named Fukahori. The four of them decided to go to the hospital in Isahaya using the relief train. Perhaps it was the effects of the A-bomb that made Masako feel nauseous, but she endured it and rode the train. Once the train got closer to Nagasaki City, however, in the Ohashi area near the hypocenter it couldn't go any farther and had to return.

Mr. Taira entrusted all three of them to a man named Mr. Kaigun. Masako spent the evening with Mr. Kaigun, the boy Fukahori, and the woman in the tunnel bunker at Michinoo. Inside of the shelter, there were rails for the streetcar, so they put wooden boards on top of them and slept.

The boy Fukahori was sleeping next to Masako. He had severe burns and his skin was peeling off. Into the evening, she heard Fukahori saying, "I'm cold, I'm cold." Mr. Kaigun took off his shirt and covered the boy up. After Fukahori stopped saying "I'm cold," then he started saying "Can I have some water?" He repeated it many times. Finally several Korean people who were in the inner part of the shelter offered him some water and he drank over and over. Soon, though, that water had also run out. Nevertheless, with a faint voice, Fukahori kept asking for more water.

* * *

The next morning, Fukahori spoke cheerfully and said to Masako, "Miss, let's go to the hospital in Isahaya." Although she ate boiled barley and rice, perhaps it was the A-bomb disease's effects that made her feel nauseous and not like the taste.

Still, she was thankful that she had someone who took care of and was thinking about her.

From the day after the A-bomb was dropped until August 10, Masako didn't even consider going home. She was full of emotion and thoughts of needing to go to the hospital to get her treatment. That day, others around her told her that "It would be better for her go home soon," and she was finally beginning to think the same.

Mr. Kaigun looked for a man who was also heading toward Nagasaki Station and had him accompany her.

I will never forget the sight of the hypocenter zone. As the hypocenter drew nearer, one could see that a large number of people had burned. Some were sitting in the rubble, while for others, at any moment, they were going to lose their lives. At the hypocenter, there were more charred bodies than burned, living people. There, many of the passengers who were trying to get on the train had died and had been left untouched. It was clear that that some of the dead bodies were mothers and children. "It was pitiful and I couldn't bear to look anymore."

The ground was still hot. "I recall a man who was accompanying me wrap scraps of straw around my bare feet. Whenever the tip of my wooden cane became burned, he would replace the whole cane for me."

* * *

From Nagasaki Station, Masako headed to the town of Katsuyama-machi, where she and her father had their official residence. Along the way she saw many houses that were also seriously damaged. She was so taken aback by the extent of the destruction, thinking, "Wow. Even places here were destroyed, too." August 9, she remembered, was supposed to be a moving day from their official residence in Katsuyama to a new official residence in the town of Yaoya-machi (present-day Kami-machi). So she also visited their official residence in Yaoya-machi, and there she finally found her father, Hisashi. Part of the official residence's rooftop had been blown off.

Soon after, Masako began living in a detached building of a temple in Tagami, Nagasaki and received treatment for her wounds at a nearby clinic. After a short while, she developed a high fever and couldn't stop groaning. In September, she received a medical examination at Shinkozen National Elementary School (today near Nagasaki Municipal Library) and discovered that her white blood cell count was lower than normal. That same month, her father decided to have Masako moved to Fukuoka and be hospitalized at Kyushu University Hospital. Ms. Yanagawa recalls, "My father must have felt guilty thinking it was his fault that I faced certain death. Perhaps he thought he wanted to do everything possible. I am very thankful since I became well because of his care."

It was in her hospital bed in October 1945 at the hospital in Fukuoka that Masako began writing Masako Does Not Collapse , which she completed in December and later published as her memoir. Her brother, Joichi, sought her articles for his "Ishida Newspaper," which was published and circulated among their relatives. She wasn't really enthusiastic about writing, but reluctantly assented because she was told that "Everyone really wants to know." She lay on her stomach, but this position soon made her arms hurt. She didn't want to even recall the event, but she pressed on and wrote of her experience, from the day of the bombing to her days recovering in the hospital.

* * *

She never thought that her memoir would become a book. Later, when she found that her story had been published as a book, she said, "I was ashamed that I didn't write about everything. There were so many people who had to face much more terrible situations than I was in, and showing mine as a memoir seemed ridiculous." Even today, she still has this thought.

Contrary to his daughter's true feelings, her father moved toward publication. But they still had the obstacle of censorship standing in their way that they needed to clear.

In the state of Maryland in the U.S. is the Gordon W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland. Here can be found a collection of books, magazines, newspapers and related items that had been censored during the postwar era by the General Headquarters. Among them are also materials related to Masako's book, Masako Does Not Collapse .

In July 1947, the General Headquarters presented a document to the Board of Civil Censorship, the decision of which stated that according to the Press Code of the GHQ, Masako Does Not Collapse "would disturb public tranquility in Japan and that it implies the bombing was a crime against humanity." The decision was for the document to be suppressed, its further publication banned.

* * *

Masako found out about the publication around that time. She remembered seeing a couple hundred copies of the printing piled in the corner of the house. "I heard that something somewhere had been censored and couldn't be published, but I never thought it was related to me." Initially, she wasn't so positive about the publishing itself; therefore, she didn't have a strong sense of awareness about matters of censorship. However, her father, Hisashi, continued his efforts to publish her book.

What the General Headquarters censorship saw as problematic in Masako Does Not Collapse were her words strongly criticizing the atomic bomb, such as phrases like "devilish atomic bomb." In the Prange Collection, the first two of four editions of Masako Does Not Collapse express the bomb in this way. But in two later editions, this was reworded as "horrible atomic bomb." According to Professor Kazuhiko Yokote at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science (NIAS), who is knowledgeable about the censorship of Masako's book, believes that it may have been Masako's father's decision to edit the sentence so her book would more easily be accepted for publication.

Again challenging the publication's censorship once again, Masako's father Hisashi presented the GHQ with the book as well as signatures collected from citizens of the prefecture like the governor, the Nagasaki mayor, and others in political and business circles, saying that "There are no antagonistic feelings [toward the U.S.] concerning Masako Does Not Collapse ." In February 1949, censorship had become more lenient and publication of Masako's book was finally allowed. Professor Yokote states, "To re-challenge a publication ban is very rare. It probably happened because they must have had strong family bonds."

When Masako Does Not Collapse was first censored by the GHQ, one person did support its publication: Nagasaki's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) Victor Delnore (1914-1998).

Although publication of Masako's book was prohibited, in March 1947 the Nagasaki Military Government Team presented their opinion to the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) in Fukuoka stating that it was "worthy of publication," and also stated, "For us to properly realize the significance of the atomic bomb, to experience vicariously the feelings that so many thousands of Japanese experienced is desirable in these propitious times" (Prange Collection).

* * *

Mr. Delnore and Masako's father, Hisashi, had developed a friendship. Mr. Delnore's daughter, Ms. Patricia Magee (66) from Delaware in the United States, who was invited for the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 9, 2014, believes that her father wanted to support Hisashi since he, too, was a father who had a daughter. She further says regarding her father's support for the book's publication that "He must have thought that it was through Masako's story that the result of the war should be understood. I think my father was correct and I am pleased that it was published later."

After her exposure to the A-bomb, Ms. Yanagawa did not actively talk about her experience, because, she said, "I recovered well and had a happy life. I felt that I could never apologize enough for all the people who had suffered much more terribly."

In recent years, however, she has had a change of mind. Whenever anyone wants to know what happened, she tells her story at her home in Tokyo. "People in Tokyo don't know." They don't even know that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She was surprised that some had even said, "I don't know such a terrible thing had ever happened." She feels a sense of purpose, saying, "Now, while I'm still well, the story needs to be told."

In Masako Does Not Collapse, she feels that her writing had not fully conveyed what she had witnessed; this thought has never gone away. After the war, she tried to rewrite and improve the text, but the task proved bigger than she thought and she eventually gave up. But she is glad that it has remained in book form. She had not told much of her story to her own family, but when a grandchild got married, she gave the book as a present. "When something remains in print, then someday someone will read it. Then they will know that such an event took place."

* Originally published in Japanese in 2014 in the series "ナガサキノート [Notes from Nagasaki]," The Asahi Shimbun (Nagasaki morning edition), July 2014.