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Practice in the hibakusha singing group, Himawari (Sunflower)
Sending her message by singing "Never Again"
Emiko Tani(female, born 1939)
Reported by Shohei Okada (male, born 1981)
waterfall called "Taki no Kannon"
Told of her experience in the song"Under the Mushroom Cloud"
[At the 69th annual Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 9th. The typhoon's threat had diminished and people's melodious voices echoed through the emerging blue sky. ]
"Never again. . . . never again make more hibakusha like us."
The sound in the air is the chorus of the hibakusha singing group, Himawari (Sunflower). "Never Again" is a very emotional song of the sad but determined thoughts of the hibakusha. Its lyrics and music were created by Mr. Kazumichi Terachi (65), who leads the group Himawari, and it has been sung at the ceremony since 2010.
Himawari was formed in November 2004, meaning that this November it will have been active ten years. Ms. Emiko Tani (75), who sings in the back row, is one of the three original people who have been singing with the group since it was formed; today there are 50 members. "While I am singing, there is nothing in my mind and feel like I myself am a sunflower turning toward the bright sun ."
Ms. Tani has suffered great hardship in her life with her father since the bombing. She would like to say, "Never again should anyone have to endure what we had to in our lifetime."
On August 9, 1945, Ms. Tani, who was six years old at the time, was in the middle of moving house with her father. They had been living together with their relatives in Maruomachi in Nagasaki, but were forced to evacuate and move to Hiradogoya-machi in the city closer to the mountains.
An air raid warning had just ended. Ms. Tani picked up all she could carry and was going back and forth between Maruomachi and Hiradogoya-machi. She remembers she was about midway between the two places when she heard the roar of an airplane. "Strange," she thought. "The air raid warning just ended," she said to herself looking up into the sky. At that moment, there was a tremendous flash. Immediately, she ran into an empty house nearby.
Ms. Tani quickly then went to the house in Hiradogoya-machi looking for her father. By the time she got there, the house was ready to collapse. "Father! Father!" she cried out, but there was no reply. She started crying but kept calling out his name. Then she faintly heard his voice and found him lying on the ground a little distance away. It seemed that he had been blown by the blast while he was in the Hiradogoya-machi house.
This is Ms. Tani's memory of August 9. From that day on, she and her father started their hardships together. Ms. Tani's father soon became ill and bedridden from the aftereffects of the A-bomb. There were just two of them left in the family, and she tended to him every day.
She also worked. She would visit households with many children, clean their houses, and receive leftover food in return. She also delivered newspapers. "Whenever I got a new customer, I got some extra money, which made me happy."
One day, while in the early years of elementary school, she returned home and was surprised to see her father sitting up on the futon, all dressed up. He told her, "Let's go see some cherry blossoms." They had no money to ride a train or bus so they walked several kilometers to a place famous for its cherry blossoms. Watching people eating their lunches and enjoying the blossoms, her heart danced. "Oh, how happy I am!" Seeing their meager conditions compared to others there, that prompted her father to say, "Umm, maybe it was a bit cruel of me to bring you here."
Then he told her that they would be going to a waterfall called "Taki no Kannon" [Waterfall of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy)] This is a waterfall in a mountainous area famous for its scenic beauty northeast of Nagasaki. Even though it was getting dark, her father held her hand and kept going up the mountain path. Ms. Tani's heart was filled with anxiety. By the time they reached "Taki no Kannon," it was completely dark. but her father held her hand even more strongly and kept pulling her along.
"Where are we going?" she asked. But he only answered, "A very good place." Ms. Tani couldn't bear it any longer and so said, "Let's go home," and pulled her father's hand as hard as she could. He no longer insisted on going further.
Ms. Tani cannot forget the views of their way back. "A red, very red moon shone on us like daylight. We looked at it the whole way walking home ."
When they got to Hiradogoya-machi, her hand was still pulling at her father's hand, and they found their neighbors looking for them. Her father bowed his head down and kept saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Later on when she was in the upper grade of elementary school, she realized that her father had been looking that day for a place for them to die. "What would have happened if we had kept on going? Father must have thought that he couldn't leave me behind."
In 1957, a souvenir shop called "Hibakusha's Shop" opened within the Peace Park in Matsuyama-machi, Nagasaki, and Ms. Tani started working there. "I had to work in order to eat."
When she was seventeen years old, her father's doctor said that her father had only a few months to live. Her relatives, worried what might happen to her being alone, arranged a marriage for her. And so she got married. Ms. Tani says, "I needed someone to rely on. I couldn't live alone." Probably because her father felt he no longer had to worry about his daughter, he died within a few months.
Ms. Tani later became involved in the activities of the Nagasaki Hibakusha Organization and befriended many people, such as well-known and widely beloved A-bomb survivor Mr. Senji Yamaguchi, who passed away in 2013.
A typical day for Ms. Tani begins with boiling and offering rice to memorial photographs of her father and also her husband, who passed away sixteen years ago. Before she goes out of the house to practice singing with Himawari, she always says to them; "I'm leaving for singing practice. You both watch the house. OK?" Her father had always told her, "Don't hesitate to give a hand to those who need help." She always remembers those words and plans to live that way every day.
What happened underneath the mushroom cloud?
One of the songs sung by Himawari is "Under the Mushroom Cloud." The phrase is repeated along the same rhythm, as a hibakusha tells of his/her own story and experience. Ms. Tani is not one of the kataribe (storytellers) but she has told of her experience in this song.
"The A-bomb forced us down to the bottom of poverty."
She says that her life since that day "has been so harsh that she has no words to describe it." She also talks about the sad memory of life with her father.
"He knew that I sensed that he was going to take me with him so we could die together. I said while crying, "Father, let's go home. Let's go home," and I pulled his hands as hard as I could and we went back to our poor living."
Her words are full of emotion and we can clearly feel how things must have been. "When I talk about that time, tears keep coming out," Ms. Tani says.
"What if the A-bomb had not fallen on us? . . . . . I sometimes wonder how different things might have been."
Ms. Tani's words during the interview were heavy, remembering the past.
* 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), August 2014.