1. Early years
I was born as the third child of my father, Jiro, and my mother, Itoyo, on July 21, 1934. We were a family of five including Hiroko, my three-year-older sister, and Tamaso, my two-year-older brother. Our house was located in Nakajima-honmachi, the present Peace Memorial Park, 180m from the hypocenter. My father ran a barber shop where four people lived and worked on the premises. He also taught at a barber school nearby.
Both of my parents were stylish. Every day on his job, my father wore a white shirt with a bow tie and morning striped trousers. He used electric clippers, which no one used in those days, and tried to spread their use throughout Japan through his barber friends. I think he was ahead of his times, but what I remember about him was that he drank with his friends every day upstairs on the second floor. Sometimes, the barber school students came to take my father, who was drunk and sleeping, to the class. My mother was born in Hawaii and came back to Japan with her parents when she was in the 6th grade. She spoke both Japanese and English. In those days, all the women wore plain baggy work pants called monpe, but my mother went shopping wearing a dress and a vivid blue floral-pattern parasol.
At six, I entered Honkawa National Elementary School although I was supposed to go to Nakajima National Elementary School. My sister, brother and other children in my neighborhood all went there outside our school district, because the Nakajima school was a little bit farther from our area. After I entered school, I was absent for about a month in one school term because of my asthma. I was a weak, but curious and mischievous boy. At school, I did mischief and skipped classes, so I was often scolded by my teachers. Once, after I skipped a gym class, I was made to stand holding buckets all morning. I always wanted to do something new by myself. I also liked going shopping although my sister and brother didn’t like to. One day, my mother asked me to buy soy sauce. In those days, we took bottles to shops and got soy sauce from barrels. The shopkeeper used a rubber tube to pump soy sauce from the barrel into my bottle. I really wanted to do that by myself and asked him to let me do it. But I drank a large amount of soy sauce by mistake and felt sick. Nakajima-honmachi was one of the biggest amusement areas in Hiroshima and there was a cabaret nearby. One day, I sneaked into it because no one was there during the daytime, and fell asleep on a soft and comfortable sofa which was rare in those days. Another day, I threw a stone at a beauty salon’s window in my neighborhood and broke the glass. My father severely scolded me and went there with me to apologize. Even so, I can remember all happy memories in my childhood.
As the war situation was getting worse, 3rd– 6th graders in urban areas were evacuated to their relatives’ houses in the countryside. When children had no relatives, they went to rural temples with their teachers. I went to my relative’s house in Hatsukaichi, which was Sadako’s parents’ house. Sadako was Kanji, my father’s brother’s wife. I stayed there from April 1, 1945, when Sadako came back to give birth to a baby. The family were Sadako’s parents and their nine children including Sadako. When I joined them, they treated me equally with their children. As there were so many children in the family, they rented another house 50m away from the main house. I transferred from Honkawa National Elementary school to Miyauchi National Elementary School where I became a 5th grader.
In Hatsukaichi, the power supply was cut off from eight in the morning to five in the evening. The house had only one light bulb, and all the family got together in one place when it got dark. When we had to move for eating, everyone followed the bulb. In my house in Hiroshima city, all the rooms had lights and we had a convenient life there. I was fed up with the inconvenience. I was told to sleep in the rented house, but the dark path to the house was so scary for me. So, I often fell asleep in the main house, and someone carried me to the rented one on their back. I also hated the outside bathroom. I was so scared to go out in the dark that I didn’t go to the bathroom even if I needed to. Whenever I wetted my bed, I was scolded by my aunt. Also, they drank muddy well water. As my house area had a water supply, we always had clean tap water. On Saturdays, I came back to my house by streetcar and on Sundays, I went back to Hatsukaichi. I missed the life in my house so much and caused trouble for my parents, saying I wanted to come back even if I died in the air-attacks. One good thing was I fully recovered from my asthma. The air might have been cleaner in Hatsukaichi. I was well enough to get a prize for perfect school attendance.