2. When the A-bomb was dropped
I entered Yasuda Girls’ School in April, 1943. However, we studied for only two semesters. Because the war was getting worse, from the third semester, we scarcely had time to study at school. We were sent here and there to work at various factories. In the beginning, we worked at the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau factory to wash tobacco leaves in the cold. We also sewed buttons on military uniforms at the army clothing depot, and we cut rice at farm paddies. I remember I was very happy when we worked at farms because they gave us rice balls. Though everyone can eat rice now, during the war, rice was very valuable, and it was difficult for ordinary people to get rice.
In early 1945, about 90 students, one class of 30 students each from every grade, worked every day at Komitsu Kikai, a high-density military machinery factory in Misasa, making parts of plane propellers. Every day, I left my house in Koi early in the morning and walked for more than one hour to get there. As our work started before 8 o’clock, I left my house before 7 o’clock. We rasped castings to make valve covers. At that time castings were used instead of iron, because iron was scarce. They gave us work gloves made from staple fibers, which were easily worn out. When we stopped working because our skin hurt because of those worn gloves, monitoring employees would whip our hands with bamboo sticks. I still remember a sign on the wall, “Increase Production!” There was a song we mobilized students sang, and its words were, “Though young as a cherry bud and only five shaku (about 5 feet) tall, I am proud of dedicating my life to our national crisis.” I felt that the song was my song, because my height was exactly five feet.
There were 11 large two-story wooden buildings in the company premises, and I was working at the northernmost one. Because the company was classified, windows of those buildings were not big. Having no fans inside, it was like a sauna in the mid-summer.
The factory we worked at was located 2.3km from the hypocenter. At 8:15, all of the sudden, I saw a beautiful sea-blue colored light flash outside of the window. I instinctively covered my ears with my thumbs, my eyes with my middle fingers and my nose with my baby fingers, as I had been trained to do encountering an unusual light. Then I crouched under a machine. At that moment, I heard a terrific roar and the building’s dirt floor heaved. I was blown away and fainted. Hearing voices calling, “Help me!” I came to. The two-story building was smashed into pieces and debris of rooftiles, pillars, beams and machines were piled up. I was buried in the debris up to my shoulders, and I could only slightly move my hands. It was completely dark. I wondered why I was in this dark and cramped place. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a wooden post and two legs sticking out within close my reach. I didn’t know who it was, or whether that person was alive or dead. Screaming, “Don’t die!” I pulled those legs up desperately. Then, I heard the person cry, “Mom, help me!” Hearing my voice, she might have gained consciousness. To my surprise, it was Fumiko, my close friend. Although she’d been working at a distance from me, both of us were blown away and fell at the same place coincidently.
We had been trained to get out of a building immediately when a bomb was dropped, because it would break out in a fire soon, so we held each other’s clothes and tried to escape from the debris of the building as quickly as possible. One of Fumiko’s arms was seriously injured, exposed to the bone. She said that she could see some light, though I couldn’t see it, so we crawled in that direction, moving the obstacle debris and machines in our way.
When we saw the light clearly, we thought we would be able to get out, but there was a bamboo clay wall lathing in front of us. I don’t remember how I was able to break it with just my bare hands, but I unbelievably did and took Fumiko outside with me. Maybe it was a fight or flight response. We saw that all the factory buildings and surrounding houses were flattened all the way to the city center. There was complete silence. It was dim with dust and dirt flying all around. The air was filled with a bad smell like the mixture of red soil and rotten fish.