Yoshiko Kajimoto

The Evil Will Be Repeated, Unless We Convey It

3. Escape to the north

There must have been about 30 girls of my class in the building where we were working. But I found only five or six girls who had come outside. All of us were covered with black soot and blood. We found a space in the debris where we took care of each other’s injuries as we had been trained at the Army Hospital near our school. I tore the sleeves of my shirt and wound them around Fumiko’s arms as a bandage. We were told that bandages must be wound as near the heart as possible and how to bandage joint wounds, such as elbows and knees. We applied some oil for the burns, which our teacher had found somewhere.

One of our classmates, Miss Yanagida, suddenly said, “Hiroshima has disappeared, but bombers were not flying over us, were they?” Hearing that, I wondered why we hadn’t had air-raid alarms or seen any bombers. At first, I thought our factories were targeted, but the whole city was destroyed.

Then, we remembered that some of our classmates were left in the factory and went back. We heard, “Help me!” here and there from the debris, so we removed the debris and dragged them out one by one. Neighbors also helped us, and we managed to pull out all of our classmates trapped in the debris, maybe 25-26 students. It was lucky that fires had not broken out yet.

Students who could walk, who had their houses or their relative houses nearby, or whose parents came started to leave. As students were so honest in those days, they got permission from their teacher when they left. Still, about 20 students remained. Around noon, we could see fires coming toward our factory. We were told to go to Oshiba Park, designated as an evacuation place in the case of air attacks. Our teacher brought some stretchers. We made a group of four who could walk, and carried others who could not walk on the stretcher, repeatedly walking between the factory and the park. As there were many bodies on the path, I tried not to step on them. But I could not avoid walking on the skin hanging from their bodies. At that time, I had already lost my wooden clogs and walked barefoot. Even today, I cannot forget the uncomfortable slippery feeling of the skin under my feet.

We stayed in the park for a while, and then we carried girls who could not walk to Kumano Shrine, walking down the single path a few times trying not to step on bodies. But the shrine was already full of evacuated people, so we moved to a community center. But the center was also full of injured people, and we could not find the space to rest. We had no choice but to stay overnight among the bamboo trees along the riverside nearby. There were many other injured people lying there, too. One of the students who had gotten burned had pains when her wounds dried. We took turns going back to the community center to get some oil and put it on her wounds. At night, I looked up at the sky over Hiroshima, which was burning red.

The next day, we walked northward, carrying injured classmates on the stretchers. On the second day, we stayed separately at several private houses in a village. I cannot remember where it was. We might have been given some food, but I don’t remember even that. On the third day, we walked again northward. We had a break and were given rice balls at an eye ointment manufacturer in Yasu, the present Asa-kita ward in Hiroshima city, which was about 10km away from our factory. I remember that we sat side by side on the veranda and ate them, overlooking a slow-moving stream. The rice balls were black for some reason, and I remember they were the first food we ate after the A-bombing. There was a girl who was from a rich family, and she threw hers away in the stream, saying, “I cannot eat such a black rice ball.”

We were told that the Koi area escaped the fires. I don’t know whether it was posted on the town bulletin board which was usually used as a means of communication in those days, or whether the manufacturer had a telephone. I lived in Koi, and Miss Nushida lived in Kusatsu, in the same direction, so we decided to go back together. We didn’t know how far we walked, but along the way, I met my father who was looking for me. Father hugged us and said, “I am so happy that you are alive!” I asked him, “Is everyone OK?” He didn’t answer my question clearly. Later, I realized that he was considering Miss Nushida whom I was walking with. My family were all OK, but in most families, someone was killed.

On my way home, I saw countless bodies, but didn’t feel anything at that time. There were many human and horse bodies on the road and in the river. The only scene I cannot forget was a baby desperately sucking the breast of his mother who had already died. I think it was between Yokogawa station and Nishi-Hiroshima station. Bodies floating in the river were swollen like balloons. They looked like dolls with a nose and eyes, not like human beings. At high tide time, they floated up, and the river was filled with bodies. When the tide was out, they went out to the sea. I heard that continued for about a week. I think we slept in a roofless house for the next two to three days. When it got pitch dark, I could see the sky full of stars. Miss Nushida and I parted and went our separate ways at Koi.