Yoshiko Kajimoto

The Evil Will Be Repeated, Unless We Convey It

4. Home

I returned home in the evening of the third day after the A-bombing. I heard that my second and third younger brothers were on tatami mats, drawing in the living room, when the A-bomb was dropped. The blast caused the dresser to fall on my second brother, but he didn’t experience many injuries and was fine. The roof of our one-story house blew away, and I was told that everything in the house got wet later due to the black rain that fell after the bombing. When I got home, tatami mats were leaning against each other in pairs, so that they would dry out. My family told me how surprised they were to see tatami mats being lifted in the air by the blast, and to find a towel, originally hung outside of the toilet a distance away from the house, stuck between tatami mats that had been blown away. Though I hadn’t even noticed until then, there were several shards of glass stuck in my right arm. Maggots bred in these wounds, and my grandmother picked them out one by one. There was a small bottle of mercurochrome at our house, given to us from a relative who was a doctor. However, my mother had used it all to treat the injured survivors who fled to our house prior to my coming home. My parents argued over that mercurochrome. About three days after I returned home, I began bleeding heavily from my gums. The bleeding didn’t stop even while asleep, and since tissues and towels weren’t helping much, my mother placed a wash basin by my bedside. The bleeding continued until the end of August. Because of this, I became severely anemic and was too faint to even get up. My father brought home fresh cow’s blood and liver from somewhere and tried to make me eat them, but they were so gross that I just couldn’t eat them.

Since it was impossible to rest well in our home, on the third or fourth day, my father took us to stay with my mother’s parents, who ran a gardening business in Gunjindani (present-day Koi Higashi, Nishi-ku, Hiroshima), about a 20-minute walk toward the mountain from our house. Aside from my grandparents, the house was already occupied by my uncle’s family of four who had been living there, and also by my aunt’s family of six who had evacuated from the city. My family ended up living in a hut built for delivering babies. My father slept back in our house every day, to fix the collapsed roof and because leaving the house empty would be unsafe. I fell ill as soon as I got to my grandparents’ house, and I couldn’t even get up until the end of August.

From the day after he found me alive, my father went to the nearby Koi Elementary School and helped to cremate corpses at the school grounds. This lasted only about a week, but the smell on his clothes whenever he returned was indescribable. I learned that approximately 700 corpses were cremated in one week. At the time, the ashes were buried in the school grounds. They were later dug up and unidentified remains were placed in the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound in Peace Memorial Park.

At noon on August 15th, together with the neighbors who had also gathered at my grandparents’ house, we listened to the Imperial Rescript on Surrender. The static was very bad, and I couldn’t understand what was being said. We children heard the words, “….enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable,” and we thought it meant that we needed to continue to endure and fight no matter how difficult. We braced ourselves to continue to do our best. My father returned home in the evening, however, and told us that the war had ended. When I heard that, the tension within me loosened at once, and I suddenly felt deflated to know that a war could end so easily. It made me upset when I thought, “If it was so easy, why didn’t they end it sooner? If the war had ended a day earlier, my aunt who died the day before, just before noon on the 14th from an air raid on Iwakuni, wouldn’t have had to die. If it ended even earlier, many of the cities in Japan wouldn’t have to suffer from air raids and so many people wouldn’t have had to lose their lives.”

By the end of August, our house was repaired to the point where rain no longer leaked, so our family returned to our home. But the door frame seemed to have gotten off-centered from the blast, because we couldn’t get the shutters pulled out from the built-in shutter box. This left us with only shoji (sliding paper doors) between us and the outside, which made me very anxious especially during the night.

Later in autumn, a doctor came to our house to pull out these glass shards. I heard that there were seven shards stuck in my arm. There was no anesthetic or disinfectant at the time. A nurse, my mother, and grandmother pressed me down, as the glass shards, deeply stuck in my arm, were pulled out. There were also lacerations on my right leg, which I suspect had happened when I pulled my leg out from under the rubble.