3. After the A-bombing
After coming back to us at the Drill Grounds, my father joined my mother in searching for my sister every day. They went wherever they heard casualties had been taken. Besides Koi Elementary School, they went to Kusatsu, Ninoshima Island and Numata. I later heard they searched for four months. Before the war, my mother had been warm and gentle and always told us to have a grateful feeling for others. But after the A-bombing, she became mentally ill. Nothing seemed to be in her heart but my sister.
Two days after the A-bombing, my grandmother, my father’s mother, living in Nishitakaya (present Takaya-cho, Higashi-Hiroshima) east of the city, came to Hiroshima. She was anxious about the safety of our family and her youngest daughter who was also living in Hiroshima. She stayed with us for a few days, and then she and my parents decided that she would take my brothers and me home with her to Nishitakaya. The train we got on at Hiroshima Station was a freight train loaded with people’s bodies. The train made a long stop at every station, and we finally arrived in Nishitakaya two days later. It takes less than an hour now. Although we were with dead bodies for two days, strangely, I didn’t feel scared or didn’t smell them at all. In Nishitakaya, my grandmother was living with my uncle’s family, and they warmly welcomed my brothers and me.
I listened to the Imperial Rescript on Surrender sitting in front of the radio, together with the others at my grandmother’s house. The adults cried, saying that they were sorry for His Majesty, the Emperor. But I felt now we were not restricted anymore. During the war, we were always under tension, forbidden to chat on the street and at school or even to play with friends. Without exception, each neighborhood had someone who kept watch over people and notified the military police when overhearing anything that could be considered suspicious. The military police was very scary and formidable to us. Those district watchmen also delivered draft papers.
My grandmother, having lost her youngest daughter, another daughter’s whole family of three and her granddaughter (my sister) in the A-bombing, sat in front of the family Buddhist altar and prayed for them every day, saying, “It was cruel and horrible. If only it had not been for the A-bombing.”
Later in the fall, my mother came to see us in Nishitakaya. Suddenly my grandmother told me to prepare the wash-tub. Not knowing what was going on inside the house, I went to the well and filled the wash-tub with the well water. Then, my grandmother brought my mother’s clothes and put them in the water. The water turned red at once. Later I learned that my mother had a miscarriage. She lost an unborn baby soon after she lost her eldest child.
My two brothers and I stayed in Nishitakaya until the end of March of the following year. My father came to bring my brothers and me back to Hiroshima because the new school term was going to start. Our house was still not upright, and the window panes were still missing. In place of the windows, my parents applied goza,or the facing of tatami mats, and mushiro, or straw mats, to the window frames, which they brought from Nishitakaya. They also spread goza and mushiro on the floors.
I had a notice that Onaga Elementary School would reopen on April 1st. Students including me got together at Onaga Tenmangu Shrine, our appointed meeting place. I remember sitting on the stone stairs together with other students who gathered together that day, our number reduced to one quarter of that before the A-bombing. Because our school building had been destroyed, we had to resume our classes in an improvised hut, which was made with four thin posts supporting some shabby coverings as a roof in the nearby open space. In the rain, the hut got flooded, of course. On arriving at school, we got DDT sprayed on us from our heads down. There were no desks, no chairs or no textbooks. With nothing to study with every day, we could go home after spending a little time at school. I didn’t go to school very often because I didn’t feel very well or strong.
I was home with nothing to do. A neighbor, who was a Christian, asked me to give her a hand sewing underwear for the A-bomb orphans at Shujo Church. So day after day, I sewed shorts using a sewing machine at the church. The cloth was a kind of cotton cloth called calico, which was part of the aid received from LARA (Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia). After WWII, large amounts of relief food and clothing were sent to war-devastated Japan by LARA, which was created by American relief organizations and benevolent individuals. I remember that I didn’t stop sewing until the calico ran out several weeks later. This sewing experience would help me later.
The burn scar on my youngest brother, Koso’s, right arm was conspicuous for a long time. While we were in Nishitakaya, my grandmother took care of his burn by spreading ground potatoes on it. Al-though the reddish scar gradually whitened, Koso said he never changed clothes in front of his classmates when students changed into gym suits, to hide his A-bomb scar.