Emiko Okada

The Atomic Bomb was Developed by Human Beings And Also Dropped by Human Beings

4. Family breakdown

At home, our family lost the homey atmosphere we used to have.  We didn’t talk to each other at all, laugh out loud or have a meal together.  My mother remained mentally ill and didn’t care about our family. Before and during war, my father gave students militarism education and taught them that giving their lives to the nation would be honorable.  In those days, draft papers were issued to 17-year-old boys, but boys older than 15 could voluntarily apply to be a soldier.  My father felt guilty to have sent some of his students as volunteers to the battlefields and felt distressed after the war.  Eventually, one year after returning to school, he resigned, and for two years he didn’t work and spent his days doing nothing.

Even after we three children returned from Nishitakaya, my parents went out somewhere every day.  Sometimes they didn’t return home, and I had no idea where they went.  I was only nine, but I had to take care of my younger brothers.  Day after day, we kept hunger away by taking daikon, sweet potatoes or tomatoes planted in the Eastern Drill Grounds, or stealing figs from someone else’s garden.  Only a porcelain enamel pot was left in my house, so we managed to stave off hunger cooking what we found that day in the pot.  Every family around us was in the same condition, so I took such a life for granted.  I don’t remember ever eating a meal with my parents in those days.  This situation continued for two years.  Finally, when I was in the sixth grade, my father began to work again.  He started a store selling machine tools.

In 1949, I enrolled in Hijiyama Girls’ Junior High School.  When I gave a self-introduction in the class for the first time, I said, “I came from Onaga Elementary School.”  That moment, I sensed that everyone in the class froze.  At first, I didn’t know why, but later I learned that people living outside Onaga-cho looked at people living there with a discriminatory attitude because many Chinese and Koreans lived there.  When I was young, children around me called Chinese and Koreans “Chankoro” and “Pig.”  My mother scolded me harshly when I called them the same thing without knowing what the words meant and told me not to call them those names.   I didn’t know about the experience of discrimination until I entered junior high school.

My father’s job went well at first, but by the time I enrolled in senior high school, he could not collect the accounts receivable.  His debts piled up, and he had to mortgage our house and land.  A three-wheeled car called batanko was purchased in my name, though I was only a high school student.  I also went around by bicycle to collect money, but no one responded to a young girl student collecting money.  In 1955, my father’s store went bankrupt due to non-payment of the mortgages.  Eventually, my father and mother fled at night, vanishing outside the prefecture.  My two brothers had gone to boarding school outside the prefecture from junior high school, and I was the only one left in Hiroshima.

Some time later, my mother collapsed due to a cerebral hemorrhage and was taken to the hospital.  I rushed to her as soon as I received the news, but she died three hours later, and I was not in time for her death.  I attended the funeral, and when I picked up her bones after the cremation, her bones crumbled like powder, and I found many glittering pieces of glass around her head.

Afterwards, my brothers entered night school.  They studied while working part-time every day, and continued their education at university on their own.  However, my younger brother developed tuberculosis when he was a second-year university student and was forced to drop out.