Emiko Okada

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

5. Busy Days for Repayment

My father had left a ¥18,000,000 debt.  Everything was confiscated by the debtors, not only my fa-mily house in Onaga but also mountains and fields in my father’s name in Nishitakaya.  At the bankruptcy hearing, an agreement was reached with the debtors that I would repay the balance of the debt–¥1,000 every day.  I was left alone with a large amount of debt.  The only thing I knew how to do was sew by machine, so I bought a machine on monthly installments.  When I was an elementary school student, I had sewn hundreds of shorts for A-bomb orphans at the Shujo Church, and that experience was helpful at this time.  After I graduated from high school, I kept sewing by machine, from morning till night without rest. Every day, a bank employee visited me to collect the money, and I managed to repay ¥1000 every day. 

Later, due to redevelopment of the area, I was evicted from the shop my father had rented on the shopping street near the Enko Bridge.  I was provided a shop in the West Station Commercial Center, west of the Hiroshima Station.  I rented a three-story building only about 20 meters square.  There was a shop on the first floor, a small kitchen and a Japanese-style room of four-and-a-half tatami mats on the second floor, and a wood flooring room on the third floor.  When I opened the dressmaking shop, I began to go to dressmaking school, thinking that I couldn’t earn enough money as only a seamstress.  After closing the shop in the evening, I went to a nearby dressmaking school for one year to learn the basics of measuring, drafting paper patterns and clothes design. 

When I was 20, my photo, “A woman sewing by machine,” was posted in a public relations magazine of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation.  At that time, I met my husband who was in charge of the magazine in the NTT public relation department.  The next year, his mother passed away and we began to live together.  His monthly salary was about ¥30,000, most of which was spent for paying off my debts.  Thanks to him, I finished my debt repayment in three years.  Considering we were in mourning for his mother, we officially got married when he was 25 and I was 22.

At the beginning, I sewed special-order dresses by myself, but the amount of work gradually increased, so I employed several seamstresses.  My business was going so well that I began to get orders from department stores.  Soon I occupied myself only with the drawing and designing and left the sewing to six seamstresses.   I was living on the second floor above the shop.  I was married and the employees increased.  The living space became cramped, so I decided to build a house in Nakayama.  When I was 24, my son, Kazuhiko, was born, and two years later, my daughter, Yukie, was born.