3. Life under wartime
As the war situation worsened, cities began to get bombarded all over Japan. It had to be totally dark in cities at night to avoid air raids. Even a small light could be targeted. One night, all the family gathered, surrounding my younger brother lying on the futon, who had developed meningitis from pneumonia. We thought that night would be the last for him, and all of us were looking into his face. The light was wrapped with black cloth to avoiding any light leaking out. However, the District Guard Corps, who were patrolling outside, noticed our light on. Suddenly, they kicked the front door open and entered the room with their shoes on. They shouted, “You Korean spies!” and kicked my father. Hearing this fuss, a neighbor came and said, “What are you doing? His child is in such a serious condition!” The District Guard Corps were very scary to us.
In sixth grade, we had to choose either to work after graduation, to go on to a higher elementary school for two years or to go on to a middle school for boys or a girls’ high school. In April, 1945, I went on to Shintoku Girls’ High School. In those days, Koreans living in Japan were poor, and most of their children would finish school when they graduated from elementary school. My father worked at several places, so our family lived relatively affluently, and he didn’t oppose my going on to school. Some people spoke ill of me behind my back, saying “Even though she is only a girl, why is she going on to high school?” It was the time when many people thought girls didn’t need to be educated.
In 1945, my two younger sisters were in the third and the fifth grades, and my two younger brothers were in kindergarten and one year old. At that time, middle school students didn’t study at school every day. First- and second-year students were mobilized to demolish houses around important facilities to make fire breaks to prevent the spread of fire after air raids. Third- and fourth-year students were mobilized to work in munitions factories.
I clearly remember some classes in my school. A teacher taught us how to read the English alphabet, the language of the enemy, and a history teacher told us that the Yellow River in China was the birthplace of civilization in Asia, though everyone looked down on Chinese, calling them “Shina, mounted bandits, and opium smokers.” I was scared that a military policeman would discover him teaching such things to students. In those days, we were told that Japan must create the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere to lead the disturbed country, China, in the right direction, and so Japan was fighting a war of justice.
On July 20, I was working on house demolition in Fujimi-cho as usual. When we hung ropes on a house and were pulling it down together, a piece of wood flew at my face, and I got so seriously injured that I needed five stiches. Instead of worrying about my injury, my mother said to me, “Now, you may not be able to get married with your scarred face.” Due to the injury, however, I didn’t go to the work site on August 6 and instead stayed at home when the A-bomb was dropped. The scar still remains.