Park Nam-joo

The A-bombings Should Never Ever Be Repeated

6. Life after the war

After my father fell down on August 7, although he looked good, he was not able to get back on to his feet.  Finally, he could not work at all.  At that time, we didn’t know the word, “A-bomb burabura disease,” which is the condition of physical weariness and deteriorating ability to resist diseases.  As we didn’t know that it was one of the aftereffects of the A-bombing, we called it “laziness disease.”  My father, who had always worked hard for our family, must have been very frustrated.  He started to drink sake, which he had never done before.  The sake he drank was called doburoku, secretly brewed sake.  Also, every two months, he vomited a bowlful of blood.  Each time, we kids went to Fukushima Clinic (the present Fukushima Co-op Hospital), located on the second floor of a private house to ask the doctor to come to our house.  I remember he was a young doctor named Dr. Tasaka.  Even at midnight, he came to our house without an irritated look.  Ten years after the A-bombing, this condition was finally recognized as one of the diseases caused by A-bomb radiation, and my father was recognized as suffering from an A-bomb disease.  Soon after that, it was found that he had liver cancer.  Dr. Tasaka said that my father could live because he had a very strong heart.  Until he died at 80, he often went in and out of hospitals. 

My mother and the kids started to sell steamed sweet potatoes in the black market to survive.  Every morning, I crossed the river to Kogo (Nishi-ku, Hiroshima) to buy sweet potatoes, and we steamed them at home.  My mother and two younger sisters sold them in the market in front of Koi Station.  It was a Korean custom that girls 13 years and over should not go out often, so I stayed home and did house chores.  My brother followed the Occupation soldiers with other children to pick up cigarette butts they threw away.  They made new cigarettes by wrapping the cigarette leaves with new paper and sold them.  There were many orphans who had lost their parents in the A-bombing.  We felt sorry for them and sometimes brought some of them home so that they could stay overnight.  The next morning when we woke up, something often had disappeared.

We could not go back to school because our father was sick and all my family had to work.  My sisters went to night elementary school which was free.  My brother entered elementary school a year behind.

Various things were supplied through the neighborhood association, which functioned for two years after the war.  As Hiroshima people lost everything by the A-bombing, rations such as clothes, bedding and construction materials were really helpful.  As we didn’t have shoes and socks, many children got frostbite when it got colder.  LARA packages, which were sent mainly from Japanese Americans in the U.S., also were distributed through the association.  Gradually, we could have a minimal standard of living. Our family’s life improved when the Korean War started.  The civil war on the Korean Peninsula started in June, 1950 and lasted for three years.  After the U.S. got involved in the war, it spread all over the peninsula.  Japan supplied the U.S. with weapons and goods and Japan had the Korean War boom.  The textile industry which made military clothes and tents, the steel industry which made weapons, pipes and barbed wire, and the food industry were thriving.  In those days, it was called “textile boom,” “steel boom,” and so on.  Our family picked up iron scraps from the debris of collapsed houses and sold them.  We gradually got used to the work, and we could guess where the kitchen was in the debris, where we could find iron goods such as pipes and pots.  Sometimes, we earned 2000 yen in one day, which was a lot!  In those days, if you worked in the program for the unemployed, you only got 200 yen per day.  Compared to that, we earned much more.