24. The Memory of My Sister Fumiko Kajiya

  My sister and I were exposed to the A-bombing in a building which was used for makeshift classrooms. It was across the street from the present Kaisei Hospital, 100 meters west of Hiroshima Station.

  At that time my sister Fumiko was a third grader and I was a first grader at Kojin National Elementary School. The rapid escalation of the air raids prevented us from going to school, so we studied at Nakanishi's private house which was located at about 200 meters away from my house. The house was used for a classroom, and Ms. Imoto was teaching us there. In those days the government issued an evacuation program for school children, and in April of 1945, Fumiko was evacuated to Oasa-cho, Yamagata-gun, where our mother was born and raised. Fumiko went to Shinjo Elementary School there. In the middle of July Mother went to see her taking her change of summer clothes. When Mother left, Fumiko clung to her sobbing and would not let her ride back on a bus alone. Mother decided to go back with Fumiko, saying to herself, “I am ready to die with her when I have to.”

  On August 3, the telegram about my grandmother's death came. In those days we could not take a bus without a certificate. Our father managed to get a certificate after running about for half a day and could finally stand in line for a bus ride at the bus stop in Kamiya-cho on the evening of the 3rd. He initially intended to take both Fumiko and me and tried to obtain the certificates for us, but he failed to obtain one for Fumiko, so only I could accompany him. We began standing in line on the evening of the 3rd and we took a bus after 2 o'clock of the 4th. After all this, we arrived at Shinjo after the funeral ended. We stayed overnight there and laid my grandmother's ashes in the family vault on the next day. They tried to persuade us to stay another night, but we were concerned about Fumiko, who was ten years old then, and came back to Hiroshima toward nine on the evening of the 5th. My parents looked back on that day, saying, “If Fumiko had gone to Shinjo, another night would have been spent there.” When we arrived home in Hiroshima, Fumiko was sleeping in bed alone.

  On the morning of the 6tth, after all was clear, Mother sent us to school, saying good bye to us. Morning cleaning time was 8:15, and on that morning Fumiko and I, as a team, were assigned to clean the hall connecting the entrance and the back room. I now recall my sister cleaning the porch of the entrance with a dust cloth. And that flash! I will never forget that moment. I was trapped under the house while at the entrance. After breaking the wall, I crawled out through the crevice between the pillars and fled into the mountains in Ushita.

  Later, I heard that my father found Fumiko's body in the kitchen at the back of that house. The pillar which fell down over her chest instantly killed her. She looked very peaceful in death, without any injuries or bleeding. She even had a smile about her mouth. Even now, when recalling that scene, Mother says with tears in her eyes, "I wonder what she had in her mind at that moment. She was such a sweet girl." After digging out her body, Father began to look for my body. While he was looking under the broken roof tiles and peeping through the holes of the ceiling which he made, the fire spread toward him. He could not stand the heat and left there.

  At the refuge where I fled to, I met our neighbor, Mr. Fukuma and was taken to the East Drill Ground in the evening. At the foot of the hill called Gunkanyama, or Mt. Warship, I met my father and mother. It was a little after seven on the 6th. (My father had no injuries, so as a chief of the defence squad, he worked on providing food, engaging in rescue operation, and identifying and cremating corpses. As the result, he began vomiting and had diarrhea, and lost teeth.) Fumiko was lying dead beside him as if sleeping quietly. I found my mother covered all over the body with a bandage which was oozing blood. She lay motionlessly, huddled beside Fumiko's body, holding her own knees. She was pierced by more than 50 fragments of glass caused by the blast. In the north I saw flames soaring up in the central part of the city.

  At the time of explosion I was near the entrance and Fumiko was instantly killed in the kitchen at the back of the house. Although it is outside my recollection, my father told me later that I explained the situation to him as follows: "That morning Fumiko and I were mopping the floor. The water in the bucket became filthy. I should have gone to change water, but I was reluctant to go, so Fumiko went to the kitchen with the bucket instead of me. I remained near the entrance." If I had gone to the kitchen, I would have died there in her place. I am sure that I should have. When I see children of the age Fumiko was at that time, my heart is filled with deep sorrow. Her image was clearly imprinted in Mother's heart, and even now, she is alive there just as she was then. She stops at the sight of girls with bobbed short hair.

  On August 6th last year she cried remembering Fumiko, although 25 years had passed since that day. I am sure she will cry this year, too.

Written by

Death in the Atomic boming : Fumiaki Kajiya (Osuka-cho, Hiroshima)
Fumiko Kajiya (a third grader at Kojin National Elementary School)