25. The Patched Uniforms Are Their Only Mementos

  Katsuhiko-kun, Naomichi-kun, you encountered that evil moment of the A-bomb explosion while at Fukuromachi National Elementary School, and you are still missing as A-bomb victims. Mother ,father, your elder sister (who was in the first year at a prefectural girls' school and working to demolish buildings to make fire-breaks), and your four-year-old younger sister. All died by the A-bomb, leaving your grandmother and your elder bother, me. Our dad died at Kuba on the 12th of August, and our mom died on the 14th at one of our relatives. However, we still don't have any clue where and how the two of you were found in the ruins of our family shop, and these were identified as our youngest sister's. Our grandmother, who was near the relative's house, survived. Since I was mobilized to Fuchizaki while in the third year at Shudo Middle School, I also managed to survive. However, that grandmother died in 1951 due to old age, leaving me alone.

  The A-bomb instantly turned Hiroshima into a scorched field. The scene was so atrocious to describe it properly. Even though many people have tried, nobody has satisfactorily described. I could not believe that it was a real incident. It is said that the number of people killed by the A-bomb was more than 200,000. Recently it was discovered that the number of more than 110,000 (the number of deaths according to the city government just after the disaster) was also not a correct number. In fact, now – a quarter century after the A-bomb – many survivors are still suffering and dying from the aftereffects of radiation. After Hiroshima, Nagasaki was attacked by another A-bomb. Japan was defeated and the Japanese land was completely destroyed. Twenty-six years after the war, Japan, including Hiroshima, has been prospering more than we expected. It is a sad fact that the peace of Japanese society was brought about by your sacrifice.

  Even though we have some social problems such as various kinds of pollution and the phenomenon referred to as “traffic war”, the present Japanese society is virtually peaceful compared to those days when all Japanese sacrificed their lives for the war. I still remember that I was watching the demolition work near our house until late the day before the bombing. In the middle of the night, an air-raid siren sounded, I hurried to the school to defend it as usual. I was soon released and when I came home, I saw that you were still awake, so I asked you, “Why don't you get to sleep? I will wake you up, if another air-raid siren sounds.” It was the last time I talked with you. Recently it was found that three persons, who were among the people in the basement of Fukuromachi National Elementary School at that moment, were able to escape and survive. Our mother went to the school the next day, but she could identify none of you. Now, the patched school uniforms which were found in our evacuated belongings are our only mementos of you.

  Every year the memorial service for the A-bomb victims is held in the Peace Park and the registration of the victims, which is kept in the cenotaph, is shown to public. Once, I happened to see the page opened to where our family's names were written and it seemed to me a providential coincidence. Lately, almost every year, since the name of people who died just after the A-bomb have been discovered one after another, I have been there to look for the names of my brothers and sister. However I failed, and now I am beginning to give up.

  Even though I stayed at home until just before the explosion that day, and I am the only one in my neighborhood who survived and is still living in the same place. A few survivors from my vicinity moved to somewhere else because of various reasons. By chance I saw a photograph of the burnt ruins of my house at the Peace Memorial Museum, and I recently obtained a copy of that. I can recognize my home by the fallen iron electric poles near the gate of my house.

  The next morning I went to the ruins of my house, which were burning and the ashes were so hot that I could not step into them. The same scene was shown in the photograph. It is a shame that some countries are still producing and experimenting with such horrible atomic and hydrogen bombs. Furthermore, they are proud of possessing and showing off them.

  At present my family consists of four members. My family used to own a hardware shop, and now I am operating a clothes store. My daughter Nobuko and my son Shoji, both of whom graduated from Fukuromachi Elementary School are now in the third year at Jyogakuin Girls' High School and in the second year at Shudo Junior High School, respectively. When they were still elementary school children, sometimes they seemed to be the reincarnation of you, my brothers who were killed by the atomic bomb.

  Two of my children, however, know nothing about that atrocious war. They have opportunities to see pictures and listen to stories of the war from time to time, but I think that it is hard for them to realize what war is like. Nowadays many Japanese people can afford to have cars and color TVs which nobody could have foreseen during the war. Furthermore, modern technology has allowed us to travel to the moon, and Japan has become materially affluent.

  Ever since that war ended, wars have been going on somewhere in the world. The Vietnam War has especially lasted a long time and continues. Considering this world situation, just thinking about the use of nuclear weapons again makes me shudder. I wish all human beings of this world could soon have war-free lives.
Finally, thanks to all those concerned who decided to build “The Monument to A-bombed teachers and students of National Elementary Schools”, I am grateful that I have something to comfort the souls of teachers and you.

Written by Hiroshi Okumoto (Hondori, Hiroshima)

Death in the Atomic boming :
Katsuhiko Okumoto (a thirdgrader at Fukuromachi National Elementary School)
Naohiko Okumoto (a first grader at Fukuromachi National Elementary School)