Sound & Photo

“Lullaby of Oleander” was written by Michiko Ishii who was A-bombed at the age of 7.
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Lyrics of “Lullaby of Oleander”

“Lullaby of Oleander”

Music by Eriko Kato
Words by Michiko Ishii

Green leaves wave like a riverboat.
A sleeping girl dreaming red flowers,
You are seven years old forever, covered with white sand.
As the golden sunset fades out, you're in a dream.

Stars twinkle, making your eyes rhythmic.
A night dew playing on a red flower,
You are seven years old forever, covered with white sand.
You appear sobbing; it's the Milky Way there or the end of the sky.

How far are you going with dirt on?
A girl who saw a red fire shooting up in a dream,
You are seven years old forever, covered with white sand.
Tears now, it's the riverside here in a dream.

Comment from Michiko Ishii

Hiroshima City invited the public to join in a contest for “The Song of Hiroshima” with a wish that the world heading for the 21st century from the 20th century would be eternally peaceful. In the first contest was for music, and Ms. Eriko Kato won the prize. Listening to her music, I created a poem on the basis of my own A-bomb experience. I joined in the second contest for poems, and my poem was selected. Thus, the song “Lullaby of Oleander” was born.

I was exposed to the A-bomb in the central part of Hiroshima, 1.1 kilometers from the hypo-center and trapped under a house. If I had not been helped out of it, my life of seven years would have ended.

I fled to the Eastern Drill Grounds, which is now in front of JR Shinkansen Hiroshima Station. There, hundreds of middle school students, who had been mobilized for demolition work, were staggering along in lines. They were burned gray over their whole bodies. They all lost their hair below the caps, and their bodies were swollen.

That night I was taken to Toshogu Shrine halfway up Mt. Futaba. Later my family discovered me there after ten days. My family members were all exposed to the A-bombing, but luckily they survived despite their injuries and burns. However some of my relatives died on August 6.

“Lullaby of Oleander” is not a song to put babies to sleep peacefully. The girl described in this song is myself, and also implies children who died because of the A-bombing. The colors indicated in this song are those of the flames I saw at the explosion. They are also the colors of the lower part of the mushroom cloud I saw from Toshogu Shrine and the Eastern Drill Grounds. I can hardly put into words the miserable scene of the children who lost their lives. Those children and I are both victims of the A-bombing. By singing in tears with a prayer of lament, I want to console the souls of the children whose short-lived lives ended like night dew. In this way I can give comfort to their souls and move the creation of world peace forward.

In those days students above the third grade of elementary school evacuated to the countryside, but the lower graders remained in the city with their parents, and many children died instantly. The real aspects of the disaster have not yet been made clear. The A-bomb that the American B-29 bomber dropped exploded in the air about 600 meters above the city, and the temperature reached 4000 degrees on the ground. For years after the A-bombing, those who were not directly exposed, as well as those exposed, have died or suffered due to the effects of the residual radiation, just because they were related to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in one way or another after the A-bombing. They did not even know how to treat the diseases.

We should not produce nor use nuclear weapons, which deny the existence of all living things. We should not possess nuclear weapons because of strategic diplomacy. We should not elect politicians who are likely to resort to nuclear weapons.

I wrote the poem “Lullaby of Oleander” because I wanted to stir up children's minds, not to put them to sleep. I wish that the people of the next generation will take my intention sincerely.

Michiko Ishii

These photos are licensed under the Hiroshima Speaks Out.

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