The villager's note and testimony / People of Hesaka village

6. My August 6


From my experience in the Atomic-bombing, this is what I can put into words. There should never be war again.

Was August 6 a day destined for us to die?
Was it a day we had to die?
Was it a day destined for us to suffer?
Was it a day we had to suffer?
On this day, diseases, which could have never occurred, broke out.
People, who should have never died, died one after another.
My August 6 is beyond any words.

It was 1945. Hesaka was a quiet farming village then. We were devoting all our efforts to produce more food for the nation. We never held the monthly community meeting without chanting, “Increase of food production. ”

With regard to this “food,” it didn't mean any special products of the district, but rice, barley and potatoes principally. Every farming family was assigned a fixed quantity of those products to deliver to the government, according to the size of their fields. It was understandable that the government needed a certain criteria to decide the assignment. However, we were really exhausted by the evening, working too long and too hard in the field, to meet the required assignments at the time of labor shortage. Moreover, air raid warnings would sound while exhausted family members were having a humble supper under a small bulb covered with black cloth. Everyone tended to fall silent.

Although country roads in Hesaka were almost empty during the day, there occasionally appeared two-wheeled carts with people's household goods on them, which were being carried to evacuation places. Seeing those passing by almost every day, I couldn't help but feel the war situation was getting much worse for Japan, and fell into an abyss of anxiety.

It was early June, I recall, when I received a request from Yasuda Girls' School to keep their school goods for safety. The school's difficulty was understandable for me because I had daughters who were students of another girls' school. I accepted the request, although I was afraid that those goods, when left in the warehouse or the shed, couldn't be kept in the same condition as in the school.

Then, parties of innocent looking school girls made many trips drawing the carts with sewing machines and boxes of books in them. On the unforgettable day of August 5, too, girls came under the scorching sun. Some were holding steering bars and others were pushing the carts from behind. They were out of breath, and soaked with sweat looking as if they were shedding tears. As the best treat possible at that time, I gave them cool water from the well. It was heartrending to see them wipe off the sweat which welled up newly after drinking water. Girls were waiting in line by the well where I was getting fresh water for them, cooler than water drawn some time before.

There was an official notice issued that a bamboo spear drill should take place in Hesaka on the morning of August 6. It was the first time for us to have the bamboo spear drill, although we had heard about it at the elementary school several times before. So the day before I got a suitable stick of bamboo and sharpened it like a spear for the drill.

Summer days break early, but it was before dawn when I left home into a dim light for the drill on that morning. Before leaving home, I woke up my second daughter, who was then a first-year student of a girls' middle school and supposed to go for clearing work of demolished houses as a mobilized student. Seeing her coming into the living room, I left home hurrying to the designated place in Senzoku. When the drill was over, it must have been some time past seven, because I remember the sun was already above the mountain to the east. I came back home to find my second daughter had gone, just carrying her boxed lunch. She didn't touch the breakfast I had prepared. My oldest daughter was also a mobilized student, but she happened to be off and stayed home on that day, August 6. She told me that my second daughter had said cheerfully, “I'm going. Bye.” And those ended up being her last words. I heard this afterwards.

After breakfast I was at the south veranda, removing husks of castor-oil plant seeds, which we grew as another assigned product. As for verandas of houses those days, they were elevated from the ground and conveniently high to serve as worktables. Standing at the veranda, I was removing the husks of ripe castor oil seeds whose prickles were a little bothersome. That moment, it seemed that a flash ran around me and further to the inner tatami room. If someone asked me whether I am sure there was a flash or not, I would say, yes, surely something flashed. However, I by no means knew what the flash meant then. I only said to myself, “A flash,” sensing the moment. When I came to, I found myself lying on the ground near the garden, in a different place from where I had been.

Wondering if I had been blown with the roaring sound, I somehow rose to my feet puzzled and looked around. The sun was shining brightly and I found nothing different in the garden. Then, beyond the mountain ahead of me there was a light-orange cloud, rising and shining in the morning sunlight. It was neither the usual cloud of the morning nor of the sunset.

I felt scared that something wrong might have happened in Hiroshima.

I looked into the dark inner house to find the sewing machine thrown to the opposite corner of the front room, and the whole ceiling of the back room dangling down. Everything was obscured in a cloud of dust inside the house. In the kitchen, the cupboard burst out of its place and was standing in the center with its doors fallen off. Many of the dishes were broken. The sliding doors along the rear hallway fell over to the north. There was no place to step.

Although I am not very sure how I moved around until ten-thirty, I can state that the following are what we did until ten-thirty (I could tell the time if the train for Miyoshi had run as scheduled. Because we usually knew the rough time by the trains passing by while we were working outdoors.):

  1.    My husband set out to Hiroshima to search for our second daughter who had gone to Nakajima-cho in Hiroshima for the clearing work of demolished houses as a mobilized student.
  2.    I took cooking oil to the schoolyard of Hesaka Elementary School, having gotten a notice to bring it there.

When I was near the Agricultural Cooperative building on my way to the schoolyard, there were already people wounded and burned walking on the road from the direction of Nakayama. In the schoolyard I saw the wounded filling up the yard as the school buildings had overflowed. Every one of those people was asking for water, saying just, “Water, Water.” Some who were lying on the ground grabbed the ankles of passers-by, and others who were crouching grabbed the work pants of passers-by when they asked for water.

What was too cruel to see was not their appearance, like rips or dirt of their clothes, but their destroyed bodies. Who would go out without any clothes on? However, people there were almost naked with only a few shreds of clothes hanging down or sticking to their bodies. Their skin showed that they were hardly human. Moreover, they were out there under the scorching sun. All they could say was, “Water, please. ” In retrospect, it seems I had lost my head after I was thrown down in the garden.

My husband, who went to search for our second daughter, returned, saying, “I couldn't make it any further than Kouhei Bridge. ” Then he set out again saying, “This time I will try the Nakayama route. ” However, he returned again and said he couldn't enter the city by that route either.

Late in the afternoon, I recall, on that day, a man badly burned on his upper body, especially on both arms, turned up into my garden. His voice was weak and sounded heavily tired. “I came over that mountain. It is so miraculous that I could get as far as here. I am very sure that the bomb which struck Hiroshima today is a new weapon, ” he said repeatedly. Then hesitantly said, “I am hungry, ” so I gave him some rice balls.

Although night started falling, our second daughter had not come back. Although I knew waiting for her in the garden wouldn't do any good, I kept standing there. Then, hearing some people in front of the gate, I went out of the gate. There came rescue people carrying an injured girl on a door panel. She was a boarding student of Yasuda Girls' School. After that, Yasuda teachers and Principal also arrived at my house. Receiving some soldiers too, my house was filled with wounded people.

Parents of the boarding students came and took them to their homes. Several days later, soldiers left for a certain place where they were to be accommodated. Teachers and the principal left for the hospital in Itsukaichi for medical treatment. It was not long before August was over.

The following day, my second daughter hadn't come home yet. We searched around the city for her, but in vain. Clinging to scarce information, we visited here and there, but couldn't find her. Two days passed but she didn't come home...she hasn't, to this date.

On that day, from behind the mountain in the back of the city of Hiroshima I saw the atomic cloud rising higher and higher. It must have been a day with no wind even high up in the sky. In the afternoon, the cloud spread over the city in the sky. Then, the day of August 6 ended. Was that cloud the memorial marker of the victims in Hiroshima? (Memoir)

Kohide Nobori