My thoughts toward the A-bomb Records in Hesaka
Hiroshima City stands on the delta area which the Ota River formed, with its headstream in the Chugoku Mountains. The city was incorporated in 1889, when it set out to modernize itself from a town. The inner quarters of the Hiroshima Castle located in the middle of the city, came to take a role as an important point for the army. The Military Hospital was established there, and its branches were also built in some local districts.
On August 6, 1945, when the Atomic bomb was dropped on the central part of Hiroshima City, a great number of people rushed to the Hesaka Branch Military Hospital, as they knew they could reach there walking up along the river. Hesaka was a rural area in the north, 6 kilometers away from the hypocenter.
Time passed by and generations changed. Now Hesaka has been incorporated into Hiroshima City. Twenty years after the atomic bombing, our family started to live in a housing complex, Sakuragaoka, built in Hesaka. Houses were standing sparsely and various kinds of frogs were proudly singing in chorus then.
My daughter entered Hesaka Elementary School in 1966. The school buildings were small and old. In order to cope with the swelling population due to the newly built housing complexes, the school created classrooms by putting partitions in the auditorium. There were two classes when my daughter entered and 11 when she graduated, from which you may get an idea how great the changes of the population increase in Hesaka were.
The Sakuragaoka housing complex is located against a hill. On the middle of the hillside, a new graveyard was built by the city transferring graves which had dotted Hesaka since old times. In time my family's grave was built in the graveyard and the name of my late brother, who had died before the war, was engraved, but nothing was under the grave because his ashes and Buddhist memorial tablet had been burned in the Atomic-bombing. However, we all went to the grave throughout the year to remember him. Such inscriptions on gravestones as “Died on August 6, 1945” or dates reminding us of the Atomic-bombing were often seen among graves, which is common to any grave in and around Hiroshima.
After visiting the grave a few times, a stone pillar standing near the graveyard entrance with an inscription “Memorial Tower” caught my eye. An explanation on the small wooden board nearby told me that it was a memorial tower erected for the A-bomb victims.
My father once said he heard people saying, “We cremated the bodies of the Atomic bomb victims on Sakuragaoka. We won't be able to sell the housing lots unless we keep the fact secret. ” I had no chance to learn anything about the Memorial Tower since all the residents there were not local people. Anyway, each time I paid a visit at my family grave, I also took some flowers for the Memorial Tower.
My father also learned that Hesaka Elementary School was once a branch of the Military Hospital and that people in Hesaka took care of the dead bodies, which also helped me shape a vague picture right after the Atomic-bombing.
Just a few people who knew something about the Memorial Tower gave me limited information― a gate pillar of the cavalry grounds was brought to the graveyard and made into the Memorial Tower and a priest of Kurumeki Shrine wrote its original inscription with a writing brush. While both my daughter and nephew were at Hesaka Elementary School, nothing was taught about the facts that happened in Hesaka right after the A-bombing at school. Thinking that the fact should not be forgotten, I wrote a story for children based on the Memorial Tower.
For the honor of Hesaka Elementary School, let me add that at present, Hesaka Elementary School teaches peace studies, including the history of Hesaka during the war.
I have been keeping my father's relics in several cardboard boxes since I moved to Ushiku City, Ibaraki Prefecture in 2002. I found, among his mementos, a booklet, “Atomic Bomb Records in Hesaka” which consists of survivors' memoirs and overwhelming testimonies made by the witnesses.
I told my fellow members of HIROSHIMA SPEAKS OUT about it. The members present, with the booklet in front of them, said that the experiences of those who supported the survivors should be told to following generations. All the staff members of Hesaka Community Center understood the HSO's idea and were cooperative when we visited them.
Their quick handling made it possible for us to get consent from each writer, which is required when these records are made public. It would have taken much time and labor if the HSO had had to do all the work. We express our deepest thanks to them.
I am very sorry that some people are dead now and we could not get consent from them. How I wish I had found the booklet much sooner. The HSO members believe that telling and recording ‘Hiroshima' is a warning bell not to involve anybody in nuclear war. Now we are even more encouraged to continue our activities.
Lastly, let me cite a poem dedicated to the Hesaka Memorial Tower.
Crossing bridges, swimming across rivers,
At long last
People got near the branch of the Military Hospital.
They couldn't even give their names and died.
On the monument made from the gatepost of the cavalry barracks
Six hundred or more.
(From Ashita Kira Kira, a collection of poems by Mariko Ito)
(Translated by Hiroshima Speaks Out)
Hiroshima Speaks Out