A-bombing, Evil Itself

Sadae Kasaoka

Life at A-bombing

Those days, I lived with my parents and my 93-year-old grandmother in Eba, 3.8 km. from the hypocenter. My three married sisters lived in different places. My younger brother, a fifth grader, was at a temple in Kisa-cho, Futami-gun, for school evacuation. My elder brother was a student of the Mercantile Marine School in Kobe.

I was a 13-year-old first year student of a girls’ school. Every day we had to perform labor service with no classes or summer holidays. Until the day before the A-bombing, I had been working outside demolishing buildings in Otemachi, near the hypocenter. On August 6, I took a day off and stayed home. It was a fine day. My parents were not at home, having gone out early in the morning to help demolish their friend’s house near City Hall. As I heard the air-raid all-clear siren, I felt relieved, thinking that we wouldn’t have any further fear of enemy planes coming. After clearing the breakfast table and washing the dishes, I finished airing the laundry in the garden and entered the house.

At 8:15

I was moving to the room which had 2.5-meter glass windows facing east. Suddenly all the windows in front of me became red. Well not exactly. It was a beautiful color like the sunrise mingled with orange. That moment I heard a big boom, the glass broke and the shattered pieces whizzed at me. The overwhelming power of the blast knocked me down and I lost consciousness for an instant. When I came to and happened to put my hand on my head, I felt it was slimy. I was hurt with the broken glass, but I didn’t feel pain. I thought I had to escape, and I hurried into the neighborhood air-raid shelter with my grandmother. Some neighbors were already there, but nobody knew anything about what had happened. After a while, I came out of the shelter feeling uneasy. Fallen roof tiles and plaster of houses were scattered around. Shortly after 9:00 a.m., a man in the neighborhood, who had been downtown, returned. He was so heavily burned and peeled that his face and arms looked pink. He shouted, “Hiroshima was terribly damaged. With a flash everything was destroyed.”

I Lost My Parents

I heard that adults and middle-school students, who had been at the city center for work, were taken to elementary school buildings used as temporary first-aid stations. I was becoming increasingly worried about my parents. I asked my uncle to go search for them, but he came back soon because raging flames blocked him from going any further.

My elder brother, who was living in Kobe, was on his way to Hiroshima that morning. He was exposed to the A-bomb near Hiroshima Station. As soon as he got home that evening, he went out to look for our parents. That night, hearing the news that Father had taken shelter in a relative’s house in Oko-cho, my brother went there and came back with him in a two-wheeled cart. My father, lying on the door board, looked dead. His face was swollen and his clothes were burned off, leaving him naked. His body was black and shiny. I could identify him just by his voice. We had no medicine, so we grated cucumbers and potatoes for a poultice. It dried soon, but we couldn’t replace it so often. When I touched him, his black skin peeled and the muscle appeared under it. His body was burned not only on the surface but also inside. He remained conscious and said with concern for his wife, “We were in Zakoba-cho. I tried to escape with Kichi but lost her. Please find her.” He wanted eagerly to drink water. At that time we were told that burned people would die if they drank water, so I lied to him that the water supply was cut off. My father loved drinking and saved beer in the storehouse. He pleaded, “If there is no water I want beer instead.” But I didn’t give him any drink, which is still my great regret.

All I could do was to fan him, because it was hot and flies could infest his wounds. The wounds festered and were crawling with maggots in and out. I hurried to the field for something juicy to give him instead of water. Luckily I found tomatoes there, and wrenched them off into a basket. Then I looked up and observed a weird scene there.

People, whose whole bodies looked whitish, had their hands up in front of their chests with something tattered hanging from them. They were silently staggering in procession toward the Military Hospital, looking like ghosts. I learned later that the tattered thing was their peeling skin and that the whitish look was caused by their bodies covered with ash.

My father breathed his last on the night of August 8, worrying about his little children and missing wife. So many people died and we could not use a crematory, so we dug a hole on the beach and cremated him by making a fire with collected boards and sticks. Much cremation smoke was rising up around us, and a bad smell was hanging over there.
My elder brother went out to search for Mother, but he couldn’t easily trace her. He learned that soldiers carried survivors by ship to first-aid stations in Saka, Ninoshima or Miyajima. Finally he located her name on the list in Ninoshima, but she died on the 8th and her body was already cremated. Her relic was just a small bag including some ashes and hair. My heart still breaks when I think of how helpless she was to stray from her husband and how desperately she wanted to come home, worrying about her family.

Days of Suffering Since Then

The next year I got skin eruptions all over my body and three big open sores on my right arm, which took more than half a year to heal. I suffered from lingering anemia as well. My life without parents was miserable. I barely lived day by day supported by my grandmother, brothers and sisters. It can’t be denied that because I was an A-bomb survivor I failed in some employment examinations and missed some marriage chances. Later I got married to another A-bomb survivor; however, my husband died of cancer when he was 35 years old. I call the A-bombing evil itself.

I’d Like to Pass on Our Story to the Younger Generation Who Don’t Know the War

When I remember the A-bombing, tears well up. When I begin to talk about it, I feel a lump in my throat. However, I thought that on behalf of the dead victims, I, who survived, should do something. I had a video of my A-bombing story made in February, 2000. Since then, I have told my story to elementary school students. In 2005, I started telling my story of the A-bombing for the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. I’d like to appeal for realizing a peaceful world without nuclear weapons. 


This family picture was taken in March in 1940 on the occasion of my eldest brother (the third from the right in the back row) going to the front. In the middle of the front row is my grandmother. I (at the age of 7) am next to her, and behind me are my three sisters. My mother is at the right end of the front row. (She died at Ninoshima Island.) My father is the second from the right in the back row. (He died on Aug. 8 after the A-bombing, though we did everything to take care of him.) To the right is my elder brother. The smallest boy is my younger brother. The eldest brother died in the war.


War is the Biggest Destruction of Environment

So Horie

I was four years and ten months old and was close to Koi Elementary School, Nishi-ku, when the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. According to the article in the Asahi Newspaper on July 8, 2003, several thousand bodies had been cremated on that school grounds in the mid-summer heat, which lasted for one month. I have never forgotten and will never forget the dreadful stink of the cremations.

I had never told my A-bomb experiences until August 6, 2002, because I knew there were so many survivors who had had more painful experiences than I had. On that day, I was invited to the peace memorial ceremony held at Koi Elementary School and given the opportunity to tell my story. I was invited because compositions written by the then-fifth and sixth graders were found in the lockers of the school and mine was among them. Since then, I have been involved in peace activities.

Looking back on the past, various peace movements have taken place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other cities in Japan since the end of the World War Ⅱ. I myself have joined some of them, including demonstrations, petitions, choirs, in which we sing “Life of the World = Spirit of Hiroshima” in the Peace Memorial Park on every Hiroshima Day, and peace appeals released in front of the A-bomb Dome. It seems to me that all these activities haven’t worked effectively so far. Although a number of politicians and common people from all over the world have visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seen the cruelty with their own eyes, the trend these days in Japan and the rest of the world seems to have been gradually moving in a dangerous direction.

I would attribute this trend to the people who could gain huge profit from waging war around the world. I know that it is important to pass the tragedy of Hiroshima on to future generations. However, what would I answer to such questions or comments as the following when I tell my experience?
* Japan is under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. How can you appeal against nuclear weapons?
* Your country made a surprise attack on our country. By dropping nuclear weapons on Japan, a million young American soldiers’ lives were saved.
* Your military did wrong in China and other countries.
* Unfortunately, a lot of common people were victimized, but you should attribute that to your leaders those days.

We could not exchange our views on even ground if we only talked about our tragic stories.

In addition to telling about the cruelty of nuclear weapons, we should discuss how much damage is caused to the world environment and how many resources are wasted by war, as well as nuclear tests. Whether winning or losing war, the environmental degradation caused by war affects both parties equally, and the shortage of resources caused by waste in war could invite another conflict.

* Thirty percent of environmental destruction around the world is caused by war. The effect of nuclear contamination is immeasurable.
* The price of a US state-of-the-art jet fighter F-22 is 15.1 billion yen.
* Twenty-six percent of the world’s oil is consumed by the U.S., whose population is only five percent of that of the world’s. The biggest user among them is the military.
* In the Gulf War, 120 billion yen a day was spent, 640 oil fields were burned, lasting for six months, and black smoke from them deprived surrounding countries of the light from the sun, which lowered the temperatures by ten degrees on the average.
* The annual budget of Hiroshima City in 2004 was 532 billion yen, while the price of an Aegis cruiser is 135.7 billion yen.

This kind of information, which shows us how wasteful war means to us human beings, can be found easily if wanted.

Passing our A-bomb experiences onto the next generations is not like a telephone game. Nobody, except those having gone through the hardship of them, can really understand the tragedy. In 30 years there will be no survivors who can tell the facts. I have two sons. When I raised them, I would often tell them, “When you are hit, hit back”. However, the current world situation seems to me that leaders revenge wrong with wrong, or they even strike before they are attacked.

I would like to tell my own experiences, and also about the differences between conventional weapons and nuclear weapons, whenever and wherever I am asked to, with the title of, “War is the biggest environmental destruction and waste of limited resources. (third time by Michiko)


Three Nobel Peace Prize Recipients in Hiroshima

Michiko Hamai

November 1-2, 2006, the Hiroshima International Peace Conference was held at Aster Plaza in Hiroshima City with three Nobel Laureates as invited guests. They were His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, supreme Tibetan Buddhist leader, currently in exile in India; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led the movement of apartheid abolition in South Africa; and Betty Williams, who made efforts for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

In the first session Dalai Lama spoke about “What is Universal Responsibility?” In the second session Betty Williams spoke about “Compassion for Children.” The third session was “Reconciliation and Peace-building” given by Bishop Tutu. The fourth was a summary session with all three.

I attended the first, second and fourth sessions only, but later, fortunately, I had an opportunity to watch all the four sessions on DVD taking my time.

Their speeches were all suggestive to the difficult problems the world now faces. Among them the one that most resonated with me was Archbishop Tutu’s words. He said, “Either people-to-people or country-to-country, it is impossible to achieve reconciliation and peace-building when perpetrators just admit the wrong-doings and apologize, and victims forgive them. Perhaps, temporary reconciliation may be made, but history will inevitably be repeated. The perpetrator’s apology must be accompanied by reparation for what was done.”

This reminded me of the argument being repeated between Japan and Korea and China such as, “Remember the past,” “We expressed apology many times,” and seemed to give us a hint to find a solution. During WWII, Japan caused tremendous damage to Asian countries, which nobody can deny. And the Japanese government has expressed its apology repeatedly following the wording Mr. Murayama used. There are some politicians who resigned due to their careless speech contrary to the government’s view, but anyway Japan has admitted its responsibility and apologized. The government of the victimized side has implied their forgiveness for Japan’s past saying, “It was done by Japan’s militarism.” Then, what about the reparation issue? Has Japan given the victimized people real reparation?

Archbishop Tutu explained us with an easy example. “Suppose somebody stole a pen. ‘Sorry, I won’t do it again’, he apologizes and is forgiven. Then, what if he does not return the pen or compensate for it? Will the victim forgive him from the bottom of his heart?”

After apartheid was abolished in South Africa, the Blacks, who had been discriminated and oppressed economically, physically and mentally under the severe system, established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and tried the Whites strictly. It was not, however, retaliation against the Whites. According to Bishop Tutu, it was “restorative justice,” not “retributive justice.”

"We forgive you. But we pursue the crime, and you pay for it. This is the way chosen in South Africa, and this is the reason why no major conflict occurred, despite the expected social unrest after apartheid was abolished.

Where victims retaliate, new hatred is born creating a circle of revenge. This can be observed everywhere in the world; Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia. Revenge is good for nothing. In order to construct peace, you need to see the past squarely, reflect and admit it sincerely, and pay reparations. That is the only way for true reconciliation.

It is about time that the people in the world, the Japanese to begin with, should think about the way of coexisting with neighboring peoples.

The Dalai Lama said, “Human beings have intelligence that other creatures do not have. When used negatively, human intelligence could lead to environmental destruction or carnage. However, it’s the same intelligence that could end war or starvation.”

Why self-responsibility?

Michiko Hamai

Today in Japan, voices of the criticism against the three kidnapped, who were released after having detained for a week, are getting louder and louder. Those voices have been heard from both ordinary Japanese people and some politicians. Some of the media also seem to be biased, only having the commentators who are critical of them. If the programs invited the commentators from both sides and exchanged their ideas there, then we could call them democratic. In addition to that, we have seen a large number of anonymous emails, faxes and telephone calls full of abusive words to the families of the hostages as well as to the web sites of them. Among them, there were emails saying that they had plotted this event themselves, which camouflaged as if one of the hostages had wrote.

The people should be admired if they work for helping others at the risk of their lives. They do not deserve to be criticized. Those who should be criticized are the militia group, which kidnapped the three in order to carry their points, and the US Government, which drove the Iraq people into the terrorism. The Japanese Government is tagging along after the US.

Many Japanese and government officials said that the three had to take responsibility and compensate the expenses the Government had spent to take them home, because they entered the dangerous region warned by the Government. This means that Japanese people should not take any actions whatever happens in the world. Florence Nightingale, who took care of the injuries in the Crimea War whether they were enemies or not, would be accused if she were here in Japan. Should NGOs like the MSF, Doctors without Borders, take responsibility and compensate the expenses if their government saved their lives?

But for the so-called journalist spirit, with which journalists report from bottle fields, sometimes exposing themselves to fatal dangers, we would not know what is actually going on there. We were able to know the tragedies caused by the wars in Vietnam and former Yugoslavia and what was done by the powers in those countries. The purpose of our organization also stands on this point of view: we could not tell war without knowing the facts in war.

US Secretary of State Powel said, “Japanese people should be proud of the three for risking their lives to work for others.” The French newspaper, Le Monde, said in its editorial that this incident showed to the world that a new generation, which was eager to go abroad to help others, had grown up in Japan. The paper defended the three hostages against the criticism of “reckless and irresponsible young people” toward them.

We should be proud of their courage as Japanese. Why don’t we support them behind their backs as the ones who live secured?