1. The River in Hiroshima, a Sea of Fire and Smoke

My background

I was born as the second daughter of Kazuhachi and Sayo Okazaki in Yoshijima-cho, Hiroshima. I had two brothers and three sisters. I graduated from Nakajima Elementary School and continued to study at the Higher Elementary School, Kokutaiji School and graduated from it.

Father had no regular occupation because of his poor health and died of cardiac asthma at age 54. Mother, too, had heart trouble and died of heart failure at the age of 52. My sister died of heat stroke, but her daughter is well.

My oldest brother died of heart failure like our parents at age 19 in 1930. He was a student. My second older brother, also a student, suffered from typhoid in 1935 and died at age 19. My younger sister died of stomach ulcer at age 17 in 1931.
I earned money working at home; altering men' s suit and sewing kimono using the skill I had acquired when I was about 21 years old.

I got married to a 31-year-old man, Masao Takeuchi in October, 1941 when I was 25. Once I got pregnant but miscarried. Since then I did not get pregnant again. After two years of my married life, I realized that I was a nuisance to my husband because of my poor health, so I voluntarily left him in Tenjin-cho and returned to my parents' home in Yoshijima-cho.

The clouds that came down to the ground

August 6 was my late father' s 17th anniversary, so I went to his grave with my cousin' s son, 10, whom I had thought of adopting as my son. It was just when I entered the front door of the house of my relative that I was thrown into darkness and fell. The house was located on the west side bank of the Sumiyoshi Bridge in Kako-machi. I did not know how long I had been lying unconscious, but when I came to, I found myself under the wall and pillar. I was covered with blood all over when I finally crawled my way out, breaking the bamboo sticks in the walls. I was bleeding from my back, neck, legs and arms. Looking around, I saw clouds down to the ground. I felt as if I were pressed into the clouds and could not do anything about my own body. While I was chanting a sutra not knowing what to do, the clouds gradually went away. Then muddy rain violently fell. I looked around for my child but could not find him. I' m afraid he had died in the explosion.

It was a sea of fire and smoke around me. I managed to go down to underneath the Sumiyoshi Bridge and tried to quench my thirst, but the river water was too hot to scoop. Then I crawled up again to the bank and saw charred figures groaning everywhere. Other than those injured, nobody was seen around there. I didn' t know what to do, so I just kept running in the fire with bare foot. Getting to the Kanon Bridge, I found a statue of Buddha, which gave me a feeling of relief. I was almost naked and bleeding from many parts of my body. Coming to the drainage under the statue, I saw a B-29 drop three firebombs and fly away to the south. One of them dropped into the drainage and exploded, burning most of the mugwort on both sides of the drain. Some days later, I walked around for mugwort picking as I heard the mugwort was effective to stop bleeding. I drank its juice as tea, and used the stuff left after squeezing as ointment for my wounds, so I kept looking for it. And I continued to use the mugwort to arrest bleeding for one month.

On the night of August 6, I slept on the bank of the Kanon Bridge. From the following day till September, thirteen survivors, a stranger to one another, lived together in the warehouse of Municipal Commercial School in Kanon-machi. Every day dead bodies were brought in to the playground for cremation. Later in October 1945, we built a shack on the Minamikanon Ground and lived there for about three years.

I was given various kinds of aid food, but my stomach could not accept anything. I kept vomiting for about a month since the 8th of August. I kept drinking the juice of mugwort. Looking back now, I was saved thanks to the mugwort. I also decocted some other herbs such as dokudamiso or mikonso and drank it as medicine. Though I went to see Dr. Ozawa in Eba-machi, which was the first and the last, he gave me no treatment and just shook his head. It was the middle of August.

Peddling, Side job and Housekeeping

I lived in a shack on the Minamikanon Ground since October, 1945. As I mentioned before, I lost almost all of my clothes in the A-bombing. However, my important papers and an image of Buddha, Amitabha remained luckily safe, because I had kept them always with me in froshiki, or a wrapping cloth. The news that Takeda Draper' s at the foot of the Koi Bridge survived the bombing and opened the shop prompted me to go buy something to wear. It was August 17 and I would never forget the excitement of that moment.

I couldn' t afford to go on without job, so I started peddling in 1948 and continued it for 6 years till 1954. I could tide over the poverty for some time by peddling fish from Shimane Prefecture, but my poor health compelled me to stop. Then I began sewing for money again.

I could not, however, earn enough money by the sewing at home. So, I started to work outside again as a housekeeper this time, belonging to Yasui Housekeepers' Association in Ujina, where I stayed from 1963 till 73. I developed sciatica and could not work as I wished.

My only niece, my sister Kazue' s daughter living in Nomijima Island ever since her marriage, was said to have lived in Yoshijima-cho at the time of the A-bombing, but I did not know it because we had had lost contact.

The Buddhist sermons I look forward to hear

The money I had was only reducing and my health condition was getting worse because of my sciatica. It became difficult for me to live alone. I went to the A-bomb Survivors Relief Department in the City Office for advice. There an official in charge told me about this Home, so here I am. I entered the Home on September 1, 1977. After coming here, not knowingly, my health condition got better. Now I can manage, at least, to take care of myself. I have joined some of the club activities such as flower arrangement, tea ceremony and Japanese dancing, which are what I live for. Also, I feel very happy when I listen to the sermons by the Buddhist priest from Betsuin Temple, three times a month.

Now I am an old woman without family, yet my heart is full of joy being blessed with Buddha' s mercy and his guardian power.

Written by Chiyoko Okazaki (71)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Kako-machi. The inside of my relative' s house at the distance of 1.0 km from the hypocenter.
Acute symptoms in those days
Bleeding from the back, neck, thighs and legs, arms and hands.
Fingers turned purple.
Vomiting for about one month from August 8.
Diarrhea for one year from August 20.
Loss of hair from September 28 till December. Almost complete loss.
Fever for one month from early in September.
The dead in my family
My cousin' s child was killed by the A-bomb in Kako-machi.