4. My Wife Escaped Death in the A-bombing

My background

I was born near Tsuruhane Shrine in Osuga-cho, Hiroshima as the third son of Katsuzo Sugihara and Katsuko. I have two brothers and two sisters. My father was a teacher at an agricultural school and owned a few pieces of land in the city, so we were fairly well off. I entered Kojin Elementary School but moved to Tokyo when I was in the sixth grade. I was enrolled in Ushigome Elementary School in Edogawa. I came to live in Tokyo because my mother' s brother was running a trade business there. My oldest sister was married, also living in Ushigome Nakasato-cho, so I went to my new school from her house. After leaving elementary school, I entered Seijo Gakuen Middle School but I returned to Hiroshima when I was in the forth year because of my father' s sudden death. He was 64 years old then.

After his death, we sold our house in Osuga-cho and moved to another in Hakushima-kuken-cho that was also ours. I was nineteen. We were seven of us living together, my mother, my oldest brother, his wife and their three children and I. Then I started to work at a general store on Hon-dori, Kure, run by my father' s brother. There I worked for three years but I didn' t get along well with my uncle and came back to Hiroshima.

I got a job at the Transport Department of the Army in Ujina, Hiroshima at the age of 22 and had worked there for eighteen years until I turned 40. I got married to Hisa Tokuda (30) when I was 32 and started a new life in Hakushima-kuken-cho. We were not blessed with children. I quit the job when I was 40.

Not even a piece of bone was found

On August 6, my wife had a stomachache and was in bed. I went to buy medicine to a pharmacy about 1 km away. It was when the pharmacist was getting my medicine ready that I heard a roaring sound. I felt as if a huge bomb was dropped just a few houses away. Being a wooden structure, the pharmacy crashed. I ran outside by myself. Fortunately, I was all right. Looking around, I saw a “mushroom cloud” growing in the sky just above the present A-bomb Dome. I became so worried about my wife and our house that I hurried home. On my way home I saw ten or more people fallen down, unable to move. I also saw some of the houses near mine had caught fire.

When I reached home, I found our two-story house leaning toward north. My wife, who had lain in the six-matted room, was shocked with the A-bombing and absentmindedly kept standing. The idea of evacuation immediately came to my mind, so I, taking my wife, left home with futon (bedding) and a mosquito net on my back, and headed for the bank of the Ota River 500 meters away from our home. The riverbank was full of evacuees. We stayed up all night, then the morning came. Countless people brought themselves into the river to cool the burned bodies, then died. It was truly a misery that those bodies were floating upstream at high tide and downstream at low tide.

While my own relatives were all right, the situation of my wife' s relatives was horrible. The house where she grew up was in Yokogawa then. Her parents, brothers and sisters had already passed away and her nieces and nephew were living there. August 6 was the day when they were going to hold a memorial service for their late parents at Shingyo-ji Temple near our house. Her two nieces in their thirties, their two children and her nephew, eighteen, were waiting in the temple for the service to begin. Then the A-bomb was dropped. The temple collapsed and a fire broke out. I' m afraid that they were trapped under the debris and burned to death. Not a piece of their bones was found. Although my wife was also to attend the service, she had returned home as she remembered something. Thus she was at home when the bomb was dropped. She survived, but we shed tears for the five relatives who died. The fire spread and our house was also burnt down within the day.

Taking care of my wife for 16 years

On the morning of August 7, we left the riverbank and visited an acquaintance farmer in Hesaka-cho where our household effects had been evacuated. The farmer' s family and his property were not affected by the bombing at all. We rented one of the rooms and lived there until October in the same year. While we were there, we built a shack where our house used to stand, in Hakushima-kuken-cho. It was finished in the end of October and we “returned” to our new home from the farmer' s.

As soon as we returned, we had to face the shortage of food. From the next day I had to go out to buy something to eat. My wife and I would ask farmers for any kind of food, going to the north to Miyoshi, to the south to Nomi Island, to the east to Mukaijima, Onomichi, but they wouldn' t sell much to us. Then we, together with my close friend, went as far as to Kagawa Prefecture, where my friend' s sister lived, having been married to a farmer. Thus, we would return all the way home with tens of kilos of rice on our backs. We made a trip quite frequently, back and forth, to Kagawa for some period of time. We suffered from the food shortage a great deal. Later on, a vacant lot of about ten acres was cleared next to us, so we rented it and grew wheat, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc. Those vegetables helped improving our food supply.

In December 1946, my wife finally became bedridden due to rheumatism that she had long been suffering from. Our three-year-old shack was already in bad shape, so we demolished it and built a “real”, four-roomed house. But eventually I had to sell off the house with land because we were impoverished by my wife' s illness. She had been in bed for 16 years and I was in debt for medical expenses such as visiting doctor fees, medicine and injections. Despite the care, she died at the age of 46 in October, 1963. I had devoted my life to taking care of her for those 16 years. After her death, I moved to an apartment, “Hakushima Apartment” in Higashi-hakushima-cho. I was finally released from the sick wife and got a job at Nakajima Ironworks in Honkawa-cho. I worked there until June 1968.

Getting Information in the paper and Entered the Home

After quitting the job at the ironworks, I worked as a money collector for a newspaper shop nearby. As I was over 70, I felt it inconvenient to live by myself. I saw an article about Hiroshima A-bomb Nursing Home in the newspaper in 1970. I gladly entered the home. I' m satisfied with my decision to move in such a nice home. I' m grateful to the staff members for their kindness and for a life without any anxiety.

Written by Toshio Sugihara (83)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
In a pharmacy 1 km from home, 1.5 km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days
Nothing particularly
The dead in my family
Totally five of my wife' s relatives; her two nieces, their two children and her nephew, were A-bombed in Hakusima-kuken-cho, Hiroshima