6. Hit by the A-bomb in Solitude

My background

I was born in Kurihara-cho, Onomichi as the first daughter to my parents, Urahei Ueda and Tayo. They were farmers and had nine children. I had six elder brothers and a younger brother and sister. All the elder brothers died of illnesses in their 20' s and the younger brother also died as an infant. My younger sister lived till 42 years old.

I dropped out from Kurihara Elementary School when I was in the second grade. My father died when I was six due to illness. I worked as a live-in maid in Kurihara-cho for three years, during which period my mother was farming by herself. I quit the job and changed to work at Sanada Hat Manufacturing in Okayama. I worked there for two years, then moved to Sennan-gun, Osaka where I worked at a spinning mill for four years. Then I came back to Onomichi. For compelling reasons I started to work again as a hostess at an inn located in front of Onomichi Station.

When I was 24 I got married to Hatsuichi Okamoto, 25. In those days he was working as a musician in the movietheater and I, in a coffee shop. After the marriage we lived in Koyo-cho, Fukuyama together with my husband' s mother and a younger brother. The brother was a company employee in the City. Four years later my husband moved to Hiroshima to work as an apprentice of tin processing, because his sister' s husband was running a tin processing business in Funairi-hon-machi, Hiroshima. Some time later I was called to come to Hiroshima, where I found my husband lying in bed with pneumonia. A while later, my husband got well and went back to work.

In those days we were living in a rented house in Funairi-hon-machi. I worked for Kotobukiya. In 1939 my husband was drafted and sent as a soldier somewhere toward Singapore. I moved to Funairi-saiwai-cho and worked for Mitsubishi-affiliated Nakajima Lumber Mill.

Those who died under the potato leaves

On the morning of August 6, it was when I just got outside to the street to go for work, the Lumber Mill, with my boxed lunch in my hand, that I heard an enormous bang. I lowered myself on my belly. So did the neighbor' s wife I was talking with in the street at that moment. After a while I got myself up and found no injuries on me. But the woman, her lying position or something must have been wrong, was miserable. When she got up, the skin was drooping from her left arm.

As there had been an agreement in the neighborhood association to evacuate to Eba-yama Hill in case of emergency, I did so without delay. On arriving, I looked for something to eat in vain. I was so hungry that I went to the Yuishinji Temple in Funairi-kawaguchi-cho where I found nothing to eat, either. Then I went to the nearby potato field. Meaning to dig up potatoes, I lifted up the leaves first. There I saw a dead body. Having a closer look, I found more bodies between the ridges in the potato field or underneath the runners. I guess those victims took shelter underneath the potato leaves to cool themselves even a little. When I went back to the temple, I found a woman in labor and the people nearby were just looking doing nothing. So, I volunteered to take charge of assisting her delivery, making those onlookers help me. I was exhausted and needed a rest very badly. So I brought myself to the A-bomb Dome whose structure had remained. The Dome, however, was full of burned people. With no other choice I went to my boss' s house in Oshiba-cho, the overseer at the Lumber Mill I was working for. I stayed there for about a week, then left for my house in Funairi-saiwai-cho as I was worried about my house.

Grass on the bank as a pillow

On my way home from Oshiba-cho, I was walking on the Aioi Bridge. I ran into a person who had owed me some money, and he returned the money to me. I reached Funairi-saiwai-cho but all the houses including mine were helplessly destroyed and I could do nothing. I went to visit an acquaintance living in Nukui, Asa-gun. It was a farming family, so I helped them with farming while I stayed there, for about three months. I had no children, so I was always alone. As for food, I did not have any serious difficulties.

I returned to Funairi-saiwai-cho. I got cigarettes from the Occupation Army with the money I had, and peddled them. About the same period of time I sold homemade rice cakes and sushi at the black market in Koi. I went as far as to Suzuhari, Asa-gun or Minochi, Saeki-gun and negotiated with farmers to sell me rice, the material to make rice cakes. I used to sleep on the grass at the bank in those days. Later when a bar, though a shuck, appeared in Funairi-saiwai-cho, I worked there.

In late 1945 my husband returned home, being repatriated, so we rented the upstairs of a cigarette shop in Funairi-hon-machi. My husband got a job at the Lumber Mill in the neighborhood. We both worked but my husband fell ill in May, l979 and was hospitalized. Despite my tender care, my husband passed away in November that year.

Being left alone, I had nobody to depend upon, nor any place to live in. Thanks to a district welfare commissioner, I could enter this nursing home. I' ve found the Home a wonderful place. Only, I have to be aware of the relationship between the residents.

Written by Momoko Okamoto (72)

The place I was exposed to:
Funairi-saiwai-cho , 1.5km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days:
The dead among my family: