8. My Only Son and I, A-bombed Together

My background

I was born in Koi-machi, Hiroshima as the first daughter to my parents, Taro Kawakami and Tsuchi. I had one elder brother and one younger brother. When I was born, my family business was growing plants and flowers. After I graduated from Koi Elementary School, I learned Japanese kimono sewing with a teacher in my neighborhood for two years. Then, I did sewing as a job at home for about six years, and got married in spring at the age of 22. However, I was divorced in about half a year and returned to my parents' house, where I did kimono sewing and growing flowers.

When I was 38, I got remarried to Jiro Kajikawa from Miyajima-cho, Saeki-gun. About four months later, my husband became a leader of the Koryo Manchuria Pioneer Corps and left for Manchuria, leaving me behind. So, I came back to my parents' house. There I made a living by sewing kimono with my sister-in-law and growing flowers with my mother. Next year my first son, Tsuyoshi was born. In those days my younger brother was working for Kinki Electronic Company, and he was dispatched to Java for his new post. Left behind were women and children, six of us.

Black rain

August 6 in 1945, it was clear from the morning. That day, five of the family members were in my parents' house in Koi, my mother, my sister-in-law and her child, my son and myself. My mother and sister-in-law were milling grain into flour to make rice-substitute food. As my nephew got in the way, my mother said to me, “Take him outside and go to the post office to send some money to the trunk family Kajikawa' s. It' s going to be their “hatsubon”. It is the money sent to a family that has lost its member over the past year as an offering for Hatsu-bon or the first bon. Bon is the time in Buddhism all the late souls come down back to the family. So I set out for the post office, carrying him on my back.

I experienced the A-bombing at the post office. The moment I put the money on the counter of the office, the bomb explosion occurred. The ceiling of the office broke down, hanging. I was surprised and lowered myself on my face with my nephew on my back. Before long the postmaster said to me, “It seems to be somehow OK, go home now. ” I went out and found many people fallen down like ninepins on both sides of the road due to the A-bombing. Passing through them, I hurried home with the child on my back.

When I came home, I found my mother having been thrown to the kitchen, half of her face turned purple with bruises and injured all over her body. My sister-in-law, worrying about us, who had come to meet us half way had no injury. My son, who had been sleeping alone, was safe thanks to a man who was living with his wife upstairs. He evacuated carrying my son in his arms. My brother' s older child, a second grader, was also safe because he was evacuated from his school. All the window glass of our house was broken and the ceiling of the eight-tatami-mat room on the first floor fell down. I happened to look outside and saw the black rain was falling. It was terrible because our laundry was stained with black spots. We took them in and washed again, but the black spots would never come off. Thinking back now, I don' t think the spots ever came off, even years later. We somehow managed to make some room by clearing rubbles and slept in the house that night.

Food occupied our mind

After the A-bombing, I was absentminded for a while not knowing what to do. But pulling myself together, I started with the outside of our house, clearing the rubble together with my mother and sister-in-law. We were especially worried about many pieces of glass scattered all over, since we had small children. We picked up very carefully piece by piece by hand. It took us almost one month to clear up.

Our number one priority was food that occupied our mind all the time. Before long we changed most of our flower garden around the house into vegetable garden. We planted potatoes, kaoliang, wheat and so on. As I had no injury in the A-bombing, I cheered up myself and went far away for getting food. I visited my relatives and friends traveling as far as to Ishiuchi-mura, Saeki-gun, which was beyond Koi Mountain Pass, or Yasu-mura, Asa-gun, which was northern part. I walked and walked as far as I could for food hunting. Money was useless. I brought kimonos of my mother, my sister-in-law and myself and traded them for food such as rice and potatoes.

It was not once or twice. We were so preoccupied to raise our children in good health that we traded our kimonos for food one after another. Thus we got through those difficult days and we six people, including my sucking baby and my brother' s two growing children, were able to survive. My mother died in 1946, one year after the A-bombing.

My husband repatriated, arriving at Maizuru, Kyoto on April 25, 1953. All of my family got relieved to see him in good shape. In May, we moved to a house in Kogo, Hiroshima that was prepared for those repatriated. My husband started to work at the road construction sites, but three months later he fell down. Later he was found to have a brain tumor and continued to see the doctor for about ten years. So I worked almost every day as a laborer; the job the City had created for the unemployed. In those days on Sundays and national holidays I earned some extra money by weeding at a gardener in my town. My husband got only worse and entered the Rikita Hospital in Furuta, Hiroshima, but on January 15, 1964 he died at the age of 59. Those were the most difficult days for me to make ends meet. I had a sick husband, a growing son in elementary school. My sister-in-law was worried about us and helped us out by bringing rice, firewood etc. almost every month. I really was thankful for her kindness. My son grew up. He got a job and had a wife. At length, I felt that some light ahead of me was beginning to see after such a long, difficult period of time.

Heartache never disappears

I retired at 65, mandatory retirement age, and entered a nursing home. I went to the city office to consult and entered the Shinwaryo Town Nursing Home in Saeki-cho, Saeki-gun. One day, after a month in there, I fell down from a higher place while weeding and had bruise all over the body. This led me to enter the Hiroshima A-bomb Nursing Home. The bruise caused to develop some illnesses, and I' ve been going to the A-bomb Hospital since I entered the Home.

Living in the Home, I' m still preoccupied about my physical condition; trembling or headache might hit me again. No way that other people know my anxiety, I try to act as cheerful as possible. As to meals, I can eat only half of the portion. It occurs to me once in a while that I can' t have a joy of eating any more. Looking back the time of the A-bombing, I realize that the pains in my heart have not gone yet, although I didn' t have any visible injuries. I will never forget the terrible scene I saw on the way from the post office all my life.

Written by Michi Kajikawa (74)

The place I was exposed to
Koi-machi, inside of the Koi Post Office of 2.5km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days
The dead among my family
My sister-in-law' s brother was killed by the A-bomb in Koi-cho, Hiroshima.