9. A-bombed in a Streetcar

My background

On September 1, 1910, I was born in Makihara, Yasuno-son, Yamagata-gun, Hiroshima Prefecture as a second daughter of six siblings to my parents, Yutaro Iwata and Kiku. One of my siblings died when she was a little girl.  The rest, a younger brother and three younger sisters, grew up.

My parents had been engaged in farming. When I was 15, my father dabbled in speculation and lost a large amount of money. He sold his land and house. Our family moved to Hiroshima City and lived in a rented house in Kanon-machi. He worked as a janitor at the Broadcasting Station, Hiroshima.

At that time, I worked as a live-in housekeeper for a Navy officer, Daisaku Kioka in Hakushima-kuken-cho for one and a half years, and for about three years at Hanadaya, a merchant house. When I was 20, I got married to a 21-year-old taxi driver, Saburo Ueoka. We had been married for six years, but were divorced because of his dissipation.

In 1937, when I was 27, I got remarried to Motojiro Yamada who was 18 years older than I. We got a live-in job at the Hiroshima office of Kozan Mitsubishi in Senda-machi. In 1945, as the war intensified, the office was closed. In May we evacuated to Dobara, Shimo Minochi-cho, Saeki-gun where our relatives lived.

The conditions of my family and myself at the time of the A-bombing

August 5, 1945, I came to Hiroshima City and stayed with my sister. On the morning of August 6, I got on a crowded streetcar at Senda-machi stop. When our streetcar came near Koi stop, I felt as if I were enveloped by an intense light. I heard a tremendous exploding sound and couldn't see anything. I felt as if my breathing had stopped.

I was carrying my daughter, Yasuko on my back, then. I ran out of the streetcar and kept running. I followed the others barefoot. However, around Takasu enemy planes came over twice, so I took refuge in the eggplant field. I wanted but gave up to ask the truck coming from behind to pick us up. There were so many wounded people, so many burned people like rags on the truck that I couldn't even mention.

Since the soles of my bare feet were burning hot, I picked up some old Japanese sandals I found nearby and wore them.

My child on my back was tired of crying and slept. I was exhausted from walking. It was nearly dark and I was at a loss. I stood at a stranger' s door in Yahata, Itsukaichi and asked for a night' s bed. He said to me, “I'll put you up tonight. ” I was so relieved and felt as if I had met Buddha in a hell. He also gave us little something to eat. I was thankful from the bottom of my heart.

The following day, August 7, too, from early morning I just walked and walked and in the evening I finally reached Minochi-cho. I was told that my husband, with our son on his back, entered Hiroshima City on the 6th and search for us everywhere in the flames.

My youngest sister was working at the Marine Transportation Bureau. On the morning of August 6th, she was exposed to the A-bomb in Ujina. She was injured having two holes on her head. On the 12th, she came to see me at Minochi-mura. However, she didn' t receive any adequate treatment and died on the morning of the 16th. I deeply felt sorry for her. The second youngest sister was working at the Broadcasting Station in Nagarekawa, whose building collapsed. She was buried under the debris but somehow managed to crawl out, and soaked herself in the river water behind the Sentei Garden for three hours. She then came to the place I had been evacuated. She died in Osaka in 1974 after the long sickly years, probably due to her exposure to the A-bombing.

After the end of the war, my daughter, Nobuko developed a big swelling on her back head. A lot of blood and pus came out of it. Although I took her to a doctor in the country, the doctor did nothing but just see her, because no medicine was available in those days. I was very worried. She still has a scar now.

My life after the A-bombing

After the end of the war, we came back to Hiroshima City. My husband and I took any king of job that was available. We did chores for my neighbors. We did a labor work provided by the City relief program for the unemployed. My husband gradually became weak. I asked the city officials to let him enter a nursing home for A-bomb survivors. He entered in this nursing home in 1966. I, too, became unable to work. I became hard of hearing due to the nerve damage, aftereffect of the A-bombing. Since around 1975, my left eye developed a cataract. I went to my son's house in Chiba prefecture. My son, Shin, who was working at a post office in Chiba, got divorced and his wife, taking the children with her, left him. It was hard for me to stay with my son under such circumstances. Then, I was babysitting at Yasuko's house in Kogo, Hiroshima for some time, but it was not so comfortable either because their house was small. So, I decided to enter this nursing home.

Before and after the time when I entered the nursing home

On January 17, 1978, two days after I entered this nursing home, my husband, Motojiro, died. He had been bed-ridden for a long time and despite the great care given by the nursing staff and the director of Funairi Hospital, he passed away.

Looking back now, I had a long and hard period of time. But now I' m happy, living in comfort and enjoying everyday life with gratitude. I hope these peaceful days will continue.

Written by Masako Yamada (70)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Koi-machi. In a streetcar, 3.0km from the hypocenter.
Acute symptoms in those days
Nothing in particular.
The dead among my family
My younger sister died from her head's wound.