10. My Life Saved, Thanks to a Fever

My background

I was born in Minamitakeya-cho as the third daughter of Yosuke Kawakami and Michiko. I had three sisters, but all of them died when they were very young. I heard that Father had been running a big confectioner' s shop, but became a security for someone, which impoverished him. When I was old enough to remember, he was working as a peddler of draperies. When I was seven years old, Mother died of illness. After that Father raised me by himself.

After graduating from Takeya Higher Elementary School, I stayed home to do the housework. At the age of 20, I got married to Haruo Tada from Tokura-mura, Sera-gun, Hiroshima-ken. After I had the first daughter, Hisako, I became poor in health. Two years later I got divorced, leaving my daughter with my husband' s. Around then my father passed away, and I, in poor health, began to live alone worrying always about my daughter I had left with my ex-husband.

In November 1928, I got remarried to Yoshisaburo Sakuma from Shinonome-machi by the good offices of my acquaintance. Working at the office of the Post and Telecommunication Ministry, he was raising his 8-year-old daughter, Satoko single-handedly as his wife had died. Turning 20, Satoko got married to Toshio Tamura, who was working at the Kure Arsenal. She was leading a happy life with her three children, Shoko, Kiyoko and Hiroyuki. In the meantime the Pacific War was only intensifying, and I was busy every day getting involved in the neighborhood association business.

The Situation in the A-bombing

On August 6, 1945, the day the A-bomb was dropped, I was living near the ordnance depot, where currently the Hiroshima University Hospital is located. My daughter was living in Kure City. When American bombers dropped bombs intensively on Kure in July, my daughter ran around in the fire taking her children along with her despite her physical condition; shortly before she had delivered a baby. It ruined her health. So, she had come to stay with us in Hiroshima for recuperation. I was busy looking after my three grandchildren, while working as a chief of the neighborhood association and doing volunteer labor service at the ordnance depot.

On August 5, I went for labor service of dismantling buildings. As I worked too hard, I ran a fever, 38 degrees that night. I was supposed to go to work the next day too, but I couldn' t get up because the fever remained high. I would say that I was lucky to be able to escape death due to the fever. My husband was also lucky to have escaped death. (After the mandatory retirement from the public office, he was working at Shudo Middle School, and he left home a little later than usual that morning.) At 8:15 the house was violently shaken. Broken roof tiles and blackened clods of earth as well as soot fell down from the ceiling. I couldn' t open my eyes. My head and back were hit with rubble, but I quickly held Hiroyuki in my arms, trying hard to keep the newly-born infant from injuring. Though I tried to get out of the house, I could not move even a step with the baby in my arms. The fragments of glass were scattered all over. Just then my husband returned shedding blood from his forehead, and took the baby from my arms. I was blood-covered with a lot of injuries though I didn' t notice then.

After a while many people who had been bombed came to be seen fleeing, with their skins hanging from all over their bodies. Their skins looked as if they had burst out. I realized something serious had happened. My daughter was safe and not injured as she was in the bathroom. Our five and three year-old grandchildren, who were playing outside, were both unharmed thanks to the neighbors who took them into the air raid shelter. Before noon many of our relatives and acquaintances including my husband' s sister, cousin and his wife evacuated to our house and we took care of them, but regrettably some of them died.

That night we set up a makeshift bedroom in the field by standing four poles and covering around them with mosquito net, for fear of enemy planes coming over. The children and sick people slept in it. The next day we were told to come to the police box near the Taisho Bridge and receive the relief food, rice balls. The woman in charge was too afraid to go out. Since I was responsible as the neighborhood association chief, I asked a man, who was single, to do the job in her place. The man said, “I' d regret nothing if I die. ” Willingly he came with me for receiving the rice balls. The road was filled with rubble and it was not easy to walk. We could finally distribute the rice balls or onigiri to everybody there. It wasn' t until I had been to the police box that I found the whole city completely burned out, which greatly shocked me.

My husband searched around for our relatives and the missing neighbors every day and was seldom at home. As it was difficult to treat many people at our house, I took them to a nearby elementary school, where I saw a lot of people nearly dead lying not only on the playground but also in the hallways and the classrooms. Some were dying without receiving any treatment. People were digging holes in the field and cremating the dead bodies there. I heard agonizing cries and observed an inferno before my eyes. I could hardly believe that those were the happenings in this real world.

The life after the bombing

After the bombing we had no food, water and electric light. I had to take care of our relatives who were bombed out, my sick daughter and her infant baby who was always crying for milk. I often felt like dying, indeed. Finally we were able to get water from the tap and electric light. When we could eat pure white rice that we had traded with our treasured kimono, I was glad that I survived.

My daughter, Satoko had been in poor health and died in 1947 leaving her three children behind. I was 47 and Hiroyuki was only one year old then. We raised him until he graduated from junior high school.

About the time when I entered the nursing home

My husband passed away in 1965. Hiroshi got the job in Osaka and I was left alone. Before my husband died, we had repeatedly been told by our landlord to empty his house because he wanted to rebuild the house. But my husband had earnestly asked the landlord to let us stay there. Now that he was gone, I had to meet the landlord' s request. I rented an apartment house and started my new life, depending on something I earned as well as the widow' s pension. Though I was poor, I was happy being able to enjoy freedom and easiness for the first time in my life.

Ten years later, I was compelled to move due to the municipal redevelopment project of Danbara Area. I tried to find another apartment house to live in, but it wasn' t easy since I was an old woman with no family. Then the chief of the neighborhood association suggested that I enter a nursing home, and made a necessary arrangement. In the nursing home, I had some difficulties and felt sad at times in the beginning. Five years have passed and I got used to the life here. I' ve joined various club activities such as handicraft, calligraphy, tea ceremony and dancing. My roommates and the staff here are all very kind to me, so l am just happy and grateful for the life free from worries.

Every time I think of those victimized by the A-bombing, I cannot help feeling sorry for them. Thirty-five years have passed since that day, but I can never forget those agonizing scenes. I wish I could have described the atrocity and horror of the A-bombing better. I sincerely hope that this peaceful time would last.

Written by Motoko Sakuma (80)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Shinonome-machi. Inside of my house, 3 km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days
No injury
The dead among my family