13. The A-bombed Daughter in My Arms

My background

I was born in Mikoto-son, Hiba-gun as a second daughter to Torazo Yasuda and Kumi. My father died of heart failure at the age of 48 when I was nine and my mother died of acute pneumonia at age 37 when I was seven.

When I lost both parents, I was taken and raised by my uncle and aunt. My five-year-older sister, Shigeko was left with the grandfather, Ahei Yasuda' s custody, but she left his house some years later and got married to a man she fell in love. I completed Oya Elementary School, Mikoto-son. We had little contact with each other, and I learned that she died at the age of 60 in 1955 in Wakamatsu, Kitakyushu and that she didn' t have any children.

By arrangement I got married to Eizaburo Miyata of the same village when I was 20 and took over my family name, Yasuda, which my elder sister should have. We had a son and a daughter. But my husband died of myusitis at age 39, with only a few days in bed. When he died, my son, Nobuo was in the fifth grade and daughter, Chie, in the first grade. I left my daughter to the care of my late husband' s family and went to Miyoshi to work, taking only my son along with me. I worked at the paper plant and even at a railway construction site for a living.

Meanwhile, my son finished school and grew up to work as a lathe man at Toyo Kogyo Co. But after receiving a physical check for the military, he was drafted in the army and sent to the warfront in the Middle China. Yachie came to live with me after completing the higher elementary school. She worked at Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Experiment Station in Hakushima-cho and I started working as a housemother at the training school of National Railways in Osuga-cho in May 1943.

“You' re late, Mom.” ”

On August 6, I was at home, Aosaki, Niho-machi. I saw a flash at the moment I opened the door. I was to go outside since the preliminary alert was cleared. As the flash was razor-sharp, chilling, I asked my neighbor, “What was that? ” “It might be a murder beam, ” he said.

I became dizzy and felt sick, so for a while I crouched down on the tatami floor that was filled with scattered glass fragments. All of a sudden, the thought of my daughter flashed across and occupied my mind. I headed for Toyo Kogyo Co. In front of the company I saw a huge crowd whose appearances were beyond description. I saw somebody trailing something with noise. I wondered what it was. Astonishingly, the noise came from her dangling skins, having peeled off all over her body. When she said, “Mom, mom”, I wondered if she was my daughter. But she was not. I was afraid if Yachie had become like her, and headed for Hiroshima Station putting my air-raid-hood on. But the spreading fire kept me from reaching the station. I frantically searched for her in vain. I gave up reluctantly. “She might be back home. ” Wondering if we had missed each other somewhere, I hurried home. But she wasn' t there.

On the morning of August 7, I heard someone shouting, “Where is the Yasuda' s? ” It was Mr. Ishido, a coworker of my daughter in the same office. “Come along to the bank of the Ota River with her kimono. She was lain there. ” At the news, I ran with a stretcher, together with Mr. Ishido and two neighbors. It was around 8 o' clock in the morning. At length, I found my daughter among a large number of casualties. That morning she had left home for work in a blouse and work pants. Now, her whole body was swollen and the skins were peeled off, even of her face. I could hardly recognize her, except for her voice. “You' re late, mom” was her first words.

It was impossible to dress her, though almost naked, so I spread the kimono over her body and carried her home on a stretcher. On the way home she said, “Mom, I want some water. ” I soaked a towel in a big fire-prevention tank in front of Hiroshima Station and got her to drink. Many corpses floated in the tank. We reached home around one o' clock in the afternoon. She didn' t talk much. “I wondered if you had been dead, ” said Yachie. Her body stank and maggots were creeping here and there. I picked them up. “Mom, I want water, ” she said under her faint breath. But I didn' t give her any because I had heard that she would run a fever and then die if she drank water. I kept holding her for nine hours, then she died at ten o' clock. She was 22 years old. Even now, 35 years later, I cannot help blaming myself for not giving water when she badly wanted, and her voice is still lingering in my ears. Only, I comfort myself by recalling that I gave her some from the water tank once on the way home.

On August 8, she was cremated in the schoolyard of Aosaki Elementary School along with lots of other A-bombed victims. I went back to my hometown with her ashes on the 15th of that month. As for food in those days, we were eating porridge cooked with the rationed foreign rice, and horseweed as a vegetable substitute. Because of the shortage of rationed salt, I would often go and scoop salty seawater at the seashore of Mukainada.

My demobilized son killed himself

Fortunately I didn' t have any injury but I had diarrhea for one month from August 10 and vomiting for about two months from August 15. I also became weary, and had little appetite. I was always a little feverish. I started losing my hair in the middle of November and then became completely bald in two months. I turbaned a towel over my head but I didn' t get any medical treatment. I had no job and had to sell things in order to live after the A-bombing. Then, my son was demobilized and returned home from the middle of China on February 28, 1946. He wore a large mask, put a hat deeply on, and carried big luggage of a blanket, etc. on his back. I wondered why, about his appearance, so asked him. He replied, “I wanted to die in the battle field. I' m ashamed of being home alive, so don' t want to be seen by people. ” For me, his return was more than a joy. He was really sorry to hear about his sister' s death, but felt ashamed about his safe repatriation while a lot of his comrades had died in the war. He blamed himself for his survival.

My son killed himself by jumping into the railroad on September 23, 1946 leaving a note behind. I think, he couldn' t stand seeing me struggling for a living and everything. Indeed, it was difficult about everything, in particular food in those days. He was said to have been mentally unstable, though. He died so young, at the age of 26, leaving me alone. I feel so sorry for him that I didn' t realize his agony. As a mother, I regret that I couldn' t do anything for him.

I was baptized at a protestant church in 1948 out of sheer desire to be saved by God from my solitude and anguish. The following year, by the recommendation of the pastor, I started working as a helper, touring the houses of Christian followers in Kobe. I stayed in the dormitory of a protestant school. Then, my physical condition became no good, and I started living on welfare around 1965 in a rented apartment. But being diagnosed as breast cancer, I underwent an operation in October 1968. Having recovered, I lived in Kobe until 1973. Since I heard of this home from the president of Kobe A-bomb Survivors Association, I returned to Hiroshima in August 1973.

Hope for living

I entered the Home on September 8, 1973. I was grateful to the staff members of the home for their kindness and to the well-equipped facilities.

When I decided to enter the Home, I thought all the residents were alone with no family. But after a while here, I learned that many of them were not so. The discovery was a shock to me. It' s only me who had no family and no place to return to. I shed tears every day feeling isolated. I couldn' t do anything but praying to God. I needed time, and great effort to become what I am now.

I heard about some suicides here, and I felt rather envious for those who could do so. At such moments, I read the Bible repeatedly. I told myself to treasure my life, and lived to this day. After entering the Home, too, the scars on my body become feverish a couple of times a year. The agony each time that recurs is beyond description. In the meantime, I appeared on TV twice, and letters were sent to me from all over, even from abroad. I feel encouraged. Gradually I have been changed to have hope for living. Now I' m thankful every day, from the bottom of my heart.

Written by Kinue Yasuda (79)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Niho-machi, inside the house, 5km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days
No injury
Diarrhea for one month from August 10
Vomiting for two months from August 15
Losing hair from the middle of November and becoming bald two months later
The dead in my family
My first daughter A-bombed to death in Niho-machi, Hiroshima

The author of the stories here comes under “Hiroshima Council of the A-bomb Counter-disaster Measures ”, which is the managing body of the Funairi Mutsumien, Hiroshima A-bomb nursing home.

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