20. Struggling Against Loneliness and Illnesses

My background

I was the youngest child of eight, born in Higashisenda-machi, Hiroshima on March 31, 1913. My parents, Kenichiro and Seki Yamamoto had two sons and six daughters. I graduated from Ote Higher Elementary School. My father worked for Hiroshima Electric Railway Company.

My father died of heart and liver diseases when I was twenty years old. I was working at a dancing hall located in Nakadori, Kure when I was twenty-one. At the age of 26, I got married to a military officer, second lieutenant of the Navy. We lived in Naha, Okinawa where my husband was stationed.

We were not blessed with children. As the Pacific War intensified, I left Okinawa for Hiroshima alone to live with my third elder sister whose husband had been drafted into the Navy and sent overseas. Later my fourth elder sister returned from Manchuria alone and came to live with us. But my sisters evacuated to Umaki-mura, Aki-gun to stay in the house where my fourth sister' s husband was born. I remained alone in Hiroshima, as I had started working at a chemical factory (military-related) in Takeya-cho after my divorce.

Three sisters exposed to the A-bomb

I went to Umaki-mura to ask my two sisters to come back to Hiroshima. We heard that there was a private truck leaving Umaki-mura for Hiroshima on August 6, and luckily we got a lift. We, three of us left Umaki-mura at 6 o' clock in the morning and reached home in Showa-machi, Hiroshima at 7:30.

We were relieved to be home and relaxed sitting on the entrance floor. Then the air-raid alarm sounded, and was cleared after a while. Without warning, we heard a roar of a plane but I thought a Japanese Military plane was flying over us. Suddenly, however, I saw a blinding flash of light. Then I heard the deafening roar. That moment, we fell into the air-raid shelter we had made in the yard before. We were thrown into the shelter by the bomb blast. I felt choked, but recovered my senses. We kept calling out for help but nobody was available.

We crawled out of the shelter somehow. Then we saw the nextdoor woman trapped under the collapsed house and unable to get out. I tried hard to pull her out, but failed. The columns and beams were too heavy. She kept saying, “Go, you just go! ” We parted there, crying. Later I was so relieved to hear that her husband had hurried back from his work, Mitsubishi Shipyard and rescued her.

Another woman in my neighborhood was blown off to the ground by the A-bomb blast at the moment she came to the veranda upstairs for drying the laundry. She was burnt all over her body and covered with blood. She had a cut on her head. She was wearing only a slip. I hurried back to my fallen house to fetch my emergency bag. Taking out a triangular bandage, I bandaged the bleeding cut on her head with it.

My sisters and I walked together with this injured woman. Crossing Hijiyama Bridge, we walked along the Streetcar railway of the Ujina Line. When we were passing by the Communication Unit, the woman parted us there and entered the Unit building for medical treatment.

On the way to Hiroshima Station, we saw people injured or already dead. When we reached the Enko Bridge, we looked back toward Showa-machi where we were living and saw a conflagration. The city was burning violently. We crossed the Enko Bridge avoiding the burning cross-ties and reached Atago-machi.

Don' t fall asleep, you may die

The houses on both sides of the street in Atago-machi were burning. We passed through the fire and got to the safe area. I don' t remember where we were. As I was drinking water leaking from the broken water tap, I heard a little voice, ‘Auntie, give me water.' As I turned around, there was a schoolgirl standing with skin, like rags, hanging from burnt face and hands. I felt pity for her so much. I gave her water from my cupped hands. There were a dozen more schoolgirls lying asleep around her. I tapped every girl on the cheek saying, “Don' t sleep. You may die! ” A few of them opened their eyes.

We went on, and made our way to seek refuge in Umaki-mura, Aki-gun, helping with each other.

Missing Hiroshima

After we got to Umaki-mura, we stayed there to convalesce doing some chores for my brother-in-law' s family and other nearby farmers. With no income, we were living on our small saving. The brother-in-law' s family was very kind to look after us, but I could not help missing Hiroshima. We wanted to return and live in Hiroshima, just three of us sisters. After some discussion, in August 1946, the fourth sister and I left Umaki-mura we had lived for one year.

The fourth sister and I built a shack by ourselves in the burnt ruin, Showa-machi where we used to live. Salvaging burned columns and boards, putting scorched tin sheets and roof tiles for the roof, we set up a house solely to keep us from rains. It was our own house that my physically handicapped sister and I cooperated to build, and the house I have fond memories. To make a living I worked hard at a dancing hall. In 1955, I left Hiroshima for Tokyo, getting a job in a tourist inn.

Hospitalized in the A-bomb Hospital

I was working in Tokyo free from physical problems. It was in 1961 when my sister asked me repeatedly to come back to Hiroshima to attend her. She was going to be hospitalized in the A-bomb Hospital to have an operation for breast cancer. Since she was my own sister, I decided to take a leave and return. I took care of her for 12 months in Hiroshima. I shared the joy with her when she got well again and released from the hospital. Then, when I was getting my belongings ready for going back to Tokyo, I felt an acute pain in my lower back and became unable to walk. I received treatment continuously as an outpatient at the A-bomb Hospital, but my condition got only worse. I was finally hospitalized in December 1963 and stayed there for seven years until July 1970.

Thanks to this nursing home

My doctor said to me that my condition was stable. I heard that this Hiroshima A-bomb Nursing Home was going to open in 1970, and I expressed my wish that I would like to become a resident. My request was heard. I was tormented by diseases and had no relatives to depend on. If I had not been admitted in a nursing home like this, I' d never had a chance to survive these 10 years. I am still struggling with my ailment everyday, but I' m hoping to live long. I will keep going. I am so glad that this home was founded.

Written by Fusako Yamamoto (67)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Inside my house in Showa-machi, 1.6km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms in those days
I could not leave my bed due to a nausea that lasted a week and weariness.
The dead of my family

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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