24. Cremating My Son at the School Ground

My background

I was an eldest of the three girls, born in Nakai, Mukoeta, Miyoshi. My parents were Ikumatsu and Mine Nakai. My mother died of illness when I was ten. We lived in Shobara in those days where my father had an umbrella making shop. After I graduated from Shobara Higher Elementary School, I stayed home and did the housework since my mother had died. At the age of 20 I got married to a farmer in Kisa, Tatsufumi Imada and had four children, but my husband died of illness when he was 30. My parents-in-law were still young and confident enough to raise their four grandchildren, and I returned to my parents alone leaving my children with them. Back in those days it was difficult for a woman to live alone, so, later I got married again to a man in Seranishi-cho, Kisuke Sakamoto. We moved to Hiroshima in 1939 in order to educate our three sons and lived in Nishikanon-machi. My husband worked for Toyo Seikan Kaisha Ltd., a can manufacturing company and I, too, worked for the same company as a cook.

Nervously glittering eyes

On the very day of the bombing my husband and I happened to be at home because it was our day off. With an abnormal flash and roaring sound I fainted for a while. The roof tiles and walls of our house fell and pillars tilted. My husband had cuts on his head, bleeding, but came to me worrying. I thought we needed to escape immediately, rather than treating our injuries, and so went outside covering our heads with a quilt. We headed for the vacant lot together with neighbors. Those seriously injured were pulled or pushed on a cart. Then black rain fell. Following my husband, I walked on the riverbank with an umbrella over my head. With blood just letting fall, the eyes of those seriously injured were nervously glittering in their faces that were blackened with sweat and dust. I remember the picture vividly even today.

We had nothing to eat. The night came and I was worried about my son who had left home for work in the morning. I spent the sleepless night with many other people on the riverbank. Around noon we were given some hard biscuits and two rice balls. My husband and I started to look for my son.

In order to survive

On the 8th of August my son was at length identified from a horde of burned bodies that could hardly be recognized men from women at the ground of Honkawa Elementary School. Clues were his gold-covered false tooth and the leather sole of his canvas shoe that had been left unburned. That evening my husband and I cremated my son in tears at the school ground and took the ashes back home. We prayed for the repose of his soul at our half-burnt house. It was only in July, 1945 that our dearest son got the job at the civil engineering section of the Prefecture Office and his office was on the second floor of the Honkawa Elementary School. Circumstances, however, didn' t allow us to remain there sinking in sorrow. We had to work hard in order to survive. Gathering tins and lumber out of the rubble, we built a shack to keep ourselves from rain and dew. The problem was food. We went to pick up pumpkins in the field of Kanon-machi and ate them boiled. We didn' t have even salt. The war ended while we were eating whatever available, and our two other sons who had been in the preparatory course of the military academy returned. We decided to go back to the country to solve our food shortage.

A-bomb disease and malnutrition

Luckily we had our house intact in Tsuta, Seranishi-cho, Sera-gun. In late August taking everything we had, we got on a freight train. My husband and sons went back to Tsuta and I went to Shio-machi because I had my sick younger sister to take care of. I had no choice but stay there. The house in Tsuta had been vacant so long and there was no electricity. My husband and sons had to live with the light of an oil-burning kandelaar, a metal hand lamp. As my husband had been over working ever since August 6, he became feverish in late September and suffered from diarrhea. I went to take care of my husband in Tsuta, but, with neither medicine nor shots available, he died on October 10. Looking back now, I wonder if he died of malnutrition as well as of A-bomb disease. After my husband' s death I spent 13 years in Shobara taking care of my sick sister and my father. Then around 1965 I started to have physical problems of my own one after another. I was hospitalized in the Harada Hospital in Hiroshima. My sons had family and were living their own lives. In the spring of 1970 I came to know that an A-bomb nursing home was built. I decided to enter the Home and became a resident in September.

As long as I live

The Home is well facilitated and I can receive the same treatment as a hospital. I live in peace here without any inconveniences or worries at all. I press my hands for prayer with deep appreciation.

When I was living in Shobara after the war, I learned about the Hiroshima University Shiragikukai, an association at which one can register for the body contribution after the death. I registered myself wishing that I would at least be of some use after I died. I' m going to live in gratitude as long as I am allowed.

Written by Takayo Sakamoto (83)

The place of my A-bomb exposure
Nishikanon-machi, inside my house, 2 km from the hypocenter
Acute symptoms at the time of the A-bombing
Light injuries on my feet caused by the glass fragments and diarrhea that lasted for ten days
The loss in my family
My fourth son, burned to death at his workplace in Honkawa-cho

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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