What my grandma left behind

My grandmother and I were always very close. But she had never spoke of her experience of the atomic bomb.

“It is too painful for your grandma to talk about it,” my mother once told me. My grandma lost her mom on the day of the bomb, and her husband and siblings in later years.

When my own children became old enough to understand the horrible history, we made a trip to Hiroshima with my grandmother, and visited the Peace Memorial Park.

For the first time, she told us about what she had witnessed.

Looking back, I feel sick to my stomach, thinking how unbearable it must have been for my grandma to go to the Peace Memorial Museum and to be reminded of the horrific day. I was only thinking about how important it was for my children — the future generation of the world, especially, as the great-grandchildren of a witness — to learn about the atomic bomb and what it did to people in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. How selfish of me.

After my grandma passed, I was going through her belongings — old photos, letters, knickknacks — all neatly organized and labeled. Then, in a tin can, I discovered some paper with her writings, written on scratch papers from a hospital, about her atomic bomb experience.

I told my cousin, who was also close to my grandma, about my discovery. He told me that she showed him a draft of her writing. She was preparing to have it published.

My younger sister told me that when my grandma was hospitalized for cancer treatment, my mom insisted that she write about her experience.

She left this world, peacefully, at the age of 96, on April 28, 2018. And she left me a task to complete — to put together her writings and publish her story, so the world will know what she wanted to say.

Here is her writing, put together and translated by me. Please read, and let others know about my grandma’s experience so that no one will ever experience what she had to go through.

Kaori McDaniel writes from San Jose, Calif.

 

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No more atomic bomb!

By TOSHIE FUJII

My husband, Iwao Shimamoto, had been working at Kure Marine Base (Kure is about 12 kilometers/7.5 miles southeast of Hiroshima City) for two years. On Aug. 4, 1945, two days before the bomb was dropped, he received a transfer order to work in Hiroshima City, to be stationed at Gion Elementary School (4.5 km/2.8 miles from where atomic bomb was dropped).

On the morning of Aug. 6, after breakfast, my daughter went out to play, while I prepared a bento box lunch to take to my husband. Suddenly, with a tremendous bang, things fell off the shelves. Cabinets fell down. Front door broke. Windows shattered. Even the tatami mats were up-heaved, raised from the floor.

We were surprised because the explosion happened just after the air-raid siren had stopped. After a while, I received a message from my husband, telling me to be careful because he heard that a large, new type of bomb was dropped in Hiroshima.

I took my daughter and my mother-in-law to a river and had them hide under a willow tree. They stayed there until the evening. There were people teeming from Hiroshima, all hurt.

I saw a naked person, with their clothes all burned off. I saw a person dragging his own skin, terribly burned skin. Someone kept crying out, “It hurts! It hurts!”

Someone who was carrying a dead child, dragging her feet, barely walking. Someone who was so burned that I could not tell the front part of the body from the back.

There was nothing I could do for them. It was a living hell. It is impossible to describe it in writing.

I thought it was strange that my mother did not come to our house. Neither did my brothers or other relatives. The next day, Aug. 7, I was still waiting to hear from them.

No wonder. My mother died instantly.

She had been working at the city’s water company in Hachobori and the building collapsed (460m/0.29 miles from where the bomb was dropped).

Her body was burnt beyond recognition. We were only able to identify her by removing a brick that had fallen on top of her stomach to reveal the pattern of the kimono my mother was wearing that day; that was the only way to identify my mother.

My oldest brother, Shozo Mizuno, was on a train of Hakushima-line when the bomb exploded. He was burned on the left side of his face. He died on May 13, 1951.

My second oldest brother, Shiro Mizuno, was waiting for a train in front of Hiroshima station (2.1 km/1.3 miles from where the bomb was dropped). The wind from the explosion blew him off the ground. His face, his chest, and his hand were burned, on every part of his right side that was exposed to the light of the explosion.

He didn’t look like a human anymore. The keloid scars from the bomb remained all his life. He had a health checkup, twice a year, at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. He died of leukemia on Aug. 15, 1969.

The ABCC came as soon as he died, and took his body away.

My husband worked every day in Hiroshima disposing dead bodies, every day from Aug. 6 to the end of the war on Aug. 15. After being sick for many years, he died on Feb. 12, 1952.

On the day of the bomb, my younger brother didn’t go to school. Instead, he was playing in an air-raid shelter, and survived (His school was most likely to have been Hakushima Elementary School, located 1.2 kilometers/0.74 miles away from the explosion site.). He died of spleen cancer on Sept. 7, 1988. He was in his 50s.

My older sister was living far from Hiroshima when the explosion happened. I later joined her to help take care of those who had escaped. I walked for hours every day with my daughter on my back to get to my older sister’s home, and together we put oil on the victim’s burns. My older sister also died of spleen cancer on Aug. 9, 1992.

Everyone in my family died — because of the atomic bomb, my husband, my mom, and my siblings died, leaving me behind, alone. Now, at the age of 84, I am fighting cancer. I am 84 years old. How long do I have to suffer?

I don’t want my children and my grandchildren to go through the unbearable experience I had. I hate wars. The ones who suffer the most are the weakest. Especially, I never want to see the living hell of the atomic bomb. This is not the act of a human being. I will never forgive or forget what America did.

No more war! No more war! No more atomic bomb!

The preceding commentary was written around the year 2006 by Toshie Fujii, who passed away on April 28, 2018 at the age of 96. Views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

 

 

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