hibakusha

Hibakusha: The Story of Yoshio Sato

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

On August 6, 1945, I was exposed to the atomic bomb at just one kilometer away from ground zero in Hiroshima.

Recovering consciousness, I found myself confined in a dark, narrow gap in the ruins of our timber house, which had collapsed. Fortunately, I was able to get out. I have never forgotten the scene I saw upon climbing out. All the houses as far as I could see were flattened to the ground.The sky was dim with smoke as if it were after sunset. Fire was breaking out two to three hundred meters ahead of me; all the houses had been built of wood. I thought that the city had been destroyed at once by a terribly large bomb.

Exposed to the blast and trapped under the ruins of our house were my 12 year-old brother, Hideo, and my mother who had been hanging washing out in the yard with my little sister, Masako, who was 5 years old. I was 14 at the time. My father had left Hiroshima on business early that morning. With much difficulty, I finally succeeded in rescuing my family from under the collapsed building. We fled from the house, driven away by the approaching fire. Blasts of intolerably hot wind blew continuously.

We jumped into a reservoir of stagnant water, which had been set up for the purpose of extinguishing fires during air raids, in order to cool our bodies. As soon as we came out from the water, out clothes were dried instantly by the intense heat caused by the fires. We had to jump into the water so often that dirty water entered our mouths and caused us to vomit. Surrounding fires forced us to stay in the air raid evacuation zone for several hours.

In Hiroshima many junior high school children who had been mobilised to demolish houses to create fire barriers, were killed by the atomic bomb. Shortly before the bomb fell, the 'all clear' siren had been sounded and people had come out of the shelters. The aircraft carrying the bomb had flown over the city and then gone away, leading those responsible for the air-raid sirens to think it had retreated. Only after the 'all clear' had sounded did it return. We have wondered whether this was deliberate US policy to get people out from shelters so that the effects of the atomic bomb could be tested: something the US military authorities, when asked, have neither confirmed or denied.

Toward evening, the fires and the wind nearly ceased. A rescue truck came by and picked us up. Several people were sitting in the truck. Some were almost naked and badly burned. The skin on their arms was peeling off and hanging down from their hands. More refugess were jammed onto the truck so tightly that they cried in pain when their peeling skin touched the skin of others.

The drawings are published in Wasurerarenal Anohio--The Day Never to be Forgotten, A collection of testimonies and pictures by sufferers of the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski, published by the Kanagawa Atom Bomb Sufferers Association.

Work first appeared at: http://www.douaiabbey.org.uk/hiroshima.htm.


Atomic Bomb Disease

With no detailed information about the "new type of bomb" issued by the government, we did not know for about a week that it was actually the atomic bomb. We learned that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan on the day of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. I was infuriated at our government, which still urged us to fight against the allied forces. We were injured, and suffering from a strange weakness with no adequate treatment. Food, clothes, information: everything was in shortage. Yet the government still shouted its slogan: "Ichioku gyokusai!" ("100 million people should meet honourable deaths; never surrender!") Who did the Japanese government exist for, I wondered?

Hibakusha victim

Shortly after the explosion, many survivors noticed in themselves a strange illness: vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, high fever, weakness, purple spots on various parts of the body, bleeding from the mouth, gums, and throat, the falling-out of hair, and a very low white blood cell count. We called the illness "atomic bomb disease", and many of those who were only superficially injured died soon or months after. The lack of medical supplies and information about the after-effects of atomic radiation made it impossible to provide us with adequate treatment. First aid was all we could get.

Decades afterwards, I had a series of operations for cancer, which may be attributable to my having been exposed to radiation. However, I am not yet destroyed. With the blessing of gods and Buddha, I have been allowed to live. For the sake of those who were killed without mercy during and after the Nagasaki atomic bombing, and also for myself, I want to be able to survive for many more years. My physical being may be transient, but I believe that my spiritual being can remain undefeated. I wish sincerely that human beings will become wise enough to abandon all forms of nuclear weapons in the near future.

 

Hibakusha: The Story of Fumiko Miura

A Survivor's Tale

The bomb dropped on Nagasaki, August 9, 1945 and killed 74,000 people, injured as many again and left millions homeless. Poet Fumiko Miura, who was then a 16-year-old resident of the city, remembers that apocalyptic day.

 

The remains of Urakami Cathedral

August 9 approaches, and I am reminded again of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki 57 years ago, when I was a 16-year-old schoolgirl. I'm 73 now, and even now I seem to hear screams for help. That one plutonium bomb killed 74,000 people and heavily injured 75,000. It had the explosive power of 21,000 tons of TNT, and the temperature of the ground at the hypocentre of the explosion rose in a flash to 3,000-4,000 degrees. Almost everyone within four kilometres of the explosion was burned and killed, or received external injuries.

 

Note: The text for this story was adapted from an article that appeared in the Guardian UK, August 6, 2002, written by Fumiko Miura.  Extracts from Fumiko Miura's testimony were taken from her own book, Pages from the Seasons and translated by James Kirkiup.

Surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are called hibakusha.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/aug/06/nuclear.politicsphilosophyandsociety.

 

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