‘Memories of War’ is a project which leaves voices of the people who survived the war. We are not supporting any specific organization, and we are not agitating any thoughts.

Moreover, please be consent about the following descriptions.

  • The contents of the interview have left the voices and thoughts of the people who survived from the war.Moreover, there might be inappropriate expressions but we have left the voices as it was spoken.
  • The articles were recorded based on the knowledge and memories during the interview were taken.Therefore, there might be memories difference and some ambiguous point.

Memory 6 Michika Nakamoto

She truly freed herself from the war.
Her daily life at a munition factory and living of that time.

Michika Nakamoto Michika Nakamoto
born in 1926, Kure City, Hiroshima
She marries into a family which runs a shop, “Nakamoto Honntenn”. (Nakamoto Honntenn is the name of the shop)
Nakamoto Honntenn produces and sells beverages, Japanese pickles, and “Tsukudani”. (Tsukudani is a name of a Japanese food which is boiled in soy sauce)

After she graduated from “Jo Gakkou”, she worked at the navy factory in Kure City, Hiroshima. (Jo Gakkou is a school for girls)
However, because of an air raid, her workplace was destroyed. Therefore, she was transferred to Iwakuni and continued working there. About 1 month later, the war ended. I interviewed her how she felt and in her situation at that time.

Air raid at navy munition factory

──Where and how did you spend your time around 1945?

After I graduated from Jo Gakkou at 18, I belonged to “The 11th Naval Air
Arsenal”.(The 11th Naval Air Arsenal is a munition factory. One of the main missions was to develop aircraft for the Imperial Japanese Navy.) The arsenal was in Hiro-Machi, Kure City. I worked there as an office clerk of the General Affairs Division. There was a dormitory in the Nagahama area. I lived there and went to my office from there.
My family lived in Yoshida. Out of 10 brothers and sisters, I was born in the middle. My older brothers were members of the navy and my older sisters got married, so they didn’t live with our parents. One of my younger brothers lived with our parents and did farm work. The others were younger, so they went to school.
When the air raid broke out, I worked at the 11th Naval Air Arsenal. I heard the siren of the air raid, so ran and evacuated to a bomb shelter which was on the other side of the street. The bombing damaged our office. I was in a place which was about 30 meters distance from my office, so I heard the sound of the bombing.
There was no place I was able to stay, so including me, people who survived the air raid went to Iwakuni and began to work there. Meanwhile, the war ended. The period I worked as one of the members of the arsenal totaled about two years.

──The air raid on Kure City broke out in July. One month later after you went to Iwakuni, the war ended, right?

Yes. The state of that time was in a mess, so I didn’t realize well what happened and how everything was going. My memory of that time was trooping from a station in Iwakuni to a mountain.

──Could you tell us how you felt at that time?

I was scared of the air raid. However, I thought, “I can survive only if I am inside of a bomb shelter.” That is why I didn’t think deeply about death because I hadn’t seen the bomb being dropped on the ground in my presence.
Even in the case of the air raid on Kure City, I saw our office full of holes after the bombing later. All of my coworkers of the 11th Naval Air Arsenal were safe because they evacuated to other areas.There was “Hirokosho” next to our arsenal. (Hirokosho is a name of a factory which manufactured ships) I wonder if they were able to survive or not.

──How were your family members?Were they safe?

Yes. The bomb wasn’t dropped on the Yoshida area, and my brothers, who were the members of the navy were safe, too.

── On August 6th, which is the date the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima City, you were in Iwakuni, right?

Yes, I was in Iwakuni on that day. I saw a tremendous size of clouds, so I talked with my coworkers, “A bomb may have been dropped somewhere.” Hiroshima was far from Iwakuni, so the sound of the atomic bomb didn’t reach me well.

──The war ended on August 15th. Before that, what is known as “Gyokuonn-hoso” was broadcasted. What did you do at that time?(Gyokuonn-hoso is the broadcast of the voice of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito)

I heard from someone that the extremely important speech is going to be broadcasted, but I wasn’t able to catch the details because of much noise. I recognized later that it was the announcement of the end of the war. I thought that I was able to feel relief finally as I wouldn’t have to run away anymore.

──Could you tell us from when you felt that you couldn’t spend your life as it was before?

Since I had entered Jo Gakkou, we didn’t have many classes. English class was abolished. The things I did were rice planting and harvesting of soldiers’ fields. I got trained to use bamboo as a spear though I didn’t feel any risk to my life.

──At that time, I heard that the Japanese media kept broadcasting how Japan was winning. How did you feel about that?

I never dreamed Japan would be defeated in the war. I believed in Japan’s victory because nobody around me passed away.
After the war ended, I went back to Yoshida where my parents lived. I felt I finally got liberty.

──When you worked at the factory, what kind of people were your leaders?

Please look at the letter over there. (There was a letter on the table in her house.) The letter from “Kinnya Hokotate”. He was a lieutenant general and was ranked upper class. I think he may have been from Kagoshima Prefecture. After the war ended, food was in short supply, so my grandfather sent various kinds of food and alcohol to him. That was the letter in his return. The stamp said “December Showa 26,(1951)”.


Life During War

──At that time, how did you get food and what sort of food did you have?

I had millet, such as “Awa”, ”Hie”, wheat, and sweet potato. The navy factory was better served than others a little, so I was able to have appropriate amounts of food.
Well, the following story is my daily life of that time. In the morning, I go to the factory and sing martial music. Around 8:00 a.m., each of us goes to our individual workplaces and begins to work. Around 5:00 p.m., I go back to my dormitory. There were 5 or 6 people in the same room. We have a meal together at the dining room and go back to our room to sleep. All of the people were in the same generation and came here from far and wide in Hiroshima, so we talked about many things together. We were young so we made a lot of noise. There wasn’t a television in the dormitory. We had less fun because of that.

──Could you tell us how you felt about His Imperial Majesty, the military, and America?

I didn’t have a good image of America.
After the war ended, I got scared of Occupation Troops at first, but when I saw them for real, I didn’t feel scared of them as I had imagined I would have been.
When the members of the Occupation Troops came to my house, I remembered my older sister talked with them using her basic English. I wondered what kind of things they talked about at that time.

──Your family members were safe and you spent your life better than others’ states, but had you ever felt someone begrudged you?

I don’t think I felt those kind of things. However, our fields were deprived. (That is known as “Land Reform”. One of the main objectives is to reduce the gap between land owners and peasantry. As one of the procedures of the law, the floor space of the fields which each person owns was limited.) The space for each family remained, but there are rice fields, mountains, and so on which we owned, right?The peasantry took them over. Therefore, we became poor.

──You lived in Iwakuni for a period of time but you have been in Kure City since you came back here, right?

Yes, I got married when I was 23 years old. I lived near “Kaigan Dori” for a while and came back here. Around the end of the war, our family ran a business around Kaigan Dori, but there weren’t appropriate work spaces, so we moved here. “Nakamoto Honntenn”, which is a shop of the family I married into has produced and sold beverages such as lemon soda, and coffee. We began to produce Japanese pickles and Tsukudani around Showa 26 (1951). We continue to run this business slowly today.

──From now, I don’t think war will take place soon from now on in Japan but I worry that the number of people who seem to be indifferent to it are increasing. How do you feel about it?

Past things gradually fade from people’s awareness I think. We live prosperously now here in Japan and feel no inconvenience as we live our life these days.
I don’t want war any more.
In battlefields, many young people passed away, right? I don’t want my children and grandchildren to experience such a terrible thing. There are many wars occurring around the world, and I can’t understand why they don’t try to get along with each other. I feel sad.
I hope peace continues forever.

(Interviewer:Yohei Hayakawa, Writer:Akiko Ogawa, Translator: Yoshino Wakamatsu)