‘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 7 Kimie Ooka
Threat of atomic bomb undermines human being’s body and children’s future.
born in 1922, Hiroshima
Under the thought control during the war, she supported her whole family strongly and kindly with her knowledge and wisdom. She had her own conviction firmly, “Japan has no possibilities to win this war.”
While she was working at a tobacco shop which her family ran, a soldier, who graduated from a military academy, asked her to marry him. However, she said to him decisively, “I don’t like soldiers, so I don’t have any intention to get married. If you have some kind of bad feeling to my thought, tell the military police about me.” She didn’t get swayed by much information. She watched what was happening in the world calmly. Through those things, what was her ravage of the war from her view point？
Light in a moment destroyed city and shape of human beings on August 6th
──Were you born and raised in Hiroshima？
Yes, I was born and raised in Eba. (“Eba” is one of the places in Hiroshima)
Half of the people in Eba made a living through agriculture; the rest of them did so through fishing (the same as my family). Out of 7 brothers and sisters, I was the youngest of them. My brother was third oldest of us all.
──Could you tell us where and how you spent your time during the Pacific War？
I was outside of Eba, but my mother asked me to go back to Eba. That’s why I returned here. I spent my time giving my older sisters’ children a bath and taking care of them.
──How is your memory of “August 6th,1945”？
I stayed home at that time. “Kaoku Sokai” finished on August 4th. At first, August 6th was the date of the completion but we finished the work early.
I went to my office on the 5th, but stayed home on the 6th because of my poor physical condition. (“Kaoku Sokai” means to demolish buildings near military factories. The objective of this was to prevent the fire from spreading.)
While listening to the radio, I heard the B29s’ blast but the radio said, “The air-raid siren is unlocked.” I thought, “What on earth such a stupid thing for the radio to say!” At that moment, I saw an unusual light firsthand. I touched my face and noticed that blood was on my face, so I was very surprised to see this. I hid my head under the chair at once.
I didn’t know how much time I spent under the chair but after awhile I came out from under the chair to assess the situation calmly. The places around us were very calm. Thinking about what happened, I looked around here. Houses, “Fusuma” doors, and “Shoji” were in a mess. (“Fusuma” and “Shoji” are like a sliding door)
I remembered that my mother was in the field during that time, so I came out of my house to confirm the safety of my mother. At that time, not B29s, but different types of aircraft were flying and I heard the detonating sound. I laid down my body on the Kaoliang field. After the sound stopped, I began to search for my mother.
Then I got shocked to see my mother’s shape after she came out of the bomb shelter. Her “Kimono” was worn through. Her burned skin hung loose like a sleeve of a Kimono. She got burned on her back badly too. (“Kimono” is one of the Japanese traditional clothing)
On that night, we slept in a park with my neighbors which was located on a hill because our house was damaged by the bomb. The city of the view from the park was still burning heavily. After taking a little rest, I woke up. There were houses standing side by side in the city before, and the station was behind them, but the bomb changed the landscape. The station now stood out clearly with nothing blocking its view.
Chugoku Newspaper Company, Gokoku Shrine’s sacred arch, Sumitomo Bank Building, and granite gatepost of the 11th Regimental Headquarters were in full view from the park too. The city kept burning for 3 days. Big and hard buildings remained only.
In retrospect, there had been B29s flying around 8:00 a.m., and twice in the afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. until August 5th. They had a good figure with silver airfoils. Looking at the sky, I thought they came again at that time. Their mission was reconnaissance by flight I thought.
──In your memory, when did they begin to reconnoiter？
I didn’t remember the time clearly, but a few months must have passed since they began to do it.
I heard the air-raid siren every day, but they didn’t launch the fire bomb raids. I was wondering why. When Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe suffered from the air raids, I didn’t have any suspiciousness. However, when they attacked Fukuyama City, I was wondering why Hiroshima, which is one of the center cities for military, wasn’t attacked. I and my coworkers talked, “Hiroshima must end up being the target of the attack.”
Radiation destroyed human being’s cells
I stayed in the park one night and took my mother to our house.
My sister’s children were safe too. We needed wood for bathing so went to the place of “Kaoku Sokai” to get them with my second oldest sister. We used “Daihachi Gruma” as a tool for carrying the wood.
(“Daihachi Gruma” is an all wooden type of handcart, rickshaw. People used this from “The Edo Era” to “The early Showa Era”. (The Edo Era began in 1603 ; The Showa Era ended in 1989.) However, the exact term of the record, when they started and stopped using it, doesn’t remain.) While doing this, we were surprised to see children coming to us, crying, “It hurts, it hurts.”
When I was a child, someone said, “When people are horrified with fear, their hair seems to become one bundle and point in an upward position.” This is exactly true.
The children’s hair became like that. In regards to the children’s Kimono, only the wrists and parts of the gum remained. It looked like worn through clothing hanging over the children’s body. The skin was peeled up, and the face was not the usual children’s one. The parents of these children could only recognize them only by voice and not appearance because of the condition of their skin. It would have been too difficult.
Those people whose skins were peeled up seemed to be exposed to the radiation. Maggots came up again and again from their body even though we took them out.
At that time, there was no medicine like Oxydol, so as a treatment to my mother, I baked dokudami in casserole, put it between a Japanese washcloth and used it for her. We planted dokudami in our garden. I didn’t know at that time whether it was effective or not. After that, there were no maggots coming up.
My nephew came back to my house 3 days later after the atomic bomb was dropped. His back was covered with 126 cuts and bruises. His carotid artery was swollen up like a pomegranate but he survived. I put dokudami into a washcloth and touched his body with it. I made him drink the brewed dokudami and gave him a bath too. My mother wasn’t able to handle chopsticks because of the burn, but 40 days later, she was finally able to do that.
My nephew had septicemia 3 years later, but he survived.
──How were your brother and sisters’ condition？
All of them didn’t pass away by the atomic bomb directly, but they
passed away because of radiation sickness and cancer. My sister’s husband passed away 3 days after the atomic bomb was dropped without knowing she was pregnant.
Her doctor suggested strongly, “If your sister has an operation right now, she must recover from her illness, so take her to the hospital. Even though she refused to do, take her here by force!” However, she was born during The Meiji Era. (The era is from1868 to 1912) She said that an operation means “to hurt my body”. Her body is a precious present from her parents. That’s why she hated to hurt her body even though she had a possibility to recover from her illness. (This seemed to be one of the ways of thinking during the era.) She never changed her will, and didn’t have an operation.
──How was your condition？Didn’t you get burnt？
No, I didn’t get burnt. Pieces of broken glass just stuck on my skin. I was a lucky person.
──Could you tell us how you felt before August 6th？ Did you feel you were going to die because of the war？
I had the kind of feeling. There were many air raids occurring and air-raid sirens went off at irregular times.
In case of air raids, when I slept, I wore “Monpe” instead of pajamas. (Monpe is like pants) I made a bag to put my air-raid hood and necessities. I covered the light with black color bags just in case it shines through the wooden door.
I didn’t think Japan was able to win this war
──What kind of topics did you talk with your family under the tensions？
My second older sister’s husband was engaged in the military vessel job. When he came back to Japan from Singapore, he said, “Kimi-chan, Japan has no possibility to win this war.”
I thought the same thing he said, so I said to him, “Japan is an island country and in short supply. America is the opposite. America itself has many resources. It is impossible for Japan to win against America.” He said, “Don’t say such a kind of thing outside, right？” I understood if I had said my opinion outside, I might have been arrested and sent to jail, so I didn’t do that. I remembered talking about these things with my brother-in-law.
──How were your family’s thought about this war？
My father passed away before the war because of cancer, so I didn’t know his thought but my mother said, “Japan started a silly war.”
──During the war, people said, “For the good of the nation.” Do you think this was for real their own will？
This is my opinion. At least I think those who can judge things thought Japan was defeated. However, many Japanese people had the thought, “Kamikaze helps us.” That’s why I think a large majority of people believed in Japan’s victory. (“Kamikaze” is one of the Shinto words and means strong wind by the power of god. One of the famous histories in Japan, a country called “Gen” tried to conquer Japan in 1274 and 1281. At that time, strong wind blew and it prevented Gen from conquering Japan. That’s why people believed in the power of the god of the wind to defeat the enemy.) There were some leaders in each town. They held their nose in the air and were arrogant. We got trained to fight a fire through a bucket brigade. The leaders made pregnant women escalade. I felt strongly the leaders were really inconsiderate people.
──Where did you hear “Gyokuonn Hoso”？(Gyokuonn Hoso is the broadcast of the voice of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito)
I listened to that in my house with my mother.
I felt mortification but didn’t cry. I was relieved the war ended, saying, “Finally, the war ended.” My mother said the same thing with her deep sense of relief.
──Did you feel something hateful to America？
No, I didn’t feel that.
I read a book of “Mr. Isoroku Yamamoto” who was the 26th and 27th Commander-in-Chief of The Combined Fleet. He had a wide view of things. He had many experiences outside of Japan after graduating from a military academy.
On the Battle of Midway Island, he insisted Japan should attack on American soil because America is full of resources. His aide said that Japan seemed to be harmed slowly on the diplomatic front. (The battle of Midway Island broke out in Showa 17 (1942). The American military defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy which aimed to capture the island. As a result of that, the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered damage heavily, lost their initiative on this war, and became in short supply of fuel. Through those things, “Kamikaze Pilots” were organized. Their aircraft had only one way worth of fuel.)
I don’t hate America. I think Japan at that time was silly because of causing the war.
However, I felt scared of American soldiers.
After the war, when U.S Navy Ships came to the port, two of the soldiers came into my tobacco shop. They seemed to think that a bottle of soy sauce was alcohol. I said to them, “No!” to tell them it is not beverage, but I wasn’t able to reach my message to them.
I was confused and felt scared. At that time, I wore a Kimono. There were long, bright red silk cloth around the sleeves of the Kimono. I thought if I wore this, they might have felt happy and gone outside. I put the silk cloth around their necks. They said, “Thank you!”, then left my shop. I was relieved.
Lack of food, frustration not to be able to help children
──Could you tell us what was the hardest thing to you during the war？
It was lack of food.
We weren’t in trouble with this situation before. However, food rationing system began after the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States. This system was like that: Rice is 375g and half of a radish per person, per day. This amount was so short for five growing children with a healthy appetite, so my parents gave us their portion of the food. People planted sweet potatos, and other things in a 50cm space in the neighbor’s yard.
I really wanted to help children who lost their parents, but it was impossible for me to do that because we were in short food supply. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the power to take care of them. When I thought about the children who lost their parents, relatives and finally became alone, it felt so hard.
Some of them who were searching for their parents, walking around many dead bodies in the burned city said, “We still remember the taste of the rice ball someone prepared for us.”
──After the war, from when did you think the lack of food situation was improved？
Around Showa 30 (1955), we were finally able to have enough food. Before that, buying rice on the black market, bartering things in the countryside, that is how we gave children food.
However, I thought that it may have been hard for people to continue that way.
The black market system was illegal so police arrested the people who used this market on charge of “Illegal of Materials Control Ordinance”. There was a jail for women built in the Miyoshi area. Many mothers were in the jail. My mother lamented over seeing children whose mothers didn’t come back. She had many of her own children to take care of, so it seemed to be impossible for her to take care of other children.
Nuclear Power and children’s life
──Could you tell us your opinion about a nuclear power generation？
I think a nuclear power generation isn’t good.
When the atomic bombs were dropped on the ground, I didn’t know what the bomb was. 20 days later after the war, I knew that was an atomic weapon. I remembered that when I was in the fourth grade of elementary school student, my science teacher said, “Development of science must destroy human beings.”
I heard the Peace Memorial Museum has a plan to remove exposed human’s models because some students felt uncomfortable when they saw the models.
The real things were more awful and terrible than them. If the models were removed, what on earth would remain？ Nothing remains. Burned lunch box, bicycle, when the fire starts, these things become the same. I can’t understand at all why the museum needs to remove the exposed human body models.
──Could you give us your message through your war experience？
We shouldn’t start wars. There is nothing but miserable things.
I hope people think about children’s lives seriously for their future.
（Interviewer:Yohei Hayakawa, Writer:Emi Endo, Translator: Yoshino Wakamatsu）