Memoir of the A-bombing;
Hiroshima As I Saw It
by Keiko Ogura
Representative of the Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace (HIP)
I was eight years old, a second-year student at the National School. When
the atomic bomb was dropped I was in Ushita Town, 2.4km north of the hypocenter.
One of my older brothers, a fifth-year elementary student, had been evacuated,
and my other older brother, a junior high school student, was involved
in agricultural work north of Hiroshima Station as a mobilized student.
My father had said "Something doesn't feel right. Don't go to school
today", so I was all alone on the road on the north side of our house.
Suddenly, I was engulfed in a dazzling flash of light, and the tremendous
blast that followed slammed me to the ground. The straw roofs of the neighboring
houses instantaneously burst into flames. When I went back to the house
I found that everything inside was destroyed, the ceiling and roof tiles
had been blown away, and the doors and window panes were shattered into
hundreds of pieces and sticking out of the walls and pillars. But thankfully
my parents and brothers and sisters who were inside the house only suffered
Rain started to fall immediately after that - I do not know precisely
when it started. I think it was shortly after the bomb was dropped. I went
outside, and my clothes were dampened by the sticky, gray "black rain".
That rain left many thick, gray-colored lines on the walls in the house.
My older brother finally came home, with burns on his face and hands. Hearing
him say "Hiroshima is a sea of fire", I went outside to look
at the city from the hill at the shrine nearby. It was then that I came
across a line of people, their clothes in tatters, with burns, seriously
injured, fleeing the city. These people had charred hair, faces and lips
swollen and blackened with soot, and they were covered in blood. Some of
the people had their skin peeling away and hanging down from their fingertips.
Most of the people in this silent procession of ghost-like figures were
soldiers or students; some of them ended up bent over and others lay down
on the stone steps along the road leading up to the shrine. The whole area
was filled with seriously injured people on the brink of death. I found
out later that the reason that people were fleeing up there was that the
area around the nearby shrine was being used as an emergency aid station.
However there was no sign of anyone who looked like a doctor, just one
soldier with a bucket, applying something like zinc oxide oil(*) to the injured with a brush. After that, seriously injured people died
every day, and were carried to the park, which was being used as a temporary
site for cremating the dead. It was in that park that my father and members
from the civil defense unit cremated more than seven hundred corpses.
"Give me water"
As I was walking someone on the ground suddenly grabbed my ankle. From
around my feet, a weak voice said "Give me water". A woman covered
in soot and blood was clinging to me desperately. "Water, water",
the voice of the dying woman continued to plead for water. I ran home,
got some water from our well, and carried it to the dying people. Immediately
after drinking the water, a number of those people suddenly slumped, and
died right before my eyes. Shocked and trembling with fear, I regretted
giving them water. I was so young, I did not know that it was said at the
time that we were not supposed to give water to people with serious burns.
I vowed never to tell anyone about what happened that day. My memory of
that day remained with me as a nightmare even decades later.
My half-collapsed home was crowded with injured relatives, friends and
neighbors. My older sister was crying as she removed with tweezers shards
of glass that were stuck in my uncle's back. The inside of the house was
filled with a nauseating stench of blood, pus, mud, charred hair, and sewage.
Flames had spread to the mountain behind our house, and Hiroshima continued
to burn throughout the night.
Looking down over the destroyed city
On August 7, I looked down over the city of Hiroshima from the hill in
front of the shrine. Burnt ruins spread as far as the eye could see, and
I could pick out the remains of a number of buildings including the department
store Fukuya and the former Chugoku Shimbun building. The sea that I could
see beyond that felt so close that I could touch it. Smoke from cremations
rose up from the park just nearby and every now and then the stench of
burning corpses wafted over. From that day, I climbed those stone steps
every day and continued to gaze over the city of Hiroshima.
|Looking south from a building roof near Yamaguchi Town (currently the area of Kanayama Town, Ebisu Town and Nobori Town).
With nothing blocking the view, it was possible to see as far as Ninoshima Island (4,000m out to sea from Hiroshima City) floating on Hiroshima Bay.
Photographs by: US military
Communicating the wishes of the hibakusha to the world
Over the past thirty years, I have interpreted the testimonies of various
atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) on the one hand, while on the other communicating my own experience in
English to the people of the world. I do this because I do not want humankind
to ever again experience the horror caused by nuclear weapons. I know that
retribution and hatred mean nothing under that mushroom cloud, and that
the people of the world share the same fate.
(*) zinc oxide oil: a white ointment used for minor burns.