60 years later
The Story of Hiroshima
First-hand accounts from survivors best convey the bomb’s impact on Hiroshima’s people. The following "Voice of Hibakusha" eyewitness accounts of the bombing of Hiroshima are from the program HIROSHIMA WITNESS produced by the Hiroshima Peace Cultural Center and NHK, the public broadcasting company of Japan.
Mr. Akihiro Takahashi was 14 years old, when the bomb was dropped. He was standing in line with other students of his junior high school, waiting for the morning meeting 1.4 km away from the center. He was under medical treatment for about year and half. And even today black nail grows at his finger tip, where a piece of glass was stuck.
The heat was tremendous . And I felt like my body was burning all over. For my burning body the cold water of the river was as precious as the treasure. Then I left the river, and I walked along the railroad tracks in the direction of my home. On the way, I ran into an another friend of mine, Tokujiro Hatta. I wondered why the soles of his feet were badly burnt. It was unthinkable to get burned there. But it was undeniable fact the soles were peeling and red muscle was exposed. Even I myself was terribly burnt, I could not go home ignoring him. I made him crawl using his arms and knees. Next, I made him stand on his heels and I supported him. We walked heading toward my home repeating the two methods. When we were resting because we were so exhausted, I found my grandfather's brother and his wife, in other words, great uncle and great aunt, coming toward us. That was quite coincidence. As you know, we have a proverb about meeting Buddha in Hell. My encounter with my relatives at that time was just like that. They seem to be the Buddha to me wandering in the living hell.
Eiko Taoka, then 21, was one of nearly 100 passengers said to have been on board a streetcar that had left Hiroshima Station at a little after 8:00 a.m. and was in a Hatchobori area, 750 m from ground zero, when the bomb fell. Taoka was heading for Funairi with her one year old son to secure wagon in preparation for her move out of the building which was to be evacuated. At 8:15, as the streetcar approached Hatchobori Station, an intense flash and blast engulfed the car, instantly setting it on fire. Taoka’s son died of radiation sickness on August 28. The survival of only ten people on the streetcar have been confirmed to date.
When we were near in Hatchobori and since I had been holding my son in my arms, the young woman in front of me said, ‘I will be getting off here. Please take this seat.’ We were just changing places when there was a strange smell and sound. It suddenly became dark and before I knew it, I had jumped outside.... I held [my son] firmly and looked down on him. He had been standing by the window and I think fragments of glass had pierced his head. His face was a mess because of the blood flowing from his head. But he looked at my face and smiled. His smile has remained glued in my memory. He did not comprehend what had happened. And so he looked at me and smiled at my face which was all bloody. I had plenty of milk which he drank all throughout that day. I think my child sucked the poison right out of my body. And soon after that he died. Yes, I think that he died for me.
Ms. Akiko Takakura was 20 years old when the bomb fell. She was in the Bank of Hiroshima, 300 meters away from the hypocenter. Ms. Takakura miraculously escaped death despite over 100 lacerated wounds on her back. She is one of the few survivors who was within 300 meters of the hypocenter. She now runs a kindergarten and she relates her experience of the atomic bombing to children.
Many people on the street were killed almost instantly. The fingertips of those dead bodies caught fire and the fire gradually spread over their entire bodies from their fingers. A light gray liquid dripped down their hands, scorching their fingers. I, I was so shocked to know that fingers and bodies could be burned and deformed like that. I just couldn't believe it. It was horrible. And looking at it, it was more than painful for me to think how the fingers were burned, hands and fingers that would hold babies or turn pages, they just, they just burned away. For a few years after the A-bomb was dropped, I was terribly afraid of fire. I wasn't even able to get close to fire because all my senses remembered how fearful and horrible the fire was, how hot the blaze was, and how hard it was to breathe the hot air. It was really hard to breathe. Maybe because the fire burned all the oxygen, I don't know. I could not open my eyes enough because of the smoke, which was everywhere. Not only me but everyone felt the same. And my parts were covered with holes.