2003-8-12 Michio Fujita
My experience of the suffering from the atomic bombing
in Nagasaki , Japan, on August 9th, 1945
--- for abolition of nuclear weapons and realizing peace
I was in the eighth grade, at the age of 13, when I was exposed to the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan. I was in my house with my elder sister. We began to have an early lunch when a strong glittering light struck us. It was 2 minutes after 11. I thought at that moment that a big bomb burst in front of me. I lay down to the floor covering my eyes and ears. And then I felt strong blasts tore through our house again and again. It seemed to me very long, perhaps for 5 minutes or 10 minutes. After it ceased, I fearfully and cautiously stood up and was astonished to see that a part of the wall and a part of the roof were broken down and so I could see the sky. The things on the table were scattered down to the right or to the left and a lot of the small broken pieces of glass piled up all over the floor. Some of them stuck in the walls. We were lucky not to be hurt by these glass pieces.
We went slowly out of the house and tried to find the place where the bomb burst. Many of our neighbors were also trying to find it but none of us could.
My house was three kilometers away from the center of the bombed area. There is a hill in Nagasaki which divides the city in two. The Urakami side of the hill where the bomb burst became brown, because the ray of 5000 degree heat had killed and destroyed everything. But the other side remained green. My house was on this other side. All the people living in the area of one kilometer from the center of the bombed area were killed.
Fire spread over the city. Many victims escaped into our side from Urakami area. I heard most of them were terribly burned and walking unsteadily, some of them had loose skins from their hands. I heard from one of my classmates that one of my intimate classmates who lived in Urakamei area was walking by himself, holding a quilt on his head. I am sorry but I’ve never seen him since that day.
Soon after the burst, it began to rain. The rain was called “black rain” as it looked dark gray and was dirty. We didn’t know that it contained radioactive material. There were 7 rooms in our two-story house but only 3 rooms remained habitable, because we couldn’t stop the rain leaking. All of the clothes in the chests and the books in the shelves were ruined.
That night, American airplanes came over many times、dropping the flash light bombs to survey. I was scared by the flashes as I thought that they were more bombs. Because the air-raid shelter under the floor of our house was small and inferior, my sister and I went to a rice store nearby which had a pretty big and better air-raid shelter and got the permission to enter it. There was a young woman who was exposed to the radiation in Urakami area and I had to sit next to her. She said in a difficult breathing, “We can’t survive even if we were on the mountain or in the sea”. I believe that I received the secondary radiation from her. She died a few days later and her body was burned on a street. Every public service was out at that time. Many dead bodies were burned on the streets, leaving the nasty smell wafting in the air.
Rice and other foods were under a rationing system in Japan at that time. But this indispensable service was out too after the bombing. Most neighboring families evacuated to some local lands in latter half of August. But we didn’t have any place to go. At last, we had used up all the food we had in our house. My mother shared out the wheat gruel by little and little among us in the morning and said, “ This is our last food. We haven’t anything more to eat.“ The food we ate those days were soybean cakes, seaweed and the like. I can’t say how my mother felt when she said these words. We were lying in our house feeling listless and futile. It was a hot summer day and the time passed by, one o’clock in the afternoon, two o’clock, three o’clock…. There was nothing for us to do. At that time, we heard someone shouting, “ We will distribute wheat now. An American ship has brought it. “ My sister stood up at the moment and said, “ I will go and bring it!”
I cannot forget her voice. My mother cooked it soon. It was red and round wheat.
We sat down at the table and ate it with salt. I don’t think that any food has ever tasted so delicious to me since.
At the beginning of September, I received a notice that our school would begin. When I went to school, I found that some of my schoolmates were not there and a friend of mine was bald. He lost his hair because of the radiation. I didn’t know at that time that I should also have to suffer the radiation for a long time to come.
As our house was partially destroyed, we were to move to a dormitory of the Kassui school where my father was working. A few months later after the bombing, my sister and I went to the dormitory to check up on our rooms beforehand. We stayed in one room for one night. One pane of glass of the room was broken but it was not cold. To my big astonishment my throat was got terribly swollen the next morning, so that I could hardly breathe. This was the first result of my radiation sickness caused by the atomic bomb but there was no way for me to know that it was caused by the radiation. Every small scratch suppurated quickly since then, and it seems that my body’s tolerance to injury had become lower.
I began often to feel severe fatigue after entering university in Tokyo and had always a slight temperature. I supposed that I had contracted a lung disease and went for a check up but there was none of symptoms for that. When I was a sophomore and stayed in my home in Nagasaki, I was attacked by inflammation of the oral mucosa. My doctor said I could get well very soon. But the inflammation became harder and harder and white disease spots spread out over my tongue and mouth. When food touched these spots, even if it was soft, I felt an extreme pain. I had to have liquid food, not a hot and not a cold. At that time, we had a shortage of food but my mother took good care of me.
However my tongue was encroached and my body became weak. I couldn’t sleep through the night and my night sweat made not only my sheet but also even my mattress wet every day. Because of this pain, I thought that I could not get well and get up again.
Thanks to my mother’s care, I managed to graduate from the university and began to work at a company. But the feeling of severe fatigue continued. I can’t forget that I was often exhausted in the train going back home and managed to keep standing, holding on to a strap. It took for about 25 years for me to be normally healthy.
My elder sister who was exposed to the atomic bombing together with me, died of leukemia, I believe it was because of the radiation effect.
140,000 civilians in Hiroshima and 70,000 civilians in Nagasaki
were killed until the end of 1945. Other survivors also had to suffer from diseases
caused by radiation effect for a long time. Some of them are still now
--> German Version
* Many thanks to Mr. Fujita, my teacher of life, for being my friend and permitting me to put this article in my homepage.