Hiroshima's Legacy: the Story Of One Japanese Family
Motoko Sakama lives in Tokyo. Her father was the mayor of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, the day an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on that city. This account of her family's experience was published in the August 1967 edition of Fujin no Tomo, a well-respected monthly magazine aimed at women, and appears here for the first time in English. LOOKING BACK AT HIROSHIMA
AUGUST in Japan is the season of agitation against atomic and hydrogen bombs. Reviving their memories of that time many years ago, people express their hatred for war and appeal for peace. These are the wishes of earnest Japanese, but I have been unable to join in this fervor until now.Skip to next paragraph
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I have devoted many quiet, private moments to thoughts of the happy days with my family before the World War II and to the ordeal I suffered because of it, without wanting to share those thoughts. But I have come to think that if the peace expiated by the deaths of my beloved family members were endangered, I would be extremely sorry. My simple prayer for continued peace has brought me the courage to write about my experience. I will be happy if my writing lets readers know the callousness of war.
At the time, my father was mayor of Hiroshima. Until that day, Aug. 6, 1945, I had my parents and four younger brothers and sisters. I was married and had a two-year-old daughter. It was wartime, but I was living a peaceful life in Ashiya (a city in central Japan).
My father, Senkichi Awaya, converted to Christianity when he was young and was influenced by Kanzo Uchimura (a 19th-century Christian scholar whose work combined patriotism with a pacifist, anti-authoritarian independence).
After graduation from university, my father became an official of the national government. Two years before the end of the war, he was appointed mayor of Hiroshima and left Tokyo to fulfill his responsibilities in that military town.
When he took office, he was alone at first, having left his family in the capital. But as the war intensified, he called my mother and brother to live with him in Hiroshima. One of my two sisters was a post-graduate high school student mobilized in Niigata (in northern Japan). Another brother and sister, elementary school pupils, were evacuated to Kofu (near Tokyo) and Matsumoto (in central Japan), respectively.
With the uncertain hope that we would live together again someday, we tried to encourage one another and endured the situation for the sake of our country. Only my father seemed to have prepared himself for the worst.
''Death may come to us at any time as we live on the border between life and death,'' he wrote in a letter to my sister. ''Let us do our best and live lives expected of every Japanese. If we cannot meet in this world again, let us meet in heaven.'' This letter suggests the tense atmosphere of the time.
My husband, an official of the Hyogo prefectural government, was hospitalized in late July 1945 with what was diagnosed as typhoid fever. Considering how difficult it was for me to take care of my husband and my infant daughter, Ayako, at the same time, my father sent my mother to visit us and offered to keep Ayako temporarily.
Although there were no major air raids in Hiroshima at that time, I was hesitant about being separated from my daughter. But I finally accepted my parents' kind offer, and my daughter left Kobe's Sannomiya Station with my mother on the morning of Aug. 3.
Ayako was very obedient and cheerful when she got on the train. I never imagined that it would be the last time that I would see her in this world.
Only three days later came the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I was carelessly unaware of the seriousness of the event. I thought that because my father was in an important post, I would have been informed if anything had happened. Two days after the bombing, there were great air raids in Osaka and Kobe that I narrowly escaped, so I felt rather relieved that I had sent my child to a safe place.
I cannot describe how we felt at seeing a report in the Aug. 11 morning newspaper entitled, ''Mayor Awaya of Hiroshima Is Among Victims.''
I lamented the loss of my father and worried that Ayako and other family members had also died. I was desperate to go to Hiroshima, but because of the total confusion in both the transportation and communication lines to the west of Kobe (toward Hiroshima), it was very hard for a woman to go alone. In this situation, the news of the end of the war (on Aug.15) made me feel I had hit bottom.