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
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Under the strong influence of our father's religious belief and his life, my sister had kept a diary since our father's death, describing her deep sorrow. She had hesitated to rely on her married sister (me) and had determined that without her parents, she should take care of the remaining family.Skip to next paragraph
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She had told me that after she recovered, she would go and tell another younger brother and sister at an evacuation site about their parents' deaths in a gentle manner and bring them back to Tokyo.
My sister had prepared funerals for our parents and other victims in my family. With such a determination in her life, she died, barely a young woman. It was the night of Nov. 24.
Toward the end of the year, a funeral for the five victims in my family, including my sister, was held with the help of Toraji Tsukamoto, a Christian respected by my father. The ceremony was pure and wholehearted, with a lot of friends and relatives of my parents and my sister gathering.
Praying and crying, they consoled us. Mr. Tsukamoto's words to encourage us at the time still remain in my ears: ''I have no words of condolence, but please endure quietly until after the storm has gone.''
Peace was restored after Japan was defeated in the war, but the sacrifice forced on us immediately before the end of the war was truly difficult to bear.
Bringing up younger siblings
Life after the war was severe. Since then, I have had a long walk with heavy burdens on my shoulder. My brother and sister - 12 and 10 years old at the time, respectively - have had to depend on me. Until that time, I had never confronted hardships. I was from a middle-class family.
I felt cowardly and weak, but I decided that I shouldn't keep crying but should get stronger and more cheerful to rear my little brother and my sister in an unsentimental manner.
My husband, a national government official, had to move often from one place to another. Although it was for family reasons that I had to care for my brother and sister, I continued to cause trouble for my husband, often leaving him alone in his place of work.
I am truly grateful to my husband for his patient, selfless cooperation and continued encouragement.
In the meantime, I gave birth to a son and a second daughter. My brother and my sister became cheerful as elementary school pupils and grew up despite more lonely, less affluent lives; my sister was educated at Ochanomizu Junior/Senior High schools, and my brother, although he often worried about the meaning of his life, studied at a Tokyo metropolitan high school and then at the University of Tokyo.
After graduation, he became a public servant, just like his father. My sister graduated from International Christian University and got married earlier than my brother.
Later on, my brother met his future wife. On the eve of his wedding, he expressed his heartfelt thanks to my husband and me for rearing him for 18 years. He promised that he would make strong efforts so that he wouldn't disgrace his father's name.
My husband and I were moved to tears, hand in hand; I will never forget my gratitude and deep emotion on that night, which would have blessed my parents.
Now our three families engage in independent, peaceful family lives with five children who have never seen their grandparents, but neither have they experienced any war. (Since the writing of this essay, another birth has brought the total number of children to six.)
Now that I have climbed a steep mountain that I looked up at with great concern in those days, I am happy and uplifted.
It was not because of our ability alone that we have reached the peak. It was probably a greater power and my parents' prayers that supported us. For this, I am filled with deep gratitude.
I sincerely wish that no one has the same experience as mine. I pray that the numerous war dead and atomic-bomb victims, including my loved ones, may be in peace.
* On Aug. 9, the Monitor will report on Mrs. Sakama's visit to Hiroshima for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing.