World Conference against A & H Bombs
Yamada Sumiko, Hiroshima survivor
2015 World Conference against A & H Bombs
A-Bomb Survivor of Hiroshima
Good afternoon, everyone. Friends coming from inside and outside Japan to participate in the International Meeting of the World Conference against A & H Bombs, I have been impressed by your tenacious efforts for peace. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.
I had just turned two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I cannot talk about my own experiences regarding how the A-bomb devastated the city of Hiroshima. But Hibakusha’s sufferings did not end on that day. I can tell you about the hardships I have had continuously in my life since the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
On that day, I was at my mother’s parents’ house located 2.3 km from the hypocenter. I was with my oldest sister, who was 20 years old at the time. The blast from the A-bomb blew me about 1 meter away. Window glass was broken, and the fragments stuck into my face and head. My sister later told me that the scars from the injuries stayed on my body for about a year. My sister and I ran into a bamboo grove at the back of the house. There we saw the black rain full of radiation falling down on us.
I suffered poor health in my childhood. My oldest sister took me to the Red Cross Hospital. I was told that I had fewer than normal white blood cells. I still suffer from a low white blood cell count, but I have had a relatively healthy life without suffering from major diseases. However, my second son was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia. I cannot stop worrying if his disease is caused by a weakened immune system inherited from me as a Hibakusha. I used to think optimistically that second generation Hibakusha would not have radiation impacts. But now I am worried every day about how I could apologize to him if his disease has been caused by me as his mother. Hibakusha’s sufferings continue even 70 years after the A-bomb.
Let me go back to my own A-bomb experiences and the damage done. I was born 0.7 km from the hypocenter in what is now called Tokamachi Town. My parents were running a groceries wholesale business. Even during the war, my family never suffered from a lack of food.
However, the A-bomb dropped on August 6, 1945 ripped apart the family. On that day, on the order of the military, my father had gone to the Hiroshima Prefectural Office building near what is now Peace Park, and my mother to Koami Town near our house, both to engage in works to take down buildings. There they were hit by the bombing.
My father’s remains were not found. My mother breathed her last on August 23. Until the last moment she was very worried about me, her two year-old daughter. Losing my parents, I also lost the days when I had lived without any inconveniences.
I was passed around from relative to relative. I stayed with them for a week at the shortest, for a month with some relatives, and at the longest for 12 years. Child as I was, I felt despair in my life. Gradually I became a child who gave no smile to anyone and closed her mind to others. When I was around 13 years old, I could not stand being a trouble to my relatives. I was so desperate that I even thought about committing suicide.
A turning point in my life came one winter, when I was 15 years old and just about to graduate from junior high school. My oldest sister’s husband offered to take me under his care. I decided 57 years ago to move from Hiroshima to their place in Okayama. When I left Hiroshima, I made up my mind to start a new life and forget everything about my hometown Hiroshima.
After being taken in by my sister and her husband, I went to college and then worked for 37 years as a medical social worker in a hospital. Since then I have not looked back on the past. I have continued to live facing forward. As a medical social worker, I have given counsel to many Hibakusha and learned many ways of life from them, such as the importance of caring for others and the strength to never yield to anything. Now I am working as a counselor to help elderly people who have dementia or other types of disabilities to live in their own homes. I also give advice to Hibakusha. When I ask Hibakusha to talk about what happened when they were exposed to radiation, they say, “It’s about the past. I don’t want to bring it back to memory.”
What is on Hibakusha’s minds is that they do not want to look back on or remember their own past. But I strongly believe that we should never forget what happened to us in the past. Children have the right to be raised by their parents. But I lost my parents to the war. Children should not experience what I went through, but conflicts occur in many parts of the world with killings taking place every day. In the middle of such a situation, the Japanese government forcibly passed the security bills through the House of Representatives in disregard of many Japanese people’s voices.
The Japanese Constitution in its Preamble declares, “We, the Japanese people,…, resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government.” During the war, lives of 20 million people were claimed by the Japanese Army in Asia, and 3.1 million Japanese people lost their lives in the war, including the Great Tokyo Air Raid, the Battle of Okinawa, and the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Based on remorse over the war, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution says, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” I am only 72 years old. I am determined to work to never allow another war or the use of nuclear weapons.