Our school became a shelter.
Although the windows of my school – Dainikenjo – were heavily destroyed, the structure of the building remained intact. The Hiroshima Prefectural Women’s Vocational School building, which is on the same campus, was safe. When we entered it, the principal and some other teachers were there and said that they were glad to see us safe. The principal was concurrently the principal of both that school and Dainikenjo, and all the other teachers taught at both of them, too. I think it was a happy school because female professors taught us. At that time I was in my fourth year at Dainikenjo, what would now be a first-year high school student.
The third-year students had been mobilized to the army shipping corps in Ujina Port, so all of them were safe.
But our teacher said that he could not get in touch with the first and second year students. They went to a place called Zakobacho, in the center of Hiroshima City. The Hiroshima Prefectural Women’s Vocational School
was a vocational school for women under the old educational system in Japan. It was an institution of higher education that provided vocational education for women in comformity with the Vocational School Act of 1903.
Hiroshima Prefectural Women Vocational School was founded in Hiroshima City. It was abolished by the reformation of the school system in 1950 and it became a prefectual junior college for women. Now it has been reorganized as Hiroshima Prefectual University. It was located behind the present day Hiroshima City Hall.
The students of the second-year West group were sent there to clean up after the demolition of buildings and houses. All first-year students and students of the second-year East group went to the potato field at the east trainning ground in front of the north exit of Hiroshima Station. The evacuation of buildings and houses is a work order to demolish private houses in order to prevent important city hall and prefectual government buildings from being burned down by air raids. Children couldn’t demolish the houses, so the adults did it. It was said that the roof tiles, wooden boards, and even posts were important resources. So, after the destruction, they were separated by type and cleared away. This was a process of collecting only useless things, setting them on fire, and burning them.
The students who went there were from a girl’s high school in Hiroshima City and boys from the first and second years of a former junior high school. They were same as what would be first and second year junior high school students today. Generally speaking of mobilization, we senior students went to the factory every day, but the first and second year students felt sorry for us. So they worked there three or four days a week and then went back to school for the rest of the time. Because the order had been issued to clean up the buildings after the evacuation on August 5th, 6th and 7th, most of the first and second year junior high school students in Hiroshima were out in the city center.
That is why the first and second grade junior high school students were so badly affected. And we couldn’t get in touch with them. I had a younger sister in the second year, so I was worried and asked my teacher if I should go. He said, “Don’t be stupid, you must not go. All the bridges are blocked, so we can’t cross them. Just wait. I’m sure someone will get in touch with us." Our school had become a total mess, with broken glass everywhere. I was waiting for those students to return while cleaning up the school. They gradually started to come back before noon. I used to be able to recognize the second year students well just by looking at their faces. My school had only two classes, which were called the West Class and the East Class. East or West, I was supposed to know all of them, but at that time, I couldn’t recognize any of them at all.
Their faces were swollen to about 1.5 times the normal size. And their hair was burnt to a crip and frizzed back, similar to an Afro hairstyle. They almost looked naked because all of their uniforms were burned off.
They came back with their hands raised in front of them like ghosts. From the tips of their fingers hung dark things that looked like seaweed soaked in muddy water. They were wearing Monpe work pants, things like seaweed were dragging from their ankles as well. When I looked more carefully, I realized that it was because all of their bodies were burned. They were covered in blisters, and the top of their skin would peel off even from the slightest stimulation. That was what was hanging from them. Was it their fingernails that stopped it from falling off completely? From their legs, they were dragging what appeared to be long pieces of seaweed soaked in muddy water. They were burned from the thigh down, and its skin peeled off. They came back dragging the skin with them.
When Ms. Arita saw this, she tore off this hanging skin by hand from their bodies and threw it away. She tore of dragging skin from their legs, too. For the students who came back later, the teacher asked us to bring some scissors, and we cut their skin with them. What do you think they said after that? They couldn’t pronounce well because their mouths were so swollen. However, they said to Ms. Arita “Thank you. We can walk well now". They returned to school through the fire over many kilometers, stepping on the skin of their own legs while slipping and falling down along the way.
Even in the manners room, laboratory and corridors
We didn’t know what to do, because they kept coming back. The teacher said, “Let’s clear the manners room and let them lay down there. There was a tatami room there. In peaceful times, we learned etiquette, tea ceremony and flower arrangement there. We swept out broken shoji, fusuma (sliding door) and glass doors in a hurry and we laid them down one by one in the tatami room.
But it soon filled up. It was a large twenty-mat room, but it became full quicly, so we thought about what to do next. The teacher said, “The large desks for experiments in science lab are just size of a single bed, so clean them up and let them lie down there." My injuries were less serious than those of other students. It was a lab for physics and chemistry, so there had been a lot of glassware such as test tubes and beakers. It had all been blown apart, so the room was full of broken glass. I swept it all out as best as I could. Then we used the desks as beds and let students from the lower grades lie down there. The teacher said, “Ask their names while there are still able to speak, write them down, and pin them to their bedsides." So I asked their names, wrote them down on a small piece of paper, and pinned it to the edge of the desk.
There was no doctor and no medicine. We couldn’t do anything for them. The teacher said, “This is like a burn, so I think an oil would be good for them. See if you can find the old cooking oil in the home economics room." So I ran to the home economics room. Pots, plates, and a variety of utensils used for practice were blown up by the blast and were scattered around. I got in there and searched the cupboard and found a 1.8 liter bottle of sake with dark black oil in it. We had not done cooking practice for many years. So, I did’nt know when they had last used it. However, rapeseed oil is valuable, so the oil they used for practice was not discarded, but removed and filtered. When I showed it to the teacher, he said “Put it on them". I soaked a cottonball in the dirty oil and put it on them. It seemed to lessen the pain of the burn a little because the oil covered the burned skin and kept it from touching the air. I did my best, but because I had to put the oil over their entire bodies,
the four or five bottles quickly became empty. I told the teacher that we ran out of oil, and asked him what to do. He said “We are in a trouble, and it can’t be helped."
However, students in lower grades came back one after another. The physical chemistry’s room was full, too.
We could not lay them down in the classroom because there were many desks and chairs there. The teacher said, “We have no choice. Let’s use the corridor." We spread a mat on the floor and laid them down on it. It was like being at a fish market with the tuna lined up in the dirt fioor. I felt so sorry for them.
I Creamated My Dead Friends
Before long, they died one by one crying out," Mom, it hurts. It’s very hot."
It was pure hell.
We couldn’t do anything for them.
It was a hot summer, so we couldn’t leave the bodies there.
At that time, the only young teacher in my school was teacher F.
He was a P.E teacher.
The other young male teachers received draft cards and went to war. One of the teachers died on Iou island. Another teacher had gone to the battlefield in mainland China.
However, teacher F was the only one who did not receive a draft card.
He was a teacher at an industrial high school as well as at my school. He was busy teaching at both of them.
I once said to him, “You haven’t gotten a draft card yet".
“Because I’m short." he replied.
It means that he wasn’t tall enough.
It seemed that there was a minimum height standard measured in a conscription test.
He was only man we depended on.
Under his guidance, we dug shallow holes in the schoolyard into which a person could lie.
Fortunately or unfortunately, because the wooden school buiding was badly damaged, we were able to pick up and break the window frames. Also, we tore the wooden boards of the school building and collected various other pieces of broken wood.
We put them on the ground and laid the bodies of the lower grade students on top.
We piled up pieces of broken wood from the school building and set them on fire.
We had nothing to eat at that time, so all the junior high school students were thin and short.
But yet it was still hard to burn them with firewood.
When we were at a loss when a third-year student brought us the dark muddy oil in a square can called a “itto-can". He said, “Please use it." He belonged to the Army Marine Corps, and it was the only army that had survived in the port of Ujina.
When we put that oil over the top and burned it, it burned up furiously. Then we were able to turn their bodies into remains more easily.
I felt terrible. It was devastatingly awful situation. The bodies were burned and became bone. No one could say anything.
At first, it was a burst of flame.
And then it sounded like tires being punctured.
There is air in the stomach and intestines, and it made a bursting sound.
Their arms and legs began to move as if they were being blown by the wind.
I was flabbergasted and said “Teacher! Are they still alive?"
“They are not alive. Don’t look at them." he replied.
I could not look away because I was paralized with horror.
At last, I saw the whole thing, shaking and shuddering.
(“I Creamated My Dead Friends" by Chieko Kiriake, provided by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)
The burnt remains were left in the shallow hole dug in the corner of the ground.
The remains were clean skeletons.
When bodies are cremated in a crematorium nowadays, there will not be many bones left because they are burned at such an intense heat. But, at that tiem, the bones were all clean and intact, just like a skeletal specimen.
The skeletons in the science room are big, creepy and rough, But, here were beautiful small bones of a pale cherry-blossom color.
At that time, my paralysis went away for the first time, and tears came up from my eyes like rain.
Until then, there were no tears in my eyes. Then I continued to pick up the remains while tears burst forth and I began to sob uncontrollably.
But we couldn’t pick up all of them, so we just collected some of them.
We had no paper at that time, so the teacher gave us Warabanshi-paper made from a straw, which is easy to tear just by touching it. So we picked up the remains on it.
We wrote down their names and the date of death and put them one by one on the big reception desk in principal’s room.
We laid them out one after another.
Then, fathers and mothers came looking for their children.
When they got to school, they only saw the bones of their chirldren. They cried and said “We came here too late."
We couldn’t say anything to them, so we just hid behind the corridor and cried.
But, I think those who were visited by their bereaved family came and had their remains taken away were still happier.
There were some children for whom no one came to search, and their bones remained in the principal’s office even after many days, or even after the war.
There was no way to contact their famly, because whole families who lived in the center of the city died.
That’s why no one came to search for them and take away their remains.
There were many such students.
We couldn’t leave them in a school for a long time, so I think that when the memorial tower was built, the teacher probably went to put them there.
Those kind of things happened at that time.