“I Survived in Hiroshima” Part 3 by Chieko Kiriake
The City of Hiroshima Where the Bones Still Remain
Nakajima-cho, the area that is now the Peace Memorial Park, was a busy downtown area before and during the war. My friend’s house was there, too. It was also an entertainment district. There used to be two movie theaters there, before the Peace Memorial Park was built. Nowadays, a café is a place to drink coffee, but at that time, cafés were places to drink alcohol with female wokers such as hostesses. It’s not the same as an izakaya (Japanese style bar), but that’s what it was. And it was open all through the war. Because Hiroshima was a military city, when soldiers had a day off, they would go there to relax and have fun. They went there to watch movies and drink alcohol in the cafés. And if they were able to stay overnight, they stayed at an inn.
There were so many shops, facilities and cafes that the place was a busy and prosperous place even during war.
That’s why they hadn’t begun to implement Tatemoto-Sokai (building evacuation), and the district was crowded with lots of shops and houses. Because many people didn’t know this, some who came to visit the Peace Memorial Park said things like “It is good that there was little damage here because it was a park, even though it was so close to the hypocenter." I said, “No way! There was no park here. It was busy downtown area." But they don’t seem to get it so easily. The Hiroshima municipal government didn’t have enough money, so after the bombing, so they couldn’t clean up all the rubble. That’s why they put soil on the rubble, planted trees, and turned it into a park.
So I believe that there are still a lot of bones lying under the Peace Memorial Park that were never picked up.
When I walk on the stone paving in the Peace Park, I always say “I’m sorry, I’m sorry." And it’s not only in the Peace Park. All over Hiroshima City, bodies were burned to ashes and then buried. The seven rivers were full of corpses. Many people jumped into the rivers and died. The tide in Hiroshima rises quite far upstream, so the river flows backwards toward the upper parts of the river. And when the tide goes out, it flows back toward the ocean again. That’s why the bodies floating in the river went upstream during high tide and downstream during low tide, over and over again. Then, soldiers came on a boat, bringing a tool with a hook on the end of a stick called a Tobiguchi. They used it to extract the bodies from the water and put them on the river bank.
They collected the corpses and burned them every single day.
Nowadays we stack firewood to make a campfire, but at that time they did it with corpses. Nobody knew who they were. But in those days nametags were sewn onto their clothes, so they wrote down their names when they saw them. When they burned the bodies, they attached a wire to the fingertips of the hand of the corpse, and the person who burned the bodies attached a nametag to the end of the stretched wire. When the burning was finished, they pulled the wire to collect the finger bones. It seems that some people kept the bones of those fingers with the victim’s name. The remains of these people were placed in a box with their names properly written on it and placed inside a memorial tower.
Toshiko Seki, who passed away a while ago, worked hard for many years to return those remains to the families. We didn’t have the time to return them to their families, so we just burned them all together. Then we threw the bones in the river or dug a hole and buried them. However, this turned out to be terrible and rude, so the unclaimed remains were placed in the basement of the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. There was a drum can that was filled with white bones and the names of towns like Zaimoku-cho and Tenjin-cho were written on it. Nobody knows whose remains those are, so they divided them by the towns where they had lived, such as Zaimoku-cho, Tenjin-cho and Nakjima-cho. I’ve seen them myself. People who had no more personal digity left were quickly turned into bones and ashes. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima killed hundreds of thousands of people without knowing who they were or where they were from. I sometimes wonder if the people whose remains had been properly returned to their families and who had proper burials were happier. But some of my friends, who were students, died and nobody knows where.
I hope that their remains have been placed in the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, but I have no idea. I might have even stepped on them. Hiroshima is that kind of city. Over the years it has been forgotten and now it is a lively city with lots of tall buildings. But, the number of people who knew about the tragedy of that time is getting fewer and fewer. Incredibly, it has become such a large city that no longer retains its original appearance. When I climbed up the Orizuru tower, which was built right next to the Atomic Bomb Dome, I could see the city of Hiroshima full of buildings from that high place. For me, those buildings looked like graves of the victims. They really looked that way. I also wondered how many bones were still resting in the ground.
But now, there’s no way to dig them up and hold memorial services. It’s really sad. I don’t even know if those people would be pleased if they knew that Hiroshima had been rebuilt this way or not. But if I don’t feel that they are happy, my heart cannot keep from breaking. I feel that way.
Peace will not come from the other side.
I don’t want another war to happen, and I don’t want all you young people to die in a war.
There will be difficulties and hardships in your long life. And there may be times when you feel like dying. But, don’t die, please. Life is irreplaceable. It is not a game, so it cannot be reset. It is a precious life; the only life you have. So it should never be taken away from you by war, nor through suicide. I believe that as long as there are suicides because of bullying, we cannot truly say that we live in a peaceful country. I think war is also waged in people’s minds. If you cherish your own life, you also cherish the lives of others around you. We have to come together and live peacefully. Peace is not something that comes to us when we just sit around.
It takes a lot of effort to keep the peace.
For that reason, if we do not work hard, we will not be able to keep the peace. If we do nothing, war will soon be on the horizon. What should we do to keep the peace? I think there are things you can do as junior high and high school students. In that respect, I think the Human Rights Club of Eishin School is doing an excellent job. In order to maintain the peace, they are collecting signatures to abolish nuclear weapons and doing their best to work as much as they can on their own. I think that is excellent. I often talk about Eishin school students in front of high school students from other prefectures. I say, “There are many ways to keep the peace that you can accomplish on your own." Consider that and do your best.
The current situation in the world is such that if we are not careful, we could soon be headed for war. In July of 2017, The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty was adopted by the United Nations. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an international Non-Govermental Organization (NGO), worked hard to realize the treaty, but the Japanase government ignored it. So, I felt very disappointed. I cannot be satisfied, wondering what the Japanese government is thinking. However, the fact that ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize made me a bit happy because it meant that people around the world are beginning to understand the hard work that Hibakusha have been doing to abolish nuclear weapons. The cold attitude of the Japanese government is very sad. I sometimes wonder if the Japnaese government would actually like to have its own nuclear weapons. It’s really disappointing.
When you turn 18, you’ll have the right to vote. So when you vote you need to have the intelligence or wisdom to know whether the candidates actuallly care about peace, or whether they really want to wage war by saying that we need “proactive peace". I hope that you can learn this. It may be important to get good scores on a school test, but that is only possible with life. So please cultivate the ability to see through to which candidates we should choose to protect our lives and peace. This is my wish from the bottom of my heart. Nobody taught me such a thing when I was young. The Imperial Rescript on Eductaion states, “We, the ancestors of the Japanese Emperor, have created this Japanese country. We were forced to remember successful stories of Emporers who were men of wonderful virtue, and so on.
We were taught to respect our parents, to get along with our brothers and sisters, and to trust our friends.
It may be important to respect our parents and get along with everyone, but I fear that the Imperial Rescript on Education is now making a comeback. What I really want to say is, at the end, “Should an emergency arise, we should dedicate ourselves courageously to the nation, and guard the prosperity of the Imperial Throne.
It basically says, “Once we have a national crisis, we must go to war and throw away our lives to protect the Emperor and country." I think the Imperial Rescript on Education is a horrible thing. But, it’s making a comeback now. I heard that it was decided not only at the Ministry of Eductaion, but also at a Cabinet meeting that it would be OK to use it in the field of education. I think that is outrageous. If we just sit by and do nothing, then we cannot realize peace. It takes effort. Please think about this.
Protecting your life and the lives of your family and friends is very important.
Thank you very much for listening to my speech today.