• Tadakazu Usami,
    Narita, JapanMORE...

    My name is Tadakazu Usami and I was born in the village called Otsuka in a year Taisho 9, which, in translation to the Western calendar, I think means 1920. My kids tell me my birthday is January 20th, 1920. My youth was modest and busy - I was an active child.
    We were being prepared to fight since an early age, my school had military classes and I learned to shoot a rifle when I was just 12. The draft age for young men was 20 at the time and I was looking forward to the day I would join the Armed Forces of our Emperor. The day I turned 20 I volunteered for the the army. Sino-Japanese war was already in full swing and after completing my basic training I joined Aoyama infantry, 7th regiment, and was sent to Hebei, China.

    We didn't consider it a World War or anything like that, we saw it as a war to prove the power of Japan and our Emperor, no one knew that things would turn out the way they did. I was a young kid, of course propaganda played a trick with my mind and I was fanatical about the war.

    China was very exciting, but not in a very good sense of this word. Wherever we went from day one, there were people dying next to me, bullets flying in all directions. That was a real mess. But what could I do, our commanders would say, "we are moving here tomorrow" and we move here. They say, "move there" and we move there. We had to honourably follow the orders of our leader, we were soldiers. At that time I started understanding what the war really is about and most of all I was just missing my home. It was tough to survive everyday, to go through all the atrocities and violence; you had to distance yourself from your body and become a different person. And just fight to win, like they taught us in our training.

    One particular fight was crucial for my regiment. We were going back and forth the Great Wall for a few days trying to confuse the enemy and get them where they least expected us. But at some point we got surrounded by the Chinese army and my whole regiment was practically wiped out. I got shot in my right arm during that fight and I was among the very few who survived. I still consider myself lucky to be alive.

    After some time I ended up in a hospital in Peking and ended up spending 2 years there. Then I returned to Japan to be re-enlisted but because of my disability I wasn't fit for active duty, so I worked at various military-related jobs. I was working at Tsudanuma Railway regiment as a security person, then I continued my duty in Wakayama city ship engineering, 9th regiment. At that time some people started talking about the fact that Japan was losing the war. I declined to believe that, I thought it impossible.

    Later I was sailing military transport ships to Korea and back. And that's when the war ended. I felt a great shame and couldn't speak with anyone for days, I still feel ashamed even though now I have a much clearer image of what was going on and how we all have been fooled into believing what we believed.

    There is nothing else to say, I hope you will excuse me. I often have dreams about my fallen comrades calling me from beyond the grave. I feel guilty that I was more lucky than many of my fellow soldiers.

  • Ichiro Sudai,
    Takayama, JapanMORE...

    Ichiro Sudai is my name. I had a very happy childhood and had very good scores in school. I was always getting awards from education committees. I was selected to be the Vice President of the Student Committee. These were very good days for me.

    I remember that the quality of paper decreased in war time. There was a lack of materials. So the awards were all very thin, on very small sheets of paper.

    I was in the army for only two years. When I joined, I didn't think Japan would win. But I couldn't say this because I would have been punished. In June of 1945, I was selected for a special team of 180 people from a pool of 5,000 candidates. I trained in Chiba City to dive into the sea and signal where the planes needed to dive to attack ships. We lacked enough planes, and each plane only held one person. I would dive with flag. I had an oxygen tank on my back. The war finished before I ever had to do any of this.

    Everyone was brainwashed then. I didn't feel afraid to die. If I did, it would have been with my colleagues. Of course, I was afraid of dying alone. But I was okay dying in solidarity. And at the time, there weren't many luxury foods available either. Only rice. Before the war started, I ate 1.8 liters of rice a day. In the army I had smaller amounts. Everybody was hungry. They would always talk about being hungry.

    Colleagues would have to bring the bones to the family after the bodies were incinerated. One colleague was given lots of food by one of the families he returned the remains to. He came back to tell us about it, and everyone was saying, "Go to hell, we had no food!"

    The kamikazes were very proud of their duty. They felt as though they were much better than other parts of the military. There was a lot of pride. Lots of jealousy. Before deploying in kamikaze planes, of course, the pilots would be afraid and lose sleep. It was forbidden to tell your family that you would go. But I made a promise I would tell, and I did so with a postcard. Normally Japanese handwriting goes top-down. I hid the message inside the writing.

    After they were notified of their duty, kamikaze pilots would have small farewell parties. We exchanged sake and drank. One side of a table was the kamikaze people and the other were people of a higher position, who were not seen often. It was a respectful, farewell sake. But toward the end of the war, we didn't have sake available. We only had water.

    With the kamikaze pilots, they didn't return the bones. We cut our hair and our nails and put them in an envelope or a small bag with a message and this was given to our families when we died. Our families would receive a white box with these contents.

    On August 15, 1945 there was an announcement that everybody had to go to the grounds and change their clothes. We listened to the radio. I couldn't hear what was being said. But I could tell it wasn't very good news. When I found out we had lost, I was very happy. I had made amends with the idea of death, that it would be my destiny as a pilot.

    After the war, there were no factories where I lived. Very few jobs. But there was lots of forest area. I worked there cutting down trees for two or three years.

    Then a cousin told me about a medicine company that was hiring. I worked there for thirty-five years and retired at age 61. I studied woodworking and gardening. I worked on temples and shrines. I was a volunteer fireman until 1978. I lived for my hobbies. I wrote poetry and grew flowers. I've made over thirty gardens. I also used to run a lot. I still have a very strong body. I go to the mountains in spring and fall and pick flowers and mushrooms.

  • Isao Miura,
    Hiroshima, JapanMORE...

    My name is Isao Miura and I was born on October 27th, 1926 in Hiroshima, Japan. I grew up with both parents, and had 3 siblings: one sister and two brothers. My Father worked for a bank, and my Mother stayed home and took care of us children. When I was a kid, I loved animals. My father would often take me to the Zoos in Tokyo or Osaka. I liked to go fishing, and play with my siblings. It was an enjoyable childhood.

    Once I got into Junior High School, the climate in our country began to change. Resources were scarce, money was low, and it became harder to get what we needed to survive. I remember in school, my teachers would tell me I had to prepare to serve my country. Even during P.E. class, my teachers told me I had to train myself to become a strong man and win the war. I felt a great deal of pressure from all the adults around me.

    Around 1943, I could no longer take my general classes. My curriculum was only Army education. The training was extremely strict. I had to learn how to shoot, condition my body, and many other things that would prepare me for life as a soldier. We once went to the east side of Hiroshima to a gun range. We all got rifles and practiced our aim.

    I vividly remember December 4th, 1943 when the breaking news of Leipzig's bombing came in. I heard marching band music outside, and I knew that war was impending.

    I knew it would be a difficult fight, but with the guidance of our emperor, I believed we would win this war. I was soon dispatched to factories as a mobilized student, to make equipment for the soldiers. Soon after graduating Junior High school, I got into a medical school in Nagoya, where I was again dispatched to Osaka as a mobilized student. In Osaka, I helped make medicine for the Army.

    I remember air raids almost every day, which were terrifying. It was a serious time for me. I couldn't sleep at night. I couldn't focus and study during school. I even saw bombs explode in front of me and kill dozens of people. Many of my friends from school were killed in the air raids. I was constantly in fear of falling under attack next.

    During the war, I was in between Nagoya and Osaka. The food was extremely scarce in Nagoya. I had a food ticket which was supposed to get me two meals a day, but often there just wasn't enough food. Sometimes I got to eat rice my classmates would give me, but I would still be hungry. Luckily, the army would give me a decent amount of food when I was at the factory in Osaka.

    On August 6th, 1945 I was in Kyoto for a holy day. I soon found out an atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. I couldn't call anyone as I had no phone and there was no service or electricity in Hiroshima anyway. I was worried sick for my family, but a couple days later they sent me a letter telling me they escaped and were safe. Unfortunately, many of my neighbors didn't make it.

    Next day I decided to return to Hiroshima by train to see what was going on in my home city. The Hiroshima train station was destroyed, so I had to get off a couple stations before Hiroshima. When I walked into the city, all I saw was smoke and a big empty field. There was a scary silence. The dead bodies made the city smell like rotten fish. I searched for my home, but nothing was there. All I saw was dead bodies, including a neighbor. I didn't see her husband, and I wondered if he had escaped.

    I soon noticed that he wrote his location on a wall. Later on when I got there though, I was informed he had died too.

    On August 15th, I was in Osaka. My team leader told us there was a very important announcement from the Emperor at 12pm. I couldn't really hear what he was saying, but from the reaction of other people I realized the war was over, that we had surrendered. I also heard that all the POWs were freed. We happily marched through Osaka, as an expression of relief that the war was over.

    I was happy the war was over. I thought of the new horizons and possibilities in my life. With the war over, there would be no more air attacks, no more hunger, no more anxiety. I felt a renewed hope. Soon my family came back to Hiroshima and built a new house.

    By the fall of 1945, I began studying medicine again in Nagoya. After I graduated, I worked for a Prefectural pharmacy in Hiroshima. There were many people who had suffered radiation from the atomic bomb. We were trying to develop medicine to counteract those negative affects. Many people asked me if we had medicine to treat, but I had no answer as a novice.

    Eventually I worked as a pharmacist for the biggest drug store in Hiroshima, before opening my own pharmacy. I got married in 1962, and have two daughters. War is all loss, but since then, I've gained a lot.

  • Mitsuru Kusakawa,
    Tsu Shi, JapanMORE...

    My name is Mitsuru Kusakawa, and I was born on May 10th, 1927 in a village called Hachimura. I grew up in a family of farmers. I was the second youngest of six brothers. Five of us enlisted in the military.

    Before the war began, Japan was already fighting China in the Second Sino-Japanese War. There was a constant climate of war in Japan. Everybody in the country felt we would eventually declare war on the United States and the British Empire. Even when I was 15 I had the intuition that things were coming to a head, but we were confident we would prevail.

    I was deployed in April 1943 as a member of Nippon Kaigun, the Imperial Japanese Navy. I went to a military school in Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, where I trained for 6 months. It was actually a fun time. Sometimes an eight-man crew would row from Yokosuka to Tokyo. When we got to Tokyo, we would eat sushi and have a good time. I was happy once I graduated the academy, because I was proud to fight for my country.

    From military school I went to board a ship in the Bungo Channel, between Kyushu and Shikoku Islands. Once I entered the Navy I found that the training was more arduous and strict than military school. The violence from our superiors was particularly harsh. One time I was hit by a stick from a superior. I thought at one point I couldn't bear it. It was tough, but ultimately it helped me build my discipline.

    I was a part of the night surveillance of our ship and watched the sky for US aircraft. On April 7th, 1945, I was a member of one of the two crews who escorted the Yamato battleship towards Okinawa. She was on a one-way mission to the island to deploy soldiers and protect it. We rowed alongside the submarine to ensure her safety, but unfortunately she was sunk by American carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers. Their aircraft spotted us south of Kyushu.

    In the summer of 1945, an American Grumman fighter aircraft attacked my boat as it was stationed near Shikoku. Three of my fellow soldiers were killed in front of me. We couldn't have a full funeral so we put them in black blankets and put them into the sea, our typical Navy funeral.

    I was on the ship when I heard the war ended. I was very sad when I heard we lost, but on the other hand I felt relieved that the war was over. So many horrible things happened during the war. I saw friends die, it was like hell. I haven't been afraid of anything since the war.

    Initially after the war ended, I became worried because I had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life. I got a job on a Navy ship as it went to pick up our soldiers deployed in other areas. I went to Saigon, Taiwan, and various small islands including Guadalcanal. I remember we once had to travel up the Mekong river for three hours to get to Saigon.

    I also went to Sydney, Australia to retrieve the Japanese soldiers fighting along the many islands around Australia. We left for Sydney in February 1946. It was so cold on the waters that I got hypothermia, but by the time I got to Sydney it was summer so I felt better.

    After I finished that mission, I came back to Hachimura. All of my brothers made it home safe too, which was a miracle. It was hard to find a job initially, but I joined the police force in January 1948. I've lived a good life since then.

  • Shiro Aray,
    Tokyo, JapanMORE...

    My name is Shiro Aray and I was born on March 27, 1925. My hometown is Edosaki, which is located in Inashiki District, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. I spent a normal childhood and I always used to get good scores at school.

    We were five brothers and sisters and my eldest brother had his own textile business. My brother's business was suffering from the export ban so he had to give it up and become a policeman. I also moved to live with my brother and began studying in high school in Tokyo. At that time, the war was spreading around the globe rapidly. Therefore, the Japanese Army started accepting applications for the position of a soldier from individuals 18 years of age. The usual age for submitting an application for a soldier was 20 years before. At that time, I was 18 and a high school student so I applied for the military academy. I passed my test and started my training as a soldier. At the military academy, I observed that not only me, but also everyone else wanted to serve this country in the WWII. We all worked really hard during the training period and wanted to join our fellow soldiers in the war zone as soon as possible. One day, we were all gathered at the academy and our leader told us about the launch of a secret project by the Emperor. I always wanted to be a pilot so I thought that the secret project might include training for pilots. Therefore, I decided to volunteer for this secret mission and got selected. Approximately 200 soldiers were chosen and I was one of them. After our selection, we left the school but we didn't know exactly where we are being taken or what this secret mission is about. I was really hoping it would be related to flying. Soon I realized it wasn't. However, we left from the city called Tsuchiura located in Ibaraki Prefecture and took a train to Yokosuka. After arriving in Yokosuka, we began naval training. The exercises and drills were quite simpler and easier than the ones I had in the military academy. Then I finally found out that our secret mission was not all that I thought it was - I figured out it had something to do with motor boats. Those were fairly small boats we were practicing in and overall the operations seemed unambitious. However, the Japanese Army does not allow you to share your personal thoughts and opinions about any project or activity. Therefore, I kept my disappointment to myself.

    Even though no one talked about it, Japan was loosing the war. We were also not that mighty in industrial terms - we didn't even have enough power to build decent motor for those boats. They converted old truck engines to be used on these boats. The whole secret operation was that the boat used to carry 250 kilograms of explosives and we were supposed to sail it to the American ships and blow it up as close to the target as we possibly could.

    Our trainings went on until November 1944. At our graduation we were visited by a ember of an Emperor family and one of the Navy's top commanders. It was a memorable day for all of us. Each of us got honored by the Emperor's relative and given a special sword engraved with the names of Navy's top officials. The hilt was also embossed with a sentence "protect our country".

    I was very happy to meet these people and all my initial discontent disappeared. It felt that we serve a purpose; we were about to embark on a mission blessed by the Emperor himself. Everyone felt quite patriotic and we honestly believed in our victory then.

    After graduation, we were divided into four groups of 50 soldiers. The 50 members of my group were further divided into four subgroups and each subgroup had its own leader. We were then sent to different locations in the boats with our leaders. At first, we didn't know where we were heading but later we arrived in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. However, we were still in the deep sea at Sasesbo when we started moving again along the coast of Korea and China. There were many American ships along the coast of China and we didn't know where exactly we are headed, but we knew that it was North of Taiwan. We were moving a lot from one base to another and spent few weeks at sea without any understand where we are going to end up and what our mission will be. Everything was under the seal of secrecy, which I understood. But I really wanted to be useful and finally see some action.

    Eventually we came to know that our destination was the city of Keelung. Anyway, we all got off the boat and took a train towards the city to start building our base. The weather was good in Taiwan and I was feeling content that finally I would be able to represent my country in an actual battle.

    At first I was mainly responsible for hiding the boats and building the base. It took us two months from December 1944 to January 1945 to build the Japanese base in Taiwan. Every day we used to perform rigorous exercises as part of our training. There were hot springs at a distance of 6 kilometers from the base and we used to go there every weekend. Our boats were not yet deployed to the actual fight so we were only practicing at the base.

    At that time, the American soldiers were moving to Philippines after destroying Okinawa. On their way back, they bombed our base and continued bombing for a few weeks. However, we did not have any casualties. One night I was on a patrol duty on the beach, around our base, and an American plane flew by. Suddenly, the pilot started firing on the beach and one bullet hit the sand 2 meters away from me. I ran away into the forest and was able to escape. However, I caught malaria later and suffered from it for the whole month. I was being treated at the army hospital in Taiwan.
    Later, a leader of the Japanese army from another city in Taiwan came to our base and announced the conclusion of the WWII. As you know, Japan had to surrender. We all felt absolutely empty. We were ashamed to loose the war and we were ashamed of the fact that we never took part in the missions we were trained for.

    There were no boats to go back to Japan so we stayed there until further notice. We started to grow vegetables as we didn't know when we would be able to go back. We stayed there until December 1945. All of us were very disappointed, as we never thought that Japan would be defeated. At that time, our leaders also ordered us to throw our special swords in the sea so that the Chinese or American troops can't take them away from us. We had a fear of being captured by the Chinese or American troops. Thus, I believe that none of the 200 soldiers were able to bring back their sword to Japan and everybody threw it in the sea. Later, the Japanese army gathered us all in the same place and boarded us on the American ship to go back to Japan. It took us only 3 days to reach Japan in the American ship. On the contrary, it took us three weeks just to reach Taiwan in our boats from Japan.

    The Americans took us to the port of Hiroshima from where I boarded the train back to my hometown. The Japanese army provided us the transport fare and food. However, I got to know that my hometown was completely destroyed by the American bombing. Somehow, I also got to know that my family was in a safe place with my relatives in another city. On the other hand, my family knew that I joined the secret mission of the army and they thought that I was dead. Of course, they all were very happy to see me alive as I was their only son who took part in the war. My elder brother was still working for the police and my younger brother was a junior high school student. After coming back to my country, I graduated from the University in Japan and begin working at a company in Ginza for three years. Later, I moved to the city of Fukuoka where I stayed for three years and then moved to Osaka and stayed there for six years. Finally, I got back to Tokyo and stayed there until my retirement at 60 years of age.

  • Sunao Tsuboi,
    Hiroshima, JapanMORE...

    My name is Sunao Tsuboi, and I was born on May 5th 1921. I was born in Hiroshima and grew up with my parents and brothers. I'm the fourth of five brothers. As a student I was very modest, but I was good at studying. I was a class leader too. Because I really liked math and science I wanted to become an inventor. I tried to become one until the war happened. I was ten years old when the war started with China. My two eldest brothers went to war there and never came back. Then when I was sixteen years old the war against America began, and our school introduced military classes into our educational system. We were told to not study English and to not use English words. We couldn't even use words like "baseball" and had to use Japanese replacement instead. During my senior year I had to switch my music classes to marching classes. Everything I learned was related to the military and to the war. Boys over twelve years of age had to learn how to shoot guns; they would go to shooting ranges to practice. The Japanese government controlled every school, including the universities. We were taught that we all eventually would have to go into the field to fight the enemy for Japan, for the country.

    When military education first started in school, I was really frustrated. I couldn't do what I wanted to do, and I believed my dreams had perished. But gradually my feelings changed. I began to feel the spirit of loving this country. I wanted to go into the war and fight to protect Japan. Because I grew up with all brothers, I was usually around men and our priority when talking was always the war. We talked about going to the field and fighting the enemy. My friends and peers, we always thought this way. My college mate was called to go to war. On the day he was dispatched we all came together to cheer him up. Some of us gave him messages on cloth. At that time, I cut my finger and with my own blood wrote something like, "I will follow you so you will be successful." It was a normal thing to do back then. Fortunately my friend came back from the war and lived a long life.

    Before the a-bomb exploded, the connection between people and their town, especially between their neighbors, was really close and tight. While the men were at war, women and girls stayed home protecting our towns and cities. All of the men were dispatched to the war so they had to do things men usually have to do. They would get together and form women's groups to help each other with farming, business, and everything else like putting out fires. We helped each other and were well coordinated, but after the a-bomb people became more self-centered. In a sense, it was to survive, to live, but socially there became a lack of togetherness.

    On the day of the bombing I was on my way to the university. I was twenty years old and a senior. I was walking when suddenly I saw a flash, a big explosion, and I fainted. When I awoke I was ten meters from where I was walking, and I didn't know what to do.

    I could still see the mushroom of clouds over my head. I couldn't see a hundred meters in front of me; it was all smoke. I looked down at myself and was shocked because my arms and legs were bloodied, and my clothes were all torn. I began walking when I felt this ache in my back. I took off my jacket and saw that it was burning. I was walking for about twenty minutes with a fire on my back.

    While I was running I saw a lot of people injured from the explosion. I saw a lady with no eyes; they were pulled out from her eye sockets. I also saw a guy with his stomach out of his body. I saw dead people all around me. It was worse than hell. I was injured myself, but at that moment I only thought about how I hated the enemy and how I would get revenge. Gradually my body weakened and I shut down on the corner of a street. I thought I might be dying. My feelings changed from strong desire to revenge to desperation, I thought I am going to die any second. I even scribbled it down on the road: "I die here."

    I just stayed there until a military truck came. A guy stepped out and said, " Okay, only young men can get on this truck." Women, children, and the elderly could not. They were seen as garbage and only young men were seen as important. I became really mad at this idea. The government's only concern was to win or lose the war, and human beings were just tools. I wanted to say to the military guy that everyone is the same and we are all human beings... I wanted to fight him but my body was too weak so I couldn't do anything. There was a girl, about six or seven years old, who wanted to get on the truck. She wanted to survive but was told to get off. I wanted to say something but I just couldn't. So she got off and ran crying into the fields that were still on fire. I hope she survived. I still remember the fact that I couldn't' help her, and I felt so guilty. I really hated the military and the war at that moment.

    After the incident, I was sent to Enoshima Island. They had a military hospital there so I was able to escape from the ghost town of Hiroshima. There weren't many nurses in the hospital so victims just lay on their beds dying. Something like eighty percent of people were dying everyday so everyday I thought it was going to be my turn to die.

    One day my mother and uncle came to the island searching for me. They couldn't find me and at that moment my mother insanely cried my name, "Sunao! Sunao! Sunao!" I was almost dead when I heard my mother, and I unconsciously raised my hand. In that way I was miraculously saved. I was unconscious for fourteen days after that so I didn't even know that the war was over. When I came back to consciousness I was home and my mother was looking at me. I said, " I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be fighting the enemy; take me back so I can fight." My mother told me the war was over but I couldn't believe it. I thought it all false. That's how brainwashed I was from the Japanese militarism.

    With the war over I didn't have much energy for jobs, but eventually I chose to become a teacher. I found a job teaching eight hours a week at a school for women. I began to teach there, and in the end I found my wife. I was about twenty-six years old, and she was a student. I really wanted to marry her, but her parents were very opposed because I was a hibakusha. That was the term for survivors of the atomic bomb. They thought I was going to die in two or three years, and then she would be a widow. So they kept her in the house so that I couldn't see her. When she wanted to go out she had to go with a female friend, but then I would meet her. Our love was so strong that we decided to commit suicide together with sleeping pills. Maybe in heaven we could marry. But the amount of pills we took was not enough. I woke up when she was still sleeping so I was going to take another pill but then she woke up too. We were so sad because we couldn't even die together. It was the saddest moment.

    Since the war I've been hospitalized twelve times. Out of those twelve, doctors have told me three times that I wouldn't live, but with the help of everyone I have survived, and I have even had cancers cured. I carry medications with me, and I still go to the hospital every two weeks for drug infusions, but I'm alive. Since I can't die I have to live. I've survived to tell people that the life of human beings- not nukes, not war, not terrorism, not murder - is the most important thing. I'm here and alive to convey that message.

  • Takeoka Chisaka,
    Hiroshima, JapanMORE...

    My name is Takeoka Chisaka and I was born on February 3, 1925 in Hiroshima, Japan. When I was born, I was so weak my parents asked my uncle in Miyajima to take care of me. They believed the clean air of Miyajima's mountains and water would help me get better, and they were right. It was such a beautiful place. I loved to be with nature, especially the deer there. After school, I would swim all the time. It was a wonderful experience. Once I felt better, I went back to Hiroshima and enrolled in women's school.

    The war started when I was 11. We were embroiled in a conflict with China. In my sophomore year at Yamanaka Girls' High School, they stopped teaching English. Because of this, I wasn't able to study to be a doctor which was my dream. When I graduated, I went to work at a military weapons factory like everyone else. Outside the building, people thought it was a factory for making jam, but we were making weapons inside. I was 17, making submarine artillery and bombs for the Japanese military.

    In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, I was walking home from an overnight shift at the factory. It was still dark outside. I had planned to go to Miyajima with 3 friends because we were off for the upcoming day. We agreed to meet at 8:15 am at the Koi Station. As soon as I opened my door, there was a huge explosion. I was blown away and knocked unconscious.

    When I woke up, my head was bleeding, and I was 30 meters away from my home, or what was left of it. My house didn't catch fire, but the wind blew it away. I looked up at the sky and there was a dark, gray cloud. The bomb detonated 3 kilometers from my home. I later found out the cloud carried massive amounts of radiation. When it started raining that day, we called it the blood rain. It was hysteria. So many people were trying to escape the area. People were badly burned, awkwardly walking. Everybody wanted water. Everyone was looking for their family. I managed to get water for people, but I didn't have any medicine. There wasn't much I could do.

    Later that day I went to the top of a mountain to look down at Hiroshima, and there wasn't a single house in sight. Everything was burned to the ground.

    The next morning I went back into the city to find my mother. She was working as a nurse at an army hospital. She was so busy healing injured soldiers that she stayed at the hospital and rarely came home. While I was traversing the city I saw thousands of dead bodies strewn about. I went to the factory I used to work at, but I couldn't see any co-workers who were still alive. I went to the Aioi bridge, which was over the Ota river. There were layers of dead bodies rotting in the river.

    I was screaming out my mother's name in hopes I'd hear her. One body looked like it may have been her but it wasn't. I closed my eyes and kept my mind set on getting to the hospital. When I finally arrived, there were so many dead bodies there as well. The bodies were so burned you couldn't recognize any of their faces, so unfortunately I didn't find my mother there.

    I went to the Red Cross hospital next and saw what looked like three mountains of deceased bodies. I surveyed the entire city for six days but still couldn't locate her. I went to a school in Eba. There were many injured people there. I went into each classroom, and there was death everywhere.

    I finally found my mother in one of the classrooms. She was badly burned, but still alive. Somebody had put bandages all over her face. I called her name many times. My mother's voice was weak, but she called my name back out. There was a man who helped me with a cart to carry my mother out. She was badly dehydrated, as she hadn't had any water in six days. We put her body in a cart, and brought her back home to me. There were so many flies on her body it took three days to clean her.

    My neighbors were so happy to have my mother back. One of my neighbors took the bandages off my mom, and we saw her eyes were badly burned, her eyeballs were falling out of the scull. She couldn't see anything. We had no food, no medicine. We couldn't do anything for her.

    I was so mad. I wondered to myself who even started this war. I looked at the bomb as a killer, which killed 80,000 people at once. I couldn't forgive the United States for what they did.

    Eventually, some doctors came from another city to treat injured people at a small elementary school in my neighborhood. I took my mother to the school. There were hundreds of people there. It smelled so bad, I can still remember the stench from all the burned bodies. I waited for three hours to see a doctor. The doctor couldn't do much for her, because eyes weren't his specialty. All he did was re-bandage my mother.

    On our way home, my mother thought the doctor was my father, her husband. She couldn't see but could tell by his voice. I was so delirious from seven days of starvation that I didn't realize the doctor was my father! He didn't realize it was my mother because she was so badly burned. I dropped my mother off, then went back to the school.
    When I got there, he had left already. His shift was over and he was driving to another city. I couldn't get in touch with him.

    It was hard for Hiroshima to recover. After the war, Japan was so damaged. No one came to our city to help us, they were too busy repairing their own towns. We made small houses out of the trees we found by the river. They were so small your leg would be outside the house when laying down. We drank water from the river, but there was no food. I lived in the mountains, so I ate the grass to survive.

    Eventually I took my mother to another hospital. People said there may be food, medicine and doctors there, but the doctors had died by the time we got there. There was only one person there, and he was a veterinarian.

    He said we should take the eyes out of my mother's socket. He didn't have the proper tools, but used a knife and took them out. I heard my mother screaming while they took her eyes out. It was so hard for me to hear this. It was so hellish, I resolved that war should never happen again. No one should have this experience.

    I wanted to go to America and fight them, but in reality I had no money, and no plane or boat to even get there. In lieu of going to America, I decided to work for peace. I was a peace worker in Japan after the war.

    I finally got to America in the 60s and met one of the people who created the atomic bomb. There was a big meeting at the United Nations in New York. I talked to him and he apologized. He said he felt sorry for the people in Hiroshima, and he could never sleep well after that day. He told me when he was making the bomb he didn't know how much damage it was capable of. He also said that since the bomb was dropped, he had been anti-war.

    I pray for peace all over the world. I think it's so important for everyone. Weapons make human beings evil, and war is always taking someone's life. We don't always have to fight, we can talk things out. No more war.

  • Touji Shinich,
    Himeji JapanMORE...

    My name is Touji Shinich, and I was born in 1929 in Himeji City, Japan. I have six siblings: four brothers, two sisters. Three of my brothers joined the military. I grew up in a family of farmers. At that time in Japan, food was scarce. I can remember our family being mandated to give rice to the country because all the farms were suffering. Even at my school they would use the yard to grow pumpkins and other foods.

    In 1944, at the age of 15, I started work at a Konishi aircraft factory. It was a milk factory, but when the war came it was converted. There were many other employees, and we worked all day and night. On average, we constructed about one fighter aircraft per day. We then sent the plane to our local naval base on three horses.

    On June 22nd, 1945, our supervisor at the factory was telling us about the war, and how Japan was losing. He told us we had to pick up our pace and make as many fighter planes as possible to help our country. Around 9:30AM, I heard what sounded like sirens in the distance. I soon realized the sound came from fighter jets. We were ordered to immediately leave the factory and we did.

    As soon as I we left the factory, I saw six B-29 fighters making a formation overhead. One plane flew over me, descended down to about 25 meters and dropped bombs. The plane then flew away. 5 minutes later, another six jets came and dropped more bombs.

    They were huge explosions. People were running away, but after multiple bombs, everyone was too scared to move for fear of finding their way into a bomb's trajectory. No one was climbing, running or even screaming. I saw hundreds of wounded, powerless people. Some started to pray.

    The formations came six times, all with bombs. Everything around me was completely destroyed, including the factory. Looking around, all I saw was debris and a few trees that weren't toppled over. I thought I was going to die, because I had nowhere to run.

    The entire morning, I was at the river, watching our factory burn. By 2:30PM, the factory employees regathered and my youngest brother came looking for me. He had a lentil box lunch my mother had made. I shared the lunch with my friends, who were all grateful.

    One friend was so thankful he wrote "thanks for the white rice" on my New Years cards for the next 20 years. The trauma of that event seemed to bring us together, as we became very close friends. I was so thankful to my mother for making the rice, and my brother for bringing it to me.

    In the time after the bombing, our priority was cleaning up the area. We were cleaning the debris and finding bodies strewn about the area. Luckily, my dormitory was fine. I stayed there for a little longer, but sadly my dormitory was destroyed by another B-29 bombing. That one destroyed over 4,000 houses.

    I knew Japan was significantly weakened by these bombings and the rest of the war's circumstance. I felt helpless. It was a scary summer.

    On August 15th, 1945 I was at my parents house, listening to the radio. They broadcast that the war was over, and we had lost. I knew that moment was coming, but I still felt terrible about it because I didn't know what the future held. We all thought there was a chance we would still face attacks from America and be killed. One of my brothers was killed in the war, but my two other brothers came back. After the war, I helped my parents on the family farm for four years. My parents then moved to the countryside, where they stayed for the rest of their lives.

    In 1951, I started work as an inspector for a steel company. I stayed there for 38 years. After that, I worked for the Hyogo Profecture as a civil sovereign for 4 years.

    My up-close reminder of life's fragility instilled me with an earnest desire to live. For the rest of my life, I've appreciated every single day like it could truly be my final one.

  • Hakushu Kikuchi,
    Tsukuba-Shi, JapanMORE...

    My name is Kikuchi Haku. I was born in the Ibaraki Prefecture on June 10, 1929. I was born into a family of farmers. I didn't find much difficulty in getting food. Generally, the quality of life was low in Japan. It must have been hard for others. My father was a fisherman, before he was married. He sailed on a big ship, traveling all over the world, to America and Great Britain. He married a woman from the next town over. I was the fourth of six children and the only boy. We mostly farmed when we were young. The other men in the area went on to be soldiers.

    I began training in 1941, in Kashima City, at twelve years old. I was young. I wanted to help out Japan. I had no fear of death. We had been taught that we should be honored to die for the country. Everyone was brainwashed. We all thought it is noble to die for Japan. So I applied to become a child pilot when I turned fourteen.

    All these American planes would fly over and bomb us. When the Japanese airplanes met them in the air, the Americans would shoot them down. I do remember being very scared then. Once, a bunch of B-51s flew over. There were so many I couldn't see the sky. They shot up everything.

    Emperor Hirohito had the ultimate power over all the citizens. When I heard the war was over, I thought everything was ended. I didn't even think about what would happen next. We had been told we were winning. We couldn't believe it at first. Then again, we were brainwashed to believe the Emperor was god. After we heard his admission that he wasn't god, we lost our will to fight. There were so many people that died for nothing in the war. We were embarrassed.

    The Americans came and made bases where we had our training centers or where our old bases were. They were waiting to see if the citizens would do anything against them. But I never thought to attack. They didn't really affect our lives directly after the war.

    My father, having traveled so much, spoke a little English. Some Americans would come to our place and they'd meet to go hunting with him. He found them very friendly.

    The biggest problem was poverty after the war. Even the people with good jobs had difficulty. There was so little distinction between the poor and those who used to be rich. I only saw some difference in the 1960s. Industrial progress began to pick up then.

    After the war, when I reached adulthood, things were still difficult. This was a time when if you were stronger, you got to survive. I fell under the influence of some people I knew and became a Yakuza. I realized later that the government should be the most important aspect of society. I started to work for a politician, in government. I retired when I turned fifty.

    Now I'm much older. I've given up many hobbies. I have a weekly group I meet with young people and listen to their stories, and give advice.

  • Mitsuo Ishihara,
    Takasago, JapanMORE...

    I was born February 27, 1922 in Takasago City. I had an older brother; he was eight years older than me. We were very different. We never fought because my brother was stronger when we were young. I was mischievous as a child. I tricked my mother once. I burned an orange peel, and because it looks like coal, I showed her and she became angry.

    I don't remember how the war started. I was going to go on a picnic and it started to rain. I thought there would be no more picnic. I ate my lunch a little. The weather improved and I continued the picnic.
    My brother was called by the military. He was skinny. He weighed only forty-two kilograms. I thought Japan would lose the war because he wasn't able to fight.

    When I finished school, I was a barber, so when I joined the military, I cut hair for the senior officers. Because of this I was given bread and tobacco. I was sent to a school to learn anti-tank operations, where I participated in drills and trained for six months. This was in Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture. I learned also how to hide myself in my surroundings. I learned to dig a hole and when a tank went over to get beneath it. In the mornings, I did these drills and in the afternoons, I paved roads that had been destroyed. I did these things for two years of the war. I was a foot soldier. I had no experiences driving a tank. I only learned to destroy them. I had no days off.

    When an officer informed me that the war had ended, I wasn't sure what would happen next. Whether I would stay where I was or be allowed to return home. Some other soldiers and I got together and tried to leave, but the railroads were destroyed. I walked several hundred kilometers and arrived back in Takasago on September 4, 1945.

    On October 8, I went back to the barbershop where I had worked. It was very busy and I was able to start there again. I did this profession until I was sixty-eight years old.