Testimony of Hatchobori Streetcar Survivors

Seven hundred and fifty meters from ground zero, these are the testimonies of the passengers who were on the same streetcar in a Hatchobori area when the atomic bomb fell. A little after eight in the morning on August 6, the streetcar for Koi left Hiroshima Station. And at 8:15 it approached Hatchobori Station, 780 meters from the hypocenter and an intense flash and blast engulfed the car, instantly setting it on fire. It is said that seventy cars were running in the city at the same time. They were an important means of transportation for the citizens, and all the trains were packed with people since it was the morning rush hour. Nearly 100 passengers are said to have been on board on the streetcar which was near Hatchobori. But the survival of only ten have been confirmed to date. Seven out of ten have recorded their testimonies on this video tape.

Tomiko Sasaki, 17 on that day, was on her way to her friend's house in Funairi with two classmates as it was their holiday from student mobilization labor. Approximately two weeks after the bombing, her two classmates died.

INTERVIEWER: Were three of you on the same part of the car?

SASAKI: Yes. I was standing in front here and the others were next to me. There was the flash and darkness. I think I was unconscious for a while. We came to and called each other's names. My friends complained of the heat and terrible pain. I saw that one side of her body had been badly burned. There was a water tank for fire prevention, but the water wasn't clear due to all the dust. I put my handkerchief in the water and I put it over her burns, but she went on crying in pain. Both of my friends were burned. As for myself, flesh was hanging from my whole face was bloody. Fortunately I escaped from being burnt. I think it made a big difference that I was not burned. In fact, I think that saved my life.

Eiko Taoka, then 21, was heading for Funairi with her one year old son to secure wagon in preparation for her move out of the building which was to be evacuated. Her son died of radiation sickness on August 28.

TAOKA: When we were near in Hatchobori and since I had been holding my son in my arms, the young woman in front of me said, "I will be getting off here. Please take this seat." We were just changing places when there was a strange smell and sound. It suddenly became dark and before I knew it, I had jumped outside.

INTERVIEWER: What about your son?

TAOKA: I held him firmly and looked down on him. He had been standing by the window and I think fragments of glass had pierced his head. His face was a mess because of the blood flowing from his head. But he looked at my face and smiled. His smile has remained glued in my memory. He did not comprehend what had happened. And so he looked at me and smiled at my face which was all bloody. I had plenty of milk which he drank all throughout that day. I think my child sucked the poison right out of my body. And soon after that he died. Yes, I think that he died for me.

Tsutaichi Matsuzaka, then a 37 years old factory worker in Mukaihara, was on his way to the main office of his company in Hatsukaichi to get woodwork materials with three of his coworkers. His three coworkers died one after another within two or three weeks after the bombing.

MATSUZAKA: My hair fell off. I had a fever and spots appeared on my body. I heard all kinds of talk in those days, for instance, that the one was doomed if these spots appeared. So I was in constant fear for my life.

INTERVIEWER: Two out of your three coworkers died?

MATSUZAKA: No, No. three.


MATSUZAKA: Yes, Hayashi died the following week. The next man died two weeks later and the third, a little after that. I pray that there never be another nuclear war like that. It was a living hell.

Shizuno Tochiki, 23 at that time, was on her way to her office in Kogo. Immediately after the bombing, she had a high fever which lasted for ten days. She's suffered the symptoms of radiation sickness, the purple spots appeared all over her body and her hair fell out. It was only after one month that she was finally able to get up.

TOCHIKI: I think the air-raid warning had been lifted, so I left for Hatchobori without worrying. Then, there was a flash and a big sound which is known as ``Pika-don''. The train shock and it seemed to me as if a flash had directly entered my eyes. It was extremely hot. Because of the jolt, people fell right on top of each other. I think I was at a very bottom. I thought I would be crashed to death in a little while because I was so small and had the weight of all those people on top of me. But one by the people on top finally left the car. They ran with all their might along the railroad tracks. I could hear someone shout, ``Another hit and we're finished.'' But I could only see people's shadows. When I gained consciousness, I was in a bed. I don't remember how many days it took until I could walk again. One day I asked for a cane, but I couldn't walk straight since my legs were so thin and so shaky. I staggered towards a mirror and I fell utterly, completely miserable as I had no hair, all my hair was gone. But just being able to walk to the next room made me so happy.

Keiko Matsuda, then 14, on her way to Miyajima with two friends since they had no mobilized labor on that day. One of her friends who had been closest to the front and received the worst burns died in the first-aid station in Nukushina.

MATSUDA: It was very, very hot. I touched my skin and it just peeled right off. The driver of the streetcar was not in sight. I thought he had been quick to run away but now I think that he was probably hurled outside in the blast. It was around August 25 that a pile of my hair just fell off all at once. I had a high fever and maggots infested in my eyes.

INTERVIEWER: In your eyes?

MATSUDA: Yes. I was afflicted with erysipelas as well. I had two children, but I had not told them about this experience. And I don't want to talk about it. But this time many people are testifying together and since I've been asked, I will talk. But I have tried to avoid it until now.

Takeo Watanabe, 16 at that time, was working in a telephone office and he was heading toward the Chugoku Newspaper Office. He has speech difficulties since he has cerebral thrombosis. His wife is together with him today.

WATANABE: How, how can I say it? Well, I, I don't know just what to say. I got off the car and, and then, (His wife speaks for him.) it was dark so he groped his way toward an air-raid shelter he knew nearby. You know when I married him, I didn't know that my husband was a victim of A-bomb until I read a diary that he had kept at that time. He would not tell me about experience himself. He just didn't want to talk about it. Every year from the end of July to the beginning of August, he would have a fever or become ill.

INTERVIEWER: So you do not want to talk about your experience?

WATANABE: Hmm...Those day, it was, it was a burden, it was tough, but I guess now I just, I just have no more choice.

INTERVIEWER: And you finally decided to speak out?


Akira Ishida, then a 17 year old junior air man in the army, had the day off and was going to Miyajima with his elder brother to pray for good luck in the war. His elder brother died in September 1945 of radiation sickness.

ISHIDA: Several months later, I can remember, I remember a cold morning, I don't know why but my mother always kept a round hand mirror by my pillow, which I picked up without thinking. I looked at my face and I saw something so shiny on the corner of my head. Using all my energy, I called out to my mother who was in the kitchen, and I said, ``Mother! My hair is growing back!'' She was so happy that she held me and she cried. I'll never forget that day and the feel of the tears that my mother shed for me while she held me in her arms. It still comes back to me even though the people here are of different ages, we are also all of the same age. On August 6th, 1945, all of us died once and then, we were brought back to life. We were all born again. And we're in our second life now. Everyone gathered here today is now 41 years old if you count the number the years from the bombing. It's like a class reunion. I feel that we must testify in the hope that our experience will help to keep mankind from perishing.

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