My Wounds of Hiroshima Are Gone!
As told by Taeko Enomoto of Hiroshima City
A STRANGER came to our house with a scorched and tattered shirt that had been worn by a schoolboy. All that was left was the collar with the upper part of the shirt. But still clearly readable was the name Miyakawa Shiro across the chest. It was my brother’s shirt.
On the morning of August 6, 1945, I went to work as usual. As a typical 19-year-old girl, I was caught up in the patriotic fever gripping the country at the time and had joined the Women’s Volunteer Corps. My brother, still a schoolboy, had gone into the center of the city to work. My father had died fighting in Manchuria. That left my mother at home alone.
Early that morning, enemy warplanes had been spotted near Hiroshima, and there had been air-raid alerts. As we finished our military drill and were just about to go inside the building, a tremendous explosion rocked the area. Everything before my eyes went completely red. The heat from the blast gave me the sensation that I had fallen into a hot furnace—at that moment I went unconscious.
As soon as I revived, I thought of my family. Though it was broad daylight, the pall from the bomb’s fallout made things look eerie. Soon, a black, sooty rain began to fall, and it kept up for about two hours. What I saw on my way home was frightening. There were people with blood spurting from their neck and others with hands over their eyes and blood streaming between their fingers. I saw many with their whole body burned red. Some had the skin from their hands and arms hanging from their fingertips, while others were dragging along the skin that had peeled off their legs. There were people with hair frizzled and standing on end.
When I reached home, I found the whole neighborhood, including our house, flattened by the blast. How happy I was to find my mother still alive, though badly cut by flying glass fragments! But what had happened to my brother? We decided to wait until dawn the next day before going into the city to look for him.
The Search for My Brother
Seeing the city the next day made me realize that it had not been just another air raid. This bomb was something big. The devastation was unprecedented.
Along the bridge leading into the city were stacked the charred bodies of those killed, leaving only a small passageway in the middle. At times, I would hear groans coming from the piles of bodies, and sometimes there would be sudden movements among them. Without thinking, I would rush up to see if it was my brother. But they were all so badly burned and swollen that it was difficult to tell who they were. As I got to the various relocation centers, I kept calling out my brother’s name, but he was not to be found.
After two or three days, people began to put up lists of the dead. Soldiers gathered up the charred bodies, doused them with gasoline, and burned them. Very little could be done for the injured and the dying. They were given some water and a daily ration of one rice ball. There were no medical supplies or treatment for them.
Within days, people’s hair began to fall out. Flies and maggots were seen crawling over the open wounds of those too weak to clean them off. The stench of burning corpses and untreated wounds filled the air. Soon, seemingly for no reason, those who were healthy enough to take care of the wounded began to die off, one by one. Evidently they had succumbed to the effects of radiation. I, too, began to experience diarrhea, weakness, and nervous disorders.
After searching for about two months, I finally learned what had happened to my brother. The stranger that I mentioned before came to see us. He explained that he had given water to a boy who was badly burned and blinded by the bomb. When my brother finally died, this person was kind enough to remove the shirt and to take the trouble to look us up and bring it to us.
The effect all of this had on me, a 19-year-old girl, was traumatic. I lost the strength to think about anything. I also lost all sense of fear. I just cried and cried. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the victims, with vacant stares on their faces, wandering about aimlessly in the gloom. How I hated war! I hated the Americans for dropping the bomb, and I hated the Japanese leaders for letting the war go that far.
I Found Something Better
During the next ten years I got married and eventually had three children. But my heart continued to burn with hatred. Though I wanted desperately to get rid of these feelings, I wondered how I could ever forget all of this.
I tried various religious groups and joined the Seicho No Ie religion, as they appeared to be the most loving and generous. But they were not able to give me satisfying answers. When I asked why my brother had to die, they would only say: “People who do good things die young. It was his fate.”
Then we moved to Tokyo. One day, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my door. He talked about God’s Kingdom and read to me something from the Bible about people beating their swords into plowshares. (Isaiah 2:4) I was impressed with his kindness and his knowledge of the Bible and accepted two magazines from him. I learned later that he, too, had lost most of his family in the Hiroshima bombing. He arranged for a woman to visit me.
The lady came many times, always smiling and warm. But I was still bitter and cold. Although I listened to her message from the Bible, I just could not believe that there could be any saving power in a religion from a country that had brought the misery of that day in Hiroshima. But there was something about her that made me continue to listen.
“Do you think,” I asked her one day, “that it is possible for someone like me, who has a heart full of hate, to become a warmhearted person like you?”
“Yes, it is possible,” she answered confidently. “I became the way I am after studying the Bible,” she explained.
So I began a systematic study of the Bible using a booklet entitled “Look! I Am Making All Things New.” From the study I learned that the actions of the so-called Christian nations did not conform to the Christianity taught in the Bible, and that Christendom, too, faces God’s judgment.
My enthusiasm grew as I continued to study. I came to understand why God has permitted wickedness till now and that only God’s Kingdom has the power to save mankind from suffering. I was also deeply moved by the love Jesus Christ showed in giving up his life on a torture stake for the benefit of all people. Little by little the Bible’s message changed my feelings, and soon the hatred in my heart was gone. In its place I felt a warm love toward others and a strong desire to tell them about God’s Kingdom.
I began to attend the meetings at the Kingdom Hall regularly and I was baptized in June 1964. For seven years thereafter, I was able to be a pioneer (a full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses) and enjoyed the privilege of helping 12 people to get to know the only true God, Jehovah.
Putting My Experience to Use
My husband and I have returned to Hiroshima now. Here I still meet many people like me who remember the bomb. Having experienced the same thing as they did, I am able to help them to see that the only true hope for a world with no more war lies in the Bible’s message of the coming Kingdom rule by Christ Jesus.
Today in Hiroshima the scars of the bombing are mostly gone. But more importantly, I have been able to get rid of the wounds and hatred I carried in my heart for so many years and have replaced them with hope and love. I now long for the time when God will resurrect all those whom he holds dear in his memory. My desire is to share the incomparable joy that I now have with the many who died 40 years ago in Hiroshima—including my dear young brother.
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The stench of burning corpses and untreated wounds filled the air
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Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the victims, with vacant stares on their faces
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Taeko at 19 in 1945
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Taeko with her daughter