Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Iron tea pot used to hold mother’s remains

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Rust on the tea pot’s iron surface conveys the fact that 74 years have now passed since the atomic bombing. Masaaki Sakai, who was 17 back then, dug this pot out of the ruins of his home in Noboricho (now part of Naka Ward). He also gathered up the remains of his mother Yoshino, who was then 41 and had regularly used the pot prior to the A-bomb attack. He then used the pot as a makeshift urn for holding his mother’s remains.

On August 6, 1945, Mr. Sakai, then a first-year student at Hiroshima Municipal Higher Technical School (now the School of Engineering at Hiroshima University), experienced the atomic bombing while at school in Shinonomecho (part of present-day Minami Ward). He tried to head home right away, but had to return to school because the flames that had broken out in the city center blocked his path. The next day he managed to reach the wreckage of his home.

The Noboricho district, where his house once stood, was located about 1.1 kilometers from the hypocenter, and the area was engulfed in flames after the bombing. Mr. Sakai’s home was burned down, too. Yoshino was at home when the bomb was dropped and was apparently unable to escape after being trapped under wreckage. His two younger sisters, Sumiko and Michiko, were students at Hiroshima Jogakuin Girls’ High School (now called Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School) and were also killed in the bombing at the worksite where they had been mobilized. Their remains were never found.

After the war, Mr. Sakai lived in Nagasaki, his hometown. He continued to keep with him the items that were imbued with the memories of his mother and sisters. But he may have considered his advancing age, and decided to leave these things to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in order to hand down their lives to the next generation. So in October 2000, the year he turned 73, he paid a visit to the museum and donated six items that he had long kept in his care, including the report of the autopsy conducted on his mother. The next month, he donated the iron tea pot, too.

(Originally published on August 5, 2019)