Silent Witness

Silent Witness: Fabric bag

Mother kept daughter’s bag as substitute for missing remains

by Rina Yuasa, Staff Writer

That morning, the young girl was likely wearing her shoulder bag across her body as she left the house. The 32 centimeter-square bag was made of cloth from an obi (traditional kimono sash). Toshiko Fujimori, then 13 and a first-year student at Hiroshima First Municipal Girls’ School (First Girls’ School; now Funairi High School), was in the habit of always carrying the bag.

On the morning of August 6, 1945, first- and second-year students at First Girls’ School were mobilized to dismantle buildings for the creation of fire lanes on the south side of the present-day Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park area, in the city’s centrally located Naka Ward. Immediately after the atomic bombing, Kasumi Fujimori, Toshiko’s mother, headed to the central part of Hiroshima, intent on finding her daughter.

The day after the bombing, Kasumi discovered one of Toshiko’s classmates in front of the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital (now the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic-bomb Survivors Hospital). The classmate told Kasumi that Toshiko had shouted “Tenno-heika, banzai” (in English, ‘Long live the Emperor’) while clinging to lumber that was floating down the Motoyasu River. After that, Kasumi found her daughter’s bag under the collapsed earthen wall of a temple in the area of Kobiki-cho (now Nakajima-cho in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward), located about 500 meters from the hypocenter.

Until her death at the age of 98, Kasumi held on to her daughter’s bag in place of her missing remains. “Every year, when August 6 arrived, my mother would cry as she told stories about Toshiko,” said Toshiki Fujimori, 78, a resident of Chino City in Nagano Prefecture who experienced the atomic bombing when he was one year of age. He does not have any memory of his older sister but said, “I was told that, worried about her brothers and sisters, who had been evacuated to other sites, Toshiko repeatedly sent them all letters.”

In 2011, Toshiko’s bag was donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in the city’s Naka Ward, by surviving members of her family. Toshiki Fujimori has continued to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, which indiscriminately took the lives of victims, including his sister’s, in his role as assistant secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo).

(Originally published on September 5, 2022)