Hiroshima Voices: “No Nukes, No War” Teruko Yahata, 85, A-bomb survivor, Fuchu-cho, Hiroshima Prefecture

Tragedy still occupies my five senses

Teruko Yahata experienced the atomic bombing at home in the area of Koi-cho (now part of Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward), located 2.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. She has continued to share her memories of “that day” in both Japanese and English. She is committed to communicating the regrets of the children of her generation who were killed in the atomic bombing, all the while hoping that following generations never have to suffer the same experience.

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With the anticipation of “sweets must be inside,” I rushed to get at a paper bag, only to find it contained the remains of an unidentifiable victim of the atomic bombing. I experienced that situation several days after the bombing when I was at Koi National School, where many victims’ bodies were being cremated. Back then, I was always hungry, and everything looked like food. The smell of burning human flesh permeated the entire school.

On that day, August 6, 1945, I was at home with the seven members of my family, including my parents. When I went to my backyard to ask the neighbor if the alert that morning had been lifted, I saw a flash. The entire sky lit up like an expansive, fluorescent light, and I was blown about six meters back toward the inside of our house. Doors were blown off their tracks and dishes scattered on the floor. Using my mother’s voice as a guide, I was able to crawl out from under the house.

Wending our way through a crowd of people who looked like ghosts, including those whose skin hung from their bodies like old rags and whose hair stood on end, our family ran around in a panic. I saw a woman rising to her full height and crying out for her children on a riverbank, not knowing whether she had escaped without being able to save them or had simply abandoned them.

Watching news of cities being shelled in Ukraine, I recall the Hiroshima I witnessed 78 years ago. I can sense the same smell of burned and charred human bodies and the cries of victims. Memories suppressed within my five senses arise to the fore. I believe more strongly than ever that war should never be waged. During the war period we experienced so many years ago, children like us were told to kill and have hatred for our enemy. War robs people of humanity. So long as there is war, nuclear weapons will be used.

I hope Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and leaders of nuclear weapons states that surround those two nations can sit down at the same table together and engage in dialogue about how to create a non-military solution to the issues. I want each of the principals to return to the basics of being a human being and resolve to stop the war as soon as possible, thereby ensuring that the Hiroshima of August 6, 1945, will never be repeated. (Interviewed by Kana Kobayashi)