Memories of Nakajima Honmachi, Part 7

by Masami Nishimoto, Senior Staff Writer

54 years later, a visit to the site of his father's death

“I’ve been meaning to go, but I haven’t yet,” said Shoji Hyuga, 64. He was referring to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Mr. Hyuga’s hometown, and the city of Hatsukaichi, near Hiroshima, where his father died. He was still undecided whether he would make the trip this summer.

“I would like to erect a gravestone for my family, but I need to find out what has become of my father’s ashes,” Mr. Hyuga said. He now lives in the city of Kashihara, surrounded by three mountains in Nara Prefecture. From the window of his home, the greenery of one mountain is made bright by the sunshine.

In the summer of 1945, when Mr. Hyuga was 10, he was orphaned by the atomic bomb. After the bombing, he moved to Nara, where his father’s brothers lived, carrying the ashes of his mother, brother, and sister. When he entered junior high, he became the adopted son of the Hyuga family, who had no children. His family name then changed from Nakayama, his father’s last name, to Hyuga.

“This is my only clue for finding my father’s remains,” he said, showing his father’s death certificate, which he has safeguarded since obtaining it. On it is written the name of Mr. Hyuga’s father, Kumajiro Nakayama, 38. The document also lists the cause of death as extensive burns; the date of contracting this condition as August 6, 1945; the time of death as 6 p.m. on August 14, 1945; and the place of death as the temporary relief station located at 486-5 Hatsukaichi-cho, Saeki-gun. The death certificate was signed by Kunkichi Tanabe, M.D., on August 15, 1945.

Along with his father, Mr. Hyuga’s mother Yaeko, 30, brother Minoru, 6, and sister, Mieko, 1 suffered the blast while at home on the east side of the Honkawa Bridge. Kumajiro was the only survivor and he reportedly collected the remains of his family and placed them in pots, then gave them to an acquaintance for safekeeping.

The Nakayama family had originally lived in Jisenji-no-hana, near the Aioi Bridge, and Kumajiro was a wholesaler of miniature bonsai trees. “My father apparently moved next door to a Mr. Watanuki, the owner of a kimono fabric store, after I had been evacuated,” Mr. Hyuga explained. “It must have been fate, as I was able to learn from Mr. Watanuki how the members of my family died.”

When Mr. Hyuga was 39, he happened to meet Mr. Watanuki in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park during a business trip that summer. When he mentioned that his original family name was Nakayama, Mr. Watanuki told Mr. Hyuga that his mother had died embracing his brother and sister. Toyosuke Watanuki, who died in 1987, was the leader of the Nakajima Honmachi Association, an organization of former residents that conducts an annual memorial service for the A-bomb victims.

“I didn’t return to Hiroshima after that because I still feel traumatized by the bombing,” said Mr. Hyuga. “Afterwards, I was self-conscious of the people around me and I couldn’t really be myself, except when I went to bed. It must have been a hard time for everyone.” Before the bombing, Mr. Hyuga had been evacuated to Zenkoji Temple in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. He was a student at Nakajima Elementary School at the time and joined about 40 other children from Nakajima Honmachi and Zaimoku-cho, the hypocenter of the bombing.

Mr. Hyuga graduated from high school at the age of 22, while working as a messenger, delivering telegrams. Then, at 32, he graduated from university. He eventually retired from a large music company and is nearing another retirement at a subsequent workplace. “The thing I couldn’t achieve, though, no matter how hard I tried, was having a child,” Mr. Hyuga said playfully. While Mr. Hyuga and his wife Emiko, 67, were contemplating a donation to a temple for them to conduct services for the peaceful repose of the Nakayama family, my letter asking him to take part in this series arrived at his home.

He had tried to avoid the thought of his father’s death certificate, but when he read it carefully, he learned that his father died at the relief station in Hatsukaichi, now the site of Hatsukaichi Elementary School. Two weeks after I spoke with him, Mr. Hyuga called. “I’m going to visit Hiroshima,” he told me. He explained that he intends to visit the site of his father’s death for the first time, 54 years later. He will also attend the memorial service to be held in front of the statue of the “Figure of the Merciful Goddess” in Peace Memorial Park on August 6. “I also want to see my childhood friends,” he said, offering a further impetus for returning to Hiroshima.

(Originally published on August 3, 1999)