Trust: The Memoirs of Akira Yamamoto, Part 13

Part 13: Printing resumes

Moved by sight of first edition after printing resumes

On October 19, 1945, a team of engineers from Toyo Kogyo (now Mazda) began staying at our offices in Kami-nagarekawa-cho (now Ebisu-cho, Naka Ward) and set to work assembling the printing press that had been brought from Nukushina (Higashi Ward). I watched their progress with great pleasure.

On November 1 we abolished the temporary measure by which all employees had been assigned to one of two departments, General Affairs or Reconstruction, and reassigned them to their original departments. That evening, after that personnel directive had been issued, the department managers gathered in the president’s office and we had a sukiyaki party. Starting with the November 5 edition, we expected to be able to once again deliver to our readers a paper that our employees had printed themselves.

I was determined to have an article I’d written printed in this first edition after the resumption of printing, so I wrote a 40-line article that ran under the headline “Three months on, still not fully recovered.” The article was accompanied by a photograph. Everyone did their share, and we filled two-thirds of a page. The photograph was dark and fuzzy, but even now when I hold that paper I vividly recall the devastation of the Chugoku Shimbun offices and Hiroshima.

On the evening of the 4th, the pressroom was as crowded as a battlefield. Things didn’t go too well, but finally just before dawn as the sky began to lighten, the smooth rhythm of the press began to be heard. I stood beside the press, and while listening to its roar, wept as I recalled the faces of all those who had died. In 1947 the two presses at our offices that had been damaged by fire were repaired at (the Hiroshima branch plant of) Japan Steel Works, Ltd. (Minami Ward), but until then this one press was the lifeline of all the employees.

I took a copy of the first issue off the press and hurried home to Fuchu-cho by bicycle. “So, it’s out,” my father said. I was deeply moved seeing his profile as he looked intently at the paper.

That edition of November 5 noted that the people of Hiroshima desired “not a vision of reconstruction but homes to protect them against the cold and a supply of food to ward off hunger.” Debris covered the city, and the citizens were awaiting the start of construction on 5,000 “homes for war victims” that had been planned.

On November 6 a funeral for Toru (who died at the age of 29) was held at Ryusenji Temple in Fuchu-cho. We had neither his ashes nor any memento of him. Things had finally settled down, and I was able to lose myself in my sorrow at the loss of my brother. We had been close.

My brother wanted to be a newspaperman from the start. He entered the Faculty of Literature at Tokyo Imperial University and studied under Hideo Ono (an authority on the study of newspapers). My father sent a letter to Professor Ono saying he wanted Toru to take over the management of the paper, but it was a public institution, and he asked the professor to let him know if he felt Toru was unfit for the post in any way. Perhaps he was moved, because for many years thereafter the professor recalled my father’s letter. Toru was a good newspaperman, and it was a shame (that he died in the A-bombing). I never wanted to outstrip my brother, but since he was gone I had no choice: I resolved to take over management of the paper.

The dropping of the atomic bomb, printing of the paper by other companies, the Nukushina edition, the Makurazaki Typhoon, the printing of the paper by other companies once again, the return to our offices: When I look back over this series of events, I can’t help but feel that the Chugoku Shimbun wasn’t completely forsaken by Lady Luck. The relocation of the printing press to the Nukushina plant for safekeeping took place just four days before the atomic bombing. As a result of the typhoon, the plant was filled with muddy water nearly up to the bottom of the press. If it had come up a little higher, we would have been done for. That event led us to move back to our offices in the city. Without the typhoon, no one could have made the critical decision to cease publishing for six weeks and return to our offices. In November we resumed printing at our offices and, albeit belatedly, we joined in the free competition among newspapers.

It was said that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 75 years, and some in the newspaper industry believed that the Chugoku Shimbun would not be able to recover. But in fact its fate led the company to get back on its feet again. It was truly as dangerous as walking a tightrope. For that reason I cannot help but believe that what happened was providential.

(Originally published on October 11, 2012)