Survivors' Stories

Michiko Hinokida, 89, Nishi Ward, Hiroshima

Rage at losing her twin sister

Teach the preciousness of life

Michiko Hinokida, 89, lost her older twin sister, Taeko, to the atomic bombing. Like two peas in a pod, they had both become Japanese teachers and were working at different schools at the time. But on the day of the bombing, Taeko was outside, supervising students as they helped dismantle homes to create a fire lane in the event of air raids, and suffered burns all over her body when the bomb exploded. She died thinking of the safety of her students.

Ms. Hinokida, the younger twin, was a teacher at Hiroshima Jissen Girls’ High School in the village of Inokuchi (today, Suzugamine Girls’ Junior High School and High School in Nishi Ward). She was at a teachers’ meeting that morning when she suddenly saw a great flash and then, a moment later, a loud boom. She hurried to her classroom and found the students crying out in fright.

Worried about her family, that evening she received permission to return home to Koicho (in present-day Nishi Ward). As she walked toward home, her anxiety grew each time she passed a person with serious burns. She prayed for her sister’s safety along the way and finally reached their house.

Half the house was destroyed, and inside, she found Taeko lying on the floor. Taeko was burned so badly that Ms. Hinokida was unable to tell whether this was really her sister or not until she heard Taeko’s voice.

Taeko was a teacher at Aki Girls’ High School, located in Uchikoshicho (part of present-day Nishi Ward, though the school was later closed). Because she and her students had been mobilized to help with the building demolition work, she was in the Koamicho area (now part of Naka Ward) when the A-bomb attack took place. Ms. Hinokida listened as her sister spoke in halting phases: “When I came to, I didn’t see any of the students. There was nothing I could do. I wanted to die right there, but I couldn’t, so I came home.” Taeko’s voice still lingers in her mind.

Until that point, Ms. Hinokida had secretly been hoping that the war would soon end. However, her feelings changed when she witnessed her sister’s terrible injuries and her death. “I then wanted to attack the enemy,” she admits. “Victims can quickly come to have the feelings of aggressors,” she added. “That’s the nature of war. We should never wage war because it deprives people of rational thought.”

After the war, she worked as a teacher at Suzugamine Girls’ Junior High School and High School. She told her students: “Don’t think only about yourself. Think about others, too. Have compassion for other people and cherish life.”

These days, she shares her experience of the atomic bombing at preschools and other places in her neighborhood. It brings her joy when children in her area see her and call out to her.

“The fact that they remember my name means that they’ve grasped the importance of peace, even if just a little. Those children give me hope for the future,” she said with a smile. (Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer)

Hiroshima Insight

Hiroshima Jissen Girls’ High School: Voices crying out in pain

In 1941, the school was founded as the “Hiroshima Commercial Jissen Girls’ School” in the village of Inokuchi (in today’s Nishi Ward). It was established by Hiroshima Gas and Electric, the forerunner of the Hiroshima Gas Company (located in Minami Ward) and the Hiroshima Electric Railway Company (in Naka Ward) to contribute to the local community. In 1943, the name of the school was changed to “Hiroshima Jissen Girls’ High School.”

According to records of the A-bomb damage, many people who had been wounded in the bombing sought refuge in Inokuchi, turning the school into a relief station.

The students of the girls’ school run by the Hiroshima Electric Railway, located in Minamimachi (part of present-day Minami Ward), fled to Hiroshima Jissen Girls’ High School in the wake of the A-bomb blast.

A book titled The Girls Who Made the Streetcars Run, a collection of testimonies from students of the girls’ school, describes terrible scenes at the makeshift relief station: “The school was full of burned and injured students, crying out in pain”; “Scores of people died every day”; and “The smell of burnt flesh and blood in the auditorium was awful.”

After the war, the school became Suzugamine Girls’ Junior High and High School.

Teenagers’ Impressions

“Let’s be friends”
Ms. Hinokida’s words “War deprives people of rational thought” left a strong impression on me. I heard that after the bombing, many people wanted to attack the enemy right back. But the idea of seeking revenge if you’re attacked is what starts a war. If a friend hits me, I’d like to respond by saying, “Don’t do that. Let’s be friends.” (Shiho Fujii, 11)

Moved by her words
Ms. Hinokida and her sister Taeko were twins and both became teachers, but the atomic bombing turned their world upside down. Surviving without her sister was “miserable,” Ms. Hinokida said. But she continued teaching after the war, and told her students to cherish their lives. I was really moved by the story of her sister’s death. (Daichi Ishii, 16)

Staff Writer’s Notebook

“How can we protect our students if there’s an air raid?” Night after night before the atomic bomb was dropped, Michiko Hinokida and her sister Taeko, both Japanese teachers, would talk about how to help their students seek shelter in the event of an air raid.

Then came August 6. The atomic bomb destroyed the city of Hiroshima in an instant. Taeko, who was supervising students that were mobilized for the war effort, had no chance to help her students flee, and fell unconscious.

Despite severe burns, Taeko clung to life and managed to make it home. She then passed away, blaming herself for not being able to help save her students. According to records of the A-bomb damage, all 232 students from Taeko’s school who were helping to create a fire lane in Koamicho (in today’s Naka Ward) perished that day.

Ms. Hinokida, who survived the bombing, continued working as a teacher after the war. Determined not to see her students become victims or aggressors of war, she taught them about the preciousness of peace and life until the day she retired. (Sakiko Masuda)

(Originally published on April 22, 2013)