Messages from A-bomb Survivors: Mitsuko Yoneda, Part 3

Mitsuko Yoneda, 72, Eno-machi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima

Part 3: Please hand down the message “war is wrong”

Note: This series first appeared in the Chugoku Shimbun in 2001.

(Showing the keloid scars on her arm) It’s hard to go on living with a body that’s maimed like this. It was the strong life force inside me that enabled me to survive. Though I’ve also suffered injuries and illnesses, I’m still alive today. It’s amazing to me that I’ve lived this long. At the same time, I think I’ve been blessed with the chance to live.

Because I was given this chance, I came to feel I would devote myself to sharing my A-bomb account.

▽Duty as one who had the chance to live

At first, when a caseworker at a hospital asked me to relate my A-bomb experience, I turned down the request, saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I had distanced myself from the peace movement. I didn’t want to remember my A-bomb experience, either. But, you know, I can now say something like “It was a painful experience.” Some of my friends died, unable to say anything. I thought I had a duty to describe my experience of the atomic bombing.

In 1983, Ms. Yoneda, who had kept her distance from the peace movement, took part in a gathering where A-bomb survivors shared their A-bomb accounts. She has since continued to talk about her experience to students visiting Hiroshima on school trips, and others.

On hot days and cold days, I stood in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and offered my A-bomb account in front of an A-bombed aogiri tree [Chinese parasol tree]. You know the aogiri tree that was burned by the blast on its left side, like me, don’t you? At the time of the bombing, the tree was standing in the compound of the Hiroshima Communication Bureau [now the Chugoku Postal Administration Office], where I was taken in the aftermath of the blast. I remember the tree was smoldering.

▽Encouraged by the aogiri tree

I was happy to see the tree still bud the following year. I thought, “Oh, the tree is still alive, too.” When I see the tree sprouting new leaves each year, I’ve always told myself to try hard to live. So I have a special attachment to that tree.

In 1973, this A-bombed tree was replanted in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Sadly, I can’t move around so well any more. For six years, I haven’t been able to stand in Peace Memorial Park and tell my story. So I at least want to tell this to you.

The atomic bomb was dropped because of the war, right? I was at Hiroshima Teishin Hospital when I heard that the war was over, and I thought, “Why didn’t they end the war earlier?” If they had ended the war earlier, I wouldn’t have hovered between life and death, right? War is absolutely wrong.

The atomic bomb was horrible for those who died. But it was also horrible for those who survived. What sort of feelings has each A-bomb survivor lived with since the bombing? Each person has his or her own history.

I’d like as many A-bomb survivors as possible to talk about their experiences while they can, and as many people as possible to listen to them. I hope others will be encouraged to carry on in our place, and convey the message of the A-bomb survivors after we’re all gone.

Ms. Yoneda now lives with her nephew’s family. She rarely goes out except to visit the hospital to receive dialysis treatment three times a week. She needs a wheelchair to move about.

All through the ages, men have waged wars. In our era, too, women waved Japanese flags and sent soldiers off to the front. It means we women were also part of the war.

So I want women of the future to be strong. I want to raise my voice and say loudly: “Take a stand and oppose war.”

(Originally published on July 18, 2001)