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News of A-bomb Dome’s preservation is conveyed at grave of girl who expressed this wish

A girl who once appealed for the Atomic Bomb Dome to be preserved died of leukemia seven years ago. On the morning of April 5, the anniversary of her death, her parents and 10 members of the Hiroshima Paper Crane Club gathered at the site of her grave, located at Senkoji Temple, to comfort her soul by telling her about the city’s decision to preserve the dome.

The girl was Hiroko Kajiyama, the eldest daughter of Kunihito Kajiyama, 54, a company employee and resident of Fucho-cho. Hiroko was just 16 years old when she died. At the time Hiroshima was attacked with the atomic bomb, she was a 20-month-old baby, at home in Hiratsuka-cho. Although she was exposed to the atomic bomb, she received no visible injuries, not even a scratch, and outwardly she seemed to be a healthy child. Later, she graduated from elementary school and junior high school and, in March 1958, she passed the entrance exam to attend Oshimo Gakuen Gion Girls’ School in Gion-cho. She completed her first year there without showing any signs of ill health. But in March 1960, just as she was set to advance to the next grade, she developed an unusual health condition.

One day she discovered a red spot on her foot, which was caused by an insect bite. When she pressed the foot with her fingers, it left an indentation that would not disappear. Hiroko wrote in her diary on March 8: “The indentation that resulted when my sister and father pressed my foot didn’t disappear, either. My family suggested that maybe I’ve developed beriberi. Recently there are a lot of purple spots on my body, and my face has turned a bluish color, too. I’m afraid that I’m going to die.”

Hiroko was eventually diagnosed with leukemia at Hiroshima City Hospital. Her battle with the disease was very brief. She was admitted to Hiroshima City Hospital on March 30 and passed away on April 5. Her last words were, “I want some water.”

“The inscription on the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the Industrial Promotion Hall (A-bomb Dome), as painful reminders of the tragic past, can convey the horror of the atomic bombing to the world long into the future.” Perhaps, as a sort of premonition of an A-bomb survivor, Hiroko wrote about her wish for peace in her diary on August 6, 1959, one year before she developed leukemia. In this entry she shared her hopes for the realization of this wish by preserving the A-bomb Dome.

Seven years after her death, her desire for the dome to be preserved has come to fruition and preservation work on the structure will soon start. The members of the Hiroshima Paper Crane Club, who are aware of Hiroko’s strong wish for peace, visit her grave each year on the anniversary of her death.

(Originally published on April 6, 1967)