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IMORI Kiyoko(IMORI Kiyoko) 
Gender Female  Age at time of bombing 11 
Recorded on 2006.9.28  Age at time of recording 72 
Location at time of bombing Hiroshima(Direct exposure Distance from the bombing hypocenter:0.3km) 
Location when exposed to the bombing Hiroshima City Kajiya-cho[Current Naka-ku, Hiroshima City] 
Status at time of bombing Elementary student 
Occupational status at time of bombing Honkawa Elementary School 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

Eleven year old IMORI Kiyoko was a student at Honkawa Elementary School. When the bomb fell, she was at school in Kajiya-cho, 0.3 km from the hypocenter. Kiyoko was entering the school building when everything went black. Dashing outside, she saw her friend, blackened and staggering in a sea of flames. To avoid falling sparks, Kiyoko plunged into the river. After the war, she had many health problems and suffered as an A-bomb orphan.

I lived in Sorazaya-cho in the Hirose Elementary School district. But my father put me in Honkawa Elementary School. My father worked at a company in Mukainada. He only worked mornings on Saturdays. Father took me many places on the back of his bicycle. On Sundays, they used to show newsreels separated by cartoons. I remember him taking me to see them.

【August 6】
That morning, my friend, AOHARA Kazuko, came for me. We left for school, leaving my parents and brother at home. We cut across the school ground, going in the north entrance. The bomb fell just as we entered. Suddenly it was dark. I couldn't stop to wonder about the cause.

The darkness cleared a bit. Kazuko and I went outside and found the ground engulfed in flames. Our classmate, Ms. TAKAGI, had been badly burned. She staggered towards us. I asked, "Who are you?" and she replied, "Takagi." Just then, two female teachers ran over to us from the school building. With Ms. Takagi in tow, we all got into the river. Back then, stairs from the back of the school ground led right to a river. Going into the river and the high tide saved us. But many people called for help as the river swept them away. The fire was so intense. We had to keep our heads in the water to avoid being burned. Sparks rained down from the school windows.

I have no memory of it, but before the black rain started, Kazuko and I left our teachers, got out of the river and went back to the school ground. We were stumbling across the ground when the black rain began to fall. I don't remember whether our teachers had told us to go on ahead. It was impossible to go anywhere until the black rain fell and the flames lessened.

We got a ride on a truck to a place offering shelter in a suburban town. We stayed there for a week. We couldn't eat. Even water made us vomit. We ate so little, our worried host sent us to try food made by people cooking on the river bank. I still couldn't eat, but after a week I was able to get out of bed for a little while.

Kazuko's father came to pick her up. He invited me to come with them. Just then, my next-door neighbor came and told me not to go with people who weren't related to me, so I stayed behind. She also offered to show me the remains of my house. We went, but all that was left was the air-raid shelter. There was nothing else. Looking at the scorched earth made me think that if my father had been at work in Mukainada, he would still be alive. But it was a blackout day so he was at home.

Looking back, usually people think more about what to do, but I just couldn't think. I was only 11 and in too much shock to be able to think for myself. Our teachers said to get in the river, so I did. I don't know how Kazuko and I got out. As we stumbled along we met a woman who lived two doors from me. She told us to get a ride on a truck. We obeyed, but I had no idea where we were going. 

【In Kure City with her Aunt】
My next door neighbor, Ms. FUKUI, offered to take me to stay with relatives if I had any. She took me to my aunt in Miyahara, Kure. I think I wound up being a nuisance to my aunt. My cousin was already working and earning money. She gave good food to my cousin, but all I got was rice porridge with a few grains of rice floating on top. I was never treated as well as others.

I had to wake up early to clean the house. After breakfast, I couldn't leave for school until I'd finished the dishes. The teachers were nice to me. One student from each junior high school was invited to visit the Occupation Forces, and they recommended me. The soldiers gave me canned food and other things. My aunt was pleased when I brought them home. Otherwise, she treated me as a nuisance.

I had no energy. Everyone thought I was lazy. I didn't have a fever or pain, but I was always tired. I told my aunt but she didn't understand. But my cousin said I had to finish junior high, so they let me go to school. Around the time of graduation from junior high, I was sent to work at a beauty salon.

【Subsequent Health Problems】
I always feel so tired. I'd think I was OK, but then feel so tired. But even if I explained, no one understood. While I was staying with my aunt, my hair started falling out. It didn't stop until I was bald. My aunt gave me a hat to wear. My hair started falling out just after the war ended. I was still a child, so I didn't mind. If you went to Hiroshima, there were lots of bald people. But in Kure City, I was the only one. Boys often teased me. My aunt would scold them, but otherwise she never stood up for me.

In 1967, I was admitted to Hiroshima University Hospital for stomach pain. They wanted me right away. After many tests, they found a tumor the size of a rice grain in my pancreas. The tumor was in a place where many blood vessels come together. I wasn't told, but the doctor told my husband he wasn't sure if I would survive, even with surgery. My husband asked him to operate anyway. Two or three days after surgery, my pulse stopped and I lost consciousness. They called to me and I woke up. So I survived.

Nineteen years later, in February, 1987, I had thyroid surgery. I went to the hospital for my thyroid. They said I had Hashimoto's thyroiditis. In 1998, tests showed I had colorectal cancer and so they removed 30 cm of my large intestine. In 2001, I had surgery in two places to remove meningioma brain tumors. Then, in July, 2004, I had surgery to remove a tumor from my back. The tumor is gone, but I still have pain. I still take morphine every day. I think it is all due to the atomic bomb. It's hard, but as long as I am alive, what can I do?

【Tracing the Past】
Professor Yuzaki from Hiroshima University did follow-up surveys on A-bomb survivors. He is dead now, but he found out many things for me. Professor Yuzaki invited me to go to Hiroshima. There we met the woman who had been living two doors away from me before the bombing. My mother had told her that my brother had burned to death right before her eyes. The woman had taken refuge in the same temple corridor as my parents. She offered to bring my parents food and they asked for tomatoes. When she brought some the next day, my parents were gone. They must have died. That's all I learned. I was probably 42 or 43 when I visited Hiroshima with Professor Yuzaki. We couldn't find the house where I first stayed.

Professor Yuzaki asked if there was anything else I wanted to know. I asked him to look for my friend, AOHARA Kazuko. He contacted me a week later and said that Kazuko had died about a week after we separated.

When I attend the memorial service for A-bomb victims, I always think how good it would have been if my parents had survived. What's done is done. For a while I hated America. None of this would have happened if they hadn't dropped the bomb. But, that's just how it is.

For a long time, I didn't tell anyone that I'm an A-bomb survivor. Some people say that survivors are contagious and give us strange looks. There was an A-bomb survivor in the same hospital as my mother-in-law. I asked, and she said she hadn't registered for A-bomb medical assistance or told her husband she was a survivor. There are many survivors like her. When you talk about it, people look at you strangely. I kept it a secret for a long time, too.

My husband told me that people ask him why he had married a contagious woman. After that, I asked him not to tell anyone about me. It's been 42 years since we married and my husband hasn't gotten sick, so I must not be contagious.

Gradually it has gotten easier, but for the first 40 years or so, few people understood our situation. In the 1990's, I began to tell my story in many places. More and more people showed understanding, especially after the Chernobyl accident.   

Children are not like adults. They can't decide what they should do by themselves. At Honkawa Elementary School and other places I always say, "Please pass my story on to others. Remember that war must never be repeated."

The hardest part is when I think about why all these things happened. AOHARA Kazuko passed away a week after the war ended. We were together when the bomb fell, and escaped together, but I survived and she didn't. I wonder why I'm still alive and others are not. I think maybe it's because God wants me to share my painful experiences so that nuclear weapons will be abolished.

Translation: Yurie Benjamin, Akiko Ogawa
Supervision: Ronni Alexander
Coordination: NET-GTAS (Network of Translators for the Globalization of the Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors)




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