国立広島・長崎原爆死没者追悼平和祈念館 平和情報ネットワーク GLOBAL NETWORK JapaneaseEnglish
HOME Read memoirs of atomic bomb survivors View testimonial videos of survivors Listen to narrated accounts of the atomic bombing Radiation Q&A

HOME / Search video testimonials / Select a video testimonial / View testimonial videos of survivors

Gender Female  Age at time of bombing 13 
Recorded on 2012.10.19  Age at time of recording 80 
Location at time of bombing Hiroshima(Direct exposure Distance from the bombing hypocenter:1.5km) 
Location when exposed to the bombing Hiratsuka-cho, Hiroshima City [Current Naka-ku, Hiroshima City] 
Status at time of bombing High school or university student 
Occupational status at time of bombing Hiroshima Girls Commercial School 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

SASAMORI Shigeko was 13 at the time of the bombing. She was in Hiratsuka-cho, about 1.5 km. from Ground Zero. Her burned and swollen face was black and flaky like burnt toast. Thanks to donations from many people, she had treatment in Japan and the U.S.A. She told us of her hope that everyone will join hands to help one another and act with courage to eliminate war.
【Life Before the Bombing】
Ever since I can remember we were at war. First there was the war with China. Then, World War II started when I was in my second or third year of elementary school. We had plenty of goods in the early phases, but gradually rationing began for things like food and clothes. Towards the end of the war food also became scarce. We would line up for bowls of hot water with daikon raddish, raddish leaves, and a small amount of rice. But even those rations grew increasingly scarce, and we didn't have much to eat. Our clothing was also rationed and distributed within the neighborhood. The situation was quite difficult.
【August 6th】
When the atomic bomb was dropped, I was in my first year at a girls' school. That day happened to be my first time as a mobilized student, and I was cleaning up the site of a newly-made firebreak. It was my first day and just as I was about to start working I heard the sound of an airplane. I looked up at the sky. On that day the sky was a clear blue and cloudless. The airplane gleamed with silver and the white vapor trail it left behind was beautiful. My classmate was next to me, and just as I pointed and said, "Look, it's so pretty," I saw something white fall from the plane. Almost simultaneously, I was knocked over by a tremendously strong force or blast. I can remember up to the time I fell over backwards.
When I regained consciousness, the area was completely dark. I could not see. I couldn't hear and didn't feel anything. I just knew that my surroundings were pitch black. And then as I sat there for a while, the thick fog thinned out and the darkness began to lift until it felt like dusk. Then it felt as if the sun had come out. I could see people wandering around. In the beginning, I was surprised to see that they were all bloody and their heads were covered with ashes. I was simply stupefied and did not notice that I was burnt myself.
I couldn't hear anything and I didn't feel any pain. In a daze, I simply watched all the people walk slowly by. Then I followed them to a place by the river near the Tsurumi Bridge. Many people were sitting or lying collapsed on the banks of the river. There were so many bodies and people in the river or drifting downstream that I could not see the surface of the water. There were bloodied people and people whose skin had peeled off. Most of them were naked. Even now, my heart still aches when I remember the baby with its mother whose skin was burnt pink. Although I didn't notice it at first, the baby suffered from burns as well and was covered with blood. The mother was desperately trying to nurse her child but the baby only kept crying.
【At the First-Aid Station】
I heard a voice saying, "Go to the other side of the river," and saw adults crossing the bridge. I followed them across to the opposite bank, to a place called Danbara. When I got to Danbara Elementary School, there were many soldiers and injured people. I thought this was a good place for me. There was a big tree in the middle of the schoolyard. "I remember sitting down under the tree and collapsing there, but I do not know when I was moved to the school auditorium.” The injured were packed together like sardines. When my mother found me, she was walking among them. She heard me saying, "I am here" in a small voice like a buzzing mosquito.
They say that my face was black and swollen like a football, my skin black and crusty like a piece of forgotten toast left burning in the toaster. I think that is the best way to explain it. Apparently my body was like that from my throat to chest to everywhere. And on my way home, I could feel my body shaking. In a daze, I remember hearing the people carrying me talking. "It's still smouldering over there," one said, and someone replied, "There might still be some bodies under there." Then I fainted again. I think I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I have no recollection of being placed in the mosquito net in my room.
【Being Cared for by My Family】
My hair was burnt to a crisp, so once we got home, my father cut it all off with scissors. Because my hair had been protecting my skin, my head was not burnt, and half of my forehead was all right, too. My ears and the sides of my face weren't burnt because of my bob cut. That's why my skin in this area is normal. Everything else was burnt, and it was so black that you couldn't tell where my eyebrows, eyes, nose, and mouth were. When they cut and peeled back the black parts that were in between the burnt and unburnt skin, they found oozing bright yellow pus that looked like the cream from cream puffs.
Of course, there was no medicine. Instead, they tore scraps of cloth into pieces, poured cooking oil on them, and used that to wipe the oozing pus. They would do this continuously. My mother said that she only left the mosquito net to go to the bathroom. My mother and father probably took turns taking care of me. The first time I saw my face was on a shard of glass\Nfrom the garden. When I saw it, I didn't think it was my own face, and wondered why it was there. When I realized that it was my own face, I was - how should I say this?  I was horrified. It was as if ice water had suddenly been poured down my back. My whole body froze in shock.
【Keloid Surgery】
Later, when I was well enough to go out, I was on my way to a friend's house when I heard some lovely music. It was coming from the Hiroshima Christian Community Nagarekawa Church. I was lured by the music to the front of the church. A person inside said, "Please, come in," so I did. I was not a Christian. I was very close to my grandmother, and often went with her to the Buddhist temple. All the people there were old. I was the only child, and I'd bring a cushion to sit on. But, when that music lured me to the church, I met\NReverend Tanimoto. From then on, I started to go to the church and at the age of 19, I became a Christian.
I had skin graft surgery on my neck. My chin had been fused to my neck by a keloid, so I had surgery to remove it. They took the skin from places like my stomach and legs. My fingers were also stuck together. Before I went to America I had an operation at the University of Tokyo hospital. Everyone always thinks that I only had operations in America. But the truth is, with the help of donations and the pastor of Nagarekawa Church, I was able to have surgery in Tokyo before I left Japan.
【Meeting Norman Cousins】
Around the time I returned from Tokyo after the surgery, a man named Norman Cousins had begun fundraising. It was for a moral adoption program in America to help the many orphans in Hiroshima. The funds were sent to Reverend Tanimoto and the Hiroshima Peace Center, and were used to build facilities. When Mr. Cousins came to Hiroshima in connection with that, he met us and conducted further fundraising. I heard that there were various objections. It was said that he was using his campaign to gain fame, or to make a profit by taking advantage of Japan's hibakusha. Because of these rumors, sometimes big companies would refuse donation requests. Norman Cousins and other volunteers raised funds by overcoming many difficulties. We were able to go to the U.S. as a result.
When the Hiroshima project was over and we had all completed our surgery and were ready to go home, Norman Cousins called us each into his office to ask us what we were going to do when we returned to Japan. When I was in the University of Tokyo Hospital, it felt good to be taken care of by the kind and caring nurses. So I developed a strong wish to become a nurse myself and care for people who are ill. I talked to Reverend Tanimoto about my wish and it was decided that I could go to Hamamatsu Hospital. When I told Norman Cousins about this he said, "Why don't you try becoming a nurse here?"
At that time, I was - how should I put it - naive, foolish, and shallow-minded. I had never really thought about my future or whether or not I wanted to study in the U.S. However, there were four little girls in the Cousins family with whom I had often played. All I thought about was that it meant I would get to play with them again. "When Mr. Cousins asked me if I wanted to stay with him, I told him I needed to discuss it with my parents and returned to Japan.
My father's response was, "If we were all going to die together, of course I would tell you to stay here." "But you are young. The decision is yours to make." Everyone in America had been so kind to me and all I was thinking about were the fun memories so, just like that, I went back to America. At that time, unless you had relatives in the U.S. you could only get permission for a short-term stay as a tourist. Outside of that, you couldn't go there unless it was work-related or under special circumstances. I was able to gain permanent residency because Mr. Cousins invited me to be his adopted daughter.
【My Message】
What I want to share is that what is most important is human lives. Of course you all know that human life is important. However it is how we live that is important. We cannot live by ourselves. The reason why I am alive and here today is due to what you would call love. It is all thanks to love. To put it simply, I think that kindness and love are the most important things. As long as we have these, there will be no wars. In the end, it is about love. Wars happen because there is hatred and because of all the different kinds of greed. But, if people care about one another and have love, there would be no fighting and no wars. That is what I think is most important.
The biggest cause of people dying or getting injured unnecessarily is war. I have a son. When he was born and the nurses brought him to me, I made a vow to this newborn child. "You were not born into this world to go to war and kill people, or to be killed. I will never let you go to war. I will do everything in my power to keep you from going to war." I vowed that he was born for this world, to help people, and that is why I would never allow him to go to war. Every parent feels the same way.
There is nothing more adorable and important than\Nyour own child. If everyone could hold this feeling of parental affection, wars would disappear. No matter how much people gather and march, chanting "no more war, no more war," world peace will never come. Unless people across the world stand up hand in hand, united with parental affection and the resolve to stop wars from happening, world peace in the true sense will never be achieved.
But, that does not mean I think that world peace will never come. It will definitely come. It has to come. This is why I tell young people with all my might: "This grandma cannot sit still. But it is your world. It is up to you to do your best." This is what I tell the students and children. In particular, I do not want to see small innocent children suffering from war and atomic bombs. That must never happen again. For that, I will do my best. Life. In the end, love is going to help save precious lives. But if you have love and only just sit there, nothing will happen. You must act. But to act, you need courage. Action is possible when you have courage. These are the three things that I want to tell everyone. This is a plea. Not a message, but a plea to you.
Translation: Students of "Nuclear Issues through the Translation of Hibakusha Accounts" (Yokohama National University, Fall 2016)\NTranslation Supervision: Kenji Hasegawa, Ronni Alexander
Translation Coordination: NET-GRAS (Network of Translators for the Globalization of the Testimonies of Atomic Bomb Survivors)

*Many more memoirs can be viewed at both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Halls.
*These contents are updated periodically.
△Top of page
Copyright(c) Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Copyright(c) Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction of photographs or articles on this website is strictly prohibited.