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KOTANI Takako(KOTANI Takako) 
Gender Female  Age at time of bombing 6 
Recorded on 2012.10.10  Age at time of recording 73 
Location at time of bombing Hiroshima(Direct exposure Distance from the bombing hypocenter:2.5km) 
Location when exposed to the bombing Minami-machi, Hiroshima City [Current Minami-ku, Hiroshima City] 
Status at time of bombing Elementary student 
Occupational status at time of bombing Minami Elementary School 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

KOTANI Takako, age 6, was in Minami-machi, about 2.5 km away from ground zero at the time of the bombing. Her younger brother, 4 years old, suffered from burns all over his body. He died 4 days after the bombing with the words, "Planes are scary, aren't they? Water is delicious, isn't it?" Encouraged by her older sister who said, "You have been blessed with health so that you can pass on the stories of the people who died seeking water",Takako uses ventriloquism to share her experience of the atomic bombing with children.

【Life Before the Atomic Bomb】
My father was in the Navy, so we lived in Kure City. I was born there and stayed there until I was 5 years old. He went off to war when I was 5 years old, became ill, and died upon returning. His home was in the city of Hiroshima, and only my grandmother still lived there. My whole family moved there in March, 1945. When we lived in Kure we always had our air-raid hoods close at hand. Firebombs would come raining down in the middle of the night, so we had to be ready to jump into the air raid shelters. We really had the sense that we were living in a war. But I was surprised to find that when we moved to Hiroshima it was quite peaceful.

【August 6】
The weather was perfect and the sky was clear and blue. Since we were planning to evacuate the city at noon we had everything packed up. The truck was supposed to come at noon, so my siblings and I went off to swim in a nearby river until it was time to go. It was then that we heard the sound of a plane. We all looked up at the sky. "Is that a B-29," we wondered, but the plane soon flew away. There was no air raid siren so we figured it was fine and ran off again. I became thirsty and went back home alone. As I was drinking a glass of water in the kitchen, the window suddenly lit up brightly. "Boom!" There was a deafening sound and I was trapped underneath the collapsed house.

I’m not sure how long after that I heard Mom desperately calling out our names. I finally managed to call out "Mom!" She came and rescued me. Since I was only in 1st grade, my body was small. I was caught in between a collapsed pillar and the wall, and just had a few minor scratches. "Where are your sisters?" my mother asked. "They went swimming," I answered. Mom had me sit on top of the wreckage and told me not to move from there. My surroundings were in such disarray that I couldn’t even comprehend what had happened.

By that time, Hiroshima was already consumed in a sea of fire. Everyone suffered from burns. Their clothes were completely burned off and their skin was hanging from their bodies. I crossed the river at Miyuki Bridge and headed to the front of my house. Near our house the river was too wide for the flames to cross. Thanks to that I managed to survive. Evacuating people came to the front of my house pleading, "Water, water." They stuck their heads into the cistern with water for fighting fires and died, piling one on top of another. As I looked on in a daze, people stuck out their hands begging for water, but I was too small to be of any help.

I had no idea what had happened and could do nothing but watch. My mother managed to find my older sister and brother, but my sister’s entire body was covered in burns. My brother had been protected by the shadow of the house and was not burned. But his head was cut by flying glass and he was covered in blood. My mother had them lie down on the wreckage and told me to watch over them. She then went off to search for my younger brother. My grandmother had been talking with the neighbors at the time, and came home with burns. My younger brother had been blown away by the blast, and it was a long time before my mother finally found him and returned. My brother's face was completely blackened and my mother wiped it with her shirt. Even now I cannot forget how the skin on his face came off and hung down.

He remained unconscious until the morning of August 10, four days after the bombing. My mother gave him some water. After a mouthful he said, "Mom, planes are scary, aren't they? Water is delicious, isn't it?" and died. In the summer heat the body would soon begin to rot, so my mother placed my brother on a pyre of wreckage she had gathered and cremated him herself. I stood next to my mother, watching. My mother didn't say a word as she cremated him and then buried his ashes. But I think she went off by herself and cried. How painful must that have been for her.

【The Horrific Situation after the Bombing】
I saw a carpenter covered with blood. He had been using nails that were torn from his hand by the blast, piercing his body. "It hurts, it hurts, pull them out!" he screamed. He was right next to me. The blast was so strong he had nails sticking out of his entire body.  We had no medicine or anything at all, but my mother said, "If we go home we can at least give him some water." The whole family got on a cart, and I pushed it from behind and we took him to our home.

We had a well with a pump at our house. Mom fetched a jar of salt from the kitchen, dissolved it in water, and had us all drink it. We gave the water to many neighbors and to people who had collapsed on the street. Apparently there was an official notice stating "You must not give out water." But my mother let many people drink the water. I gave people water, too. People tried to quench their thirst and cool their bodies by jumping into the river. Many of them died and their bodies floated on the surface.

After a while, soldiers arrived to collect the bodies. Soon flies swarmed around the dead bodies and they became infested with maggots. It was in the middle of the hot summer, and the stench was overwhelming. The soldiers loaded the bodies onto their trucks and took them to the riverbank where they poured gasoline on them and lit them on fire. I think the children who died must have wanted to see their parents. And I think their parents must have wanted to know where their children had died, too.

【Remembering Mother】
Mother was running around searching for food. At home there were still clothes left in our dressers, so she took them to the countryside to barter for food. She finally got some food and headed home, only to have the police confiscate it at the train station. At that time the police were extremely strict. Mother tried so hard and walked so far to get food for our family only to have it taken away.

Of course after the war ended, food was still scarce. Our paltry rations consisted of one rice ball. One time, a soldier who came to clear the streets patted me on the head saying, "You poor thing." I think he must have had children my age back home. He took some crackers from his bag and gave them to me. I was so starved for food that I was delighted and ran to tell mother. She said, "That nice man gave you food that would take a whole week's worth of work to obtain. Be thankful and savor it." "He chose to give that precious food to you." I can't forget those words even now. After the war the kids that had evacuated the city returned home. However, almost all of them had lost their parents and families. They became atomic bomb orphans. Those children had been staying in a refugee camp in Ninoshima. People who suffered from burns were staying there as well. Despite having her hands full looking after her own family, mother would make time to go to Ninoshima and look after orphans. I said, "Instead of looking after other people's children, why don't you pay more attention to me?" I was healthy, so I was left alone. Mother responded, "Don't be selfish. When it gets dark outside, you have a mother who will come home to you, don't you?" "No matter how long those children wait, their parents will never come home." I was still small, but these words had a great impact on me. My mother taught me to be a person who always thinks of others, regardless of the circumstances. My mother had to take care of my family, so she worked and worked and worked.

I noticed she often bled from her gums and the frequency with which she suddenly took to her bed increased. Around 1950 or 1951, an increasing number of atomic bomb survivors were diagnosed with leukemia. When I was in 6th grade my mother died of leukemia. She worked until the day of her death. I still had my grandmother and three siblings. My mother had managed to repair our dilapidated house. I had a place to live. I had my grandmother and siblings. So I was among the more fortunate. I started working at a beauty salon when I entered middle school. There were no washing machines at that time, so my job was to hand wash the towels and clean the shop. I was happy to work at the beauty salon because they gave me dinner. I really looked forward to that. My older brother delivered newspapers and my older sister worked in a clothing store and went to night school. We gave our earnings to our grandmother. I was happy to do it. We were all working hard together as a family, so I never felt that we were unhappy.

【The Effects on Children】
I went to Tokyo and worked during the day while studying to become a kindergarten teacher. My dream came true. I worked for 33 years until my retirement. During that time I married and had 3 children. I was healthy so I did not talk about the bomb so much to my children. When my daughters were in their twenties, they both started having problems with their thyroids at the same time. Their necks got swollen and they lost weight. I didn't have the slightest idea why they both became ill at the same time like that. Even though I received a heavy dose of radiation, I never thought much about its effects.

When they got married, both of my daughters asked their future husbands, "Do you mind that my mother is a hibakusha?" I had tried to forget it, but this made me remember that I was a hibakusha. I thought my youngest son was healthy, but last year he got tonsillitis and had a high fever. At the hospital they told us his white blood cell count was 12,000 and his life was in danger. He needed to be hospitalized immediately. After a month in hospital he got better and was discharged. But then six months later he became sick with the same symptoms. Recently I have come to believe strongly that my three children are suffering from the effects of the radiation to which I was exposed. I couldn't do anything for them, despite it being my fault that they became sick. Even now, they have their thyroids screened every year. I want the government to think more about the second generation hibakusha.

【Giving Testimonies】
When I was working at the kindergarten I learned ventriloquism. That was 35 years ago. When I participated in a national competition in Hiroshima, my instructor told me to tell stories about the atomic bombing. After my mother died I had maintained an absolute silence regarding the atomic bomb. Since I am so healthy I felt that if I talked about the atomic bomb, it would be an affront to the people who died and the people who still struggle with illnesses. I felt it wasn't right for me to talk, because I did not know true suffering or pain. But my sister, who was suffering more than anyone, told me, “If nobody talks about it, it is all going to be forgotten.” “I was badly burned and every day I thought that today, or perhaps tomorrow, would be my last day. I had no idea of what was going on around me." "Even if I'm told about the horror, I can't really know what it was like, but you saw everything, didn't you?" “Maybe you have been blessed with health so you can tell the world about the people who died and all the people who were begging for water.” Hearing my sister say that was a relief. It made me realize that I had an important role to fulfill. So now I will go anywhere. I am willing to go anywhere if I can have an opportunity to speak and to tell people about what happened.

【Narrating Through Ventriloquism】
Kids say “It's easier to understand” when I speak through a puppet. It's painful to hear about the atomic bomb. The puppets say things like, “Poor thing,” “That's right,” “It hurts, doesn't it.” The puppets help the audience by speaking for them. Today, I believe there are about 3 people in Japan who use ventriloquism to speak about the atomic bombing. Kids give me letters after performances, and reading them gives me great encouragement. A girl wrote, “I will study hard to join the United Nations and free the earth from war." How touchingly pure. The boys write things like, “I don't like wars” and “I don't want my family and friends to die.” I get a lot encouraging messages saying things like, “I don't want such things to happen again so we must get rid of wars. We will do it.” I think I have given them an opportunity to think about these things and perhaps I have done something meaningful. What made me happiest was having kids tell me they would share my story with their parents. That made me happier than anything else.

【Towards a Peaceful World】
I attended the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs as a representative of Chiba Prefecture. The mayor of Namie City and two high school students from Fukushima Prefecture also came to the conference. "We cannot return home anymore. There are still many people who live in the gymnasium with no bath and no freedom." "Give us back our home," the high school students said. "Electricity can be made without using nuclear energy." "Please help us to find a way to protect nature and the environment without using nuclear power." The words of people with first-hand experience are powerful. They made me cry. I came to the realization that even though my influence is small, I need to continue telling people about the atomic bomb. So now I actively participate in peace-related activities in Yachiyo City, Chiba Prefecture.

Translation: Students of the class "Nuclear Issues through the Translation of Hibakusha Accounts," Yokohama National University, Fall 2017.
Translation Supervision: Ronni Alexander and Kenji Hasegawa
Translation Coordination: NET-GTAS(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.
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