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HIRATA Michimasa (HIRATA Michimasa ) 
Gender Male  Age at time of bombing 9 
Recorded on 2012.11.22  Age at time of recording 76 
Location at time of bombing Hiroshima(Direct exposure Distance from the bombing hypocenter:2.2km) 
Location when exposed to the bombing Ushita-machi, Hiroshima City [Current Higashi-ku, Hiroshima City] 
Status at time of bombing Elementary student 
Occupational status at time of bombing Kawauchi Elementary School 
Hall site Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims 
Dubbed in English/
With English subtitles
With English subtitles 

Mr. HIRATA Michimasa (9 years old at the time of the bombing) At that time, he was in Ushita-machi, about 2.2 kilometers from Ground Zero. He saw people with drooping skin and wild hair, so disfigured that he could not tell their age or gender. It was hell on earth. Mr. Hirata has a vivid memory of the crossties of an iron bridge burning. The damage caused by the atomic bomb was massive. It continues to inflict pain on the hibakusha. He says that nuclear weapons, which kill people indiscriminately, must be abolished.

【Life before the Atomic Bomb】
I was only 9 so I remember liittle, but I recall something called a ration ticket. My father was a smoker. He would rip some paper out of the English dictionary to wrap his rationed tobacco and smoke. In Hiroshima food was rationed and scarce. But we had enough food thanks to the help we received from various people.

Junior high school students remained in the city and engaged in labor service and bulding removal. Students in the upper grades of elementary school had to evacuate the city. If they had no relatives or friends to take them in, they had to evacuate as a group with their schoolmates. So, the elementary school students in third grade and higher all evacuated, either with their schoolmates or to their relatives or friends. I think younger children were told that if possible they should evacuate to stay with relatives or friends. Speaking of our siblings, I had two younger sisters. One was not yet in elementary school and the other was still a baby.  Because there were little children in my family, we decided to evacuate. We evacuated to a farmhouse at the bottom of an embankment, east of Asa-gun Midori-mura and Asagun Gion-cho. My family lived in the barn at the farmhouse. They let us stay on the second floor of the barn.

I don't think I studied much at all. The owner of the farmhouse was overseas fighting in the war. His wife remained at home. In the summer, we helped out by pulling out weeds and gathering edible grasses. In short, we were clearing the land. I have memories of clearing work, such as cutting down bamboo in the bamboo grove and lugging it away. I have little memory of studying for school. Of course, maybe I couldn't do it.

【The Morning of August 6】
During summer break, I returned home to Ushita-machi. August 6 was a hot and sunny summer day. After eating breakfast, we were talking in the living room. I think it was before my father went to work. We were sitting around the table and talking until around 8:15. Then, suddenly there was a tremendous flash. People refer to the atomic bomb as "pika-don." "Pika" is the flash. "Don" is the ensuing blast. Although it was already bright outside, I thought for a moment that it was a flare bomb. The flash came from above and illuminated everything. We were inside in the living room.

There was the flash and I was thinking, "What was that?" Just then, my father pushed me out of the room, through the hallway, and into our air-raid shelter in the yard. My father was trying to enter the shelter behind me when the blast struck. My father was struck by glass shards and other debris from the blast and was covered in blood. But he managed to get inside the shelter. That's what I first experienced.

【Devastation from the Bombing】
After a while, I went out and found that all the glass doors were shattered. The roof tiles had been blown away, and the pillar in the alcove was broken. I still remember vividly how the paper sliding door was perched on top of the ceiling beam. It must have been blown up there.  I eventually realized that everything around me was damaged. Regarding the flash, the houses in those days had wooden fences. When I went outside, I saw there were small flames on the wooden fence. The heat rays were hot, so I guess it is not surprising. In front of our house on the city side there was an expansive area of open land. A lot of weeds had grown and we had spent the previous days cutting them and putting them in piles. Those piles were smoldering.  After a while, the houses located close to the city began burning.

At that time, each house had a water cistern for preventing fires. We would conduct fire drills, using buckets to relay the water from these cisterns. It happened that our next door neighbor was a teacher at the Hiroshima University of Literature and Science. The teacher, my father, and I took the water and poured it onto the open space facing the city. We did what we had practiced in the fire drills. It was quixotic, if you think about it. We were only three people.  But we were lucky. First, the wind was blowing west, away from our house. Second, there was the empty land in front of our house. So our house did not burn.

Before the bombing we could not see the sea from our house. But when we came back to our house we could see the sea and Ninoshima. The devastation was so extensive. The whole area facing the city was completely burnt. There were many ghost-like people walking by the front of our house. You have seen the paintings in the museum, haven't you? They were like that.  Their skin was drooping down and you couldn't tell if they were wearing clothes or not. Their hair was standing up on end and you could not tell if they were men or women. You could not tell if they were old or young. They came one after another, a big crowd of people fleeing the city and heading toward the mountains. It was like hell on earth.

【To Mother's Evacuation Destination】
At first we could not go outside, but in the evening, we thought that Mother would be worried about us and decided to join her by walking along the tracks of the Sanyo Line. We started crossing the iron bridge. The crossties were burning. Everything made of wood was burning. The heat rays were that intense. I remember this vividly. By the time we reached Yokogawa-cho, there were some houses the fires hadn't reached yet. There were many people who were walking to and fro with wagons. I remember walking on this road toward the Kabe Line.

We left Ushita-cho around 5 or 6 and arrived around 7 or 8. There were people fleeing toward Kabe-cho so we assisted these people. I think it was around midnight that we ate. We ate and it was definitely after midnight that we finally slept. The next day, my mother was worried about our house in Ushita-cho and went to check on the house with my youngest sister on her back. There was glass and other debris stuck in the tatami mats. I remember going to the house every day for about a week to clean up and make room to sleep. Then the war ended. I listened to the emperor's surrender broadcast from the Kawauchi Elementary School playground. I think it was one or two days after that that we all came back home.

【Postwar Life】
We were living in Ushita-cho, so there was a brook nearby with cherry trees lining its banks.  When a typhoon came, the brook overflowed and our house was flooded. There were tatami mats floating around. The food situation was not very good either, until around the end of the year. We made a little hideout shelter at Mt. Futaba and exchanged goods there. As you may have heard, when the Occupation forces came, we children flocked around them saying "Give me chocolate, give me cigarette." In our shelter, we exchanged them for other things. Around Hakushima Elementary School, there were bones all over the place. They were bones of cremated people or people who perished in the fires. Looking back, it's terrible, but we played by throwing the bones and doing other mischief.

And at Kohei Bridge, the Engineers Supply Corps had a gunpowder storage site. I think the Occupation forces were in charge of the gun powder there. My friends and I entered through the barbed wire fence, took out the gunpowder, and burned it at Mt. Futaba. That was how I spent my days for about half a year after the bombing. I didn't really study at school and did whatever I wanted. When I entered fifth grade or so, we were able to resume studies at school. I think the windows were repaired by then. Until around that time, there were barefoot children at school.

【Effects of the Atomic Bomb and Discrimination】
When I was a high school student, I tried to donate blood. But I was refused. It was because my white blood cell count was too low. To this day, my white blood cell count is about half that of normal people. It's called leukopenia. Leukemia is when the white blood cells increase; leukopenia is when they decrease. This was when I was in high school so it was well after the bombing. At that time, people had little knowledge of the effects of radiation. I didn't know and neither did my mother. Maybe my father did.

In short, we were ignorant about nuclear energy. And there were many people dying with acute symptoms like hemmorhage, bleeding from the gums, purple spots on the skin, and hair loss. People thought it was a contagious disease. Many people never married due to discrimination. People would  warn others not to get too close to survivors, or say they were contagious. There were many people like this in Tokyo. Of course, there were many in Hiroshima as well.

【Horror of Nuclear Weapons】
There are two characteristics of damage from the atomic bomb. Wars have always existed. It used to be hand to hand combat or throwing spears. Then rifles emerged, and then missiles.  But even with missiles, it is only one blast. With atomic bombs, there is the heat that causes burns, there is the blast that destroys houses and causes injuries, and on top of that, there is the radiation. The difference between one and two shots is immense. The scale of damage becomes completely different.

The other thing I often talk about is continuity. In short, even after 67 years, some people still get sick with diseases like leukemia. There are no other bombs like this. And there are more than 16,000 such bombs today. The number has decreased from 40,000 or 50,000, but the bombs are much more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. You might not know this, but we are living in a war-ready world. Just like during the Cold War, missiles are deployed to be launched at any moment. So if there is a natural disaster like at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, or if a head of state mistakenly pushed the nuclear button, this will trigger the launching of 16,000 warheads.

I don't think many people are aware of this situation. People have pointed out the "safety myth" surrounding nuclear power. The situation is the same with nuclear weapons. For example, rust can trigger a disastrous launch. We are living in such a precarious world where everything can be destroyed by a single incident. I have been working hard to raise awareness to change this situation.

【My Thoughts about Peace】
When junior high school students come to Hiroshima from Tokyo, sometimes they ask about how people live here with the high radiation level remaining from the bomb. That is the level of knowledge they have. I have to tell them that 67 years have passed and there truly is no residual radiation from the bombing. Otherwise they worry. Some people even say it is dangerous to come to Hiroshima. Many people know that is nonsense, but there are still some people who believe such things.

People said that even plants wouldn't grow in Hiroshima for 75 years but this city has become such a good city filled with greenery. When I talk to junior high school students, I tell them, "You are sitting here. Suddenly, there is a flash. If you are near Ground Zero, you evaporate due to the heat." "You don't just get burns. It's not just like trees burning. Human bodies simply evaporate." I ask them if they know of the existence of such dangerous weapons. "No, that is unacceptable," is the usual response. I just want to transmit to them my desire to get rid of such weapons.

If we simply keep retaliating, nothing will change. We need to reduce and get rid of such dangerous weapons. We can't achieve this without bothering and involving everyone. Nuclear weapons are devastating and inhuman. They kill indiscriminately. I hope we can understand the current dangers of nuclear weapons and work together. I hope people will join in activities for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Production: Aeras co., ltd.
Translation: Students of "Nuclear Issues through the Translation of Hibakusha Accounts" (Yokohama National University, Fall 2019)
Translation Supervision: Ronni Alexander, 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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