A-BOMB GIRL AND PEACE CAMPAIGNER – PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM HIROSHIMA WESTERN HONSHU 01ST DECEMBER 2001
A-Bomb Girl to Peace campaigner. Miyoko Matsubara a very beautiful lady and survivor of the bomb released high above Hiroshima on the morning of 6thAugust 1945. The mental and physical scars still show as she recounts the tragedy that befell the city and it’s inhabitants early that clear autumn morning as she looked toward the sky before seeing the fatal flash of light that all too easily and in the blink of an eye swept everything aside. At the time the twelve year old Miyoko a seventh grader at a girls junior high school had been about one and a half kilometres away from the hypocenter helping demolish wooden houses creating fire breaks along with other students in her group. The sky was perfectly clear with the temperature warming as the autumn sun rose higher into the early morning sky. At 7.09 the air raid alarm sounded only to sound the all clear 22 minutes later at 7.31 bringing a sigh of relief to everybody as they went back to work dismantling their appointed rows and blocks creating wide avenues between the houses providing escape routes and fire breaks should there be an attack. With her friend Takiko and her other two group members Miyoko continued picking up roof tiles and pieces of wood suddenly Takiko shouted, “B29 do you hear that, I hear a B29”, Mikoko looked up disbelieving Takiko but still searching the sky for any sign until there high in the sky she could see the silver silhouette of the B29 with it’s white vapour trail cutting the deep blue heights. As she looked shielding her face with her hand she spotted Little Boy, three meters long luminous against the deep blue sky falling, quickly she lay on the ground looking back in time to see the flash and covered herself in time before hearing the deafening roar thinking the airplane had aimed directly at her. One and a half kilometres away and five hundred and eighty feet above the ground little Boy explodes sending out fierce heat rays and radiation bursts creating a living hell in its wake igniting people as easily as the wooden houses most of the inhabitants of the city lived in as the surface temperature in the vicinity of the hypo-center rises to nearly 4,000 degrees centigrade.
Regaining consciousness Miyoko awakes to find the bright sunny morning shrouded in a dusty dense mist unable to see even an inch in front of her as the worlds first nuclear night now wrapped around her. Takiko who had been standing next to her had simply disappeared, now as she lay in the rubble on her right side Miyoko realised she was completely alone. Coming to and confused she rose to her feet and for the first time notices her injuries. She sees her hands the skin burst and swollen nearly three times their normal delicate size, all over her body her skin is peeling and hanging down in shreds some areas bleeding while others have already turned yellow from bruising and radiation.
All that was left of her jacket was the upper part around her chest her baggy working trousers had were completely gone leaving only the waistband and a few patches of cloth leaving her standing covered in her rags and the now dirty white underwear that had probably protected Miyoko from certain death…terror struck her and she clambered across the rubble and burning landscape frantically trying to leave the scene forgetting all about the heat and pain as she tried to head for home. Walking through the changed landscape Miyoko walked amongst ruins of people in the mid-night morning the majority almost naked their skin and flesh burnt, blistered and molten many holding their arms like ghosts aloft in front of them, agony, fury and pain in their face’s as many cried out for their mothers to help them. In the sweltering heat her body burned unbearably, she decided to make her way to the river clambering through the rubble and charred remains through the burning acrid smoke of Hiroshima and her people before arriving at the river bank to find people already in the waters shouting and crying out in pain wishing for a relief form the nightmare surrounding them some occasionally loosing their footing being carried away on the current some floating some sinking joining the countless dead bodies, badly burnt bodies, bodies mutilated some with their intestines exposed already being carried on the flow of the Enko. With Hell on Earth before her Miyoko leapt into the water saving herself from the searing heat
Rebuilding of the shattered and devastated landscape was to take many years but rebuilding the lives of the survivors has taken much longer if in fact it will ever be complete. Immediately the Japanese began to shy away from the ‘survivors’ because of its focus on those left alive may be suggestive of some slight on those ‘sacred dead’. Instead those who survived where quickly referred to by a more neutral name, ‘Hibakusha’ or literally ’explosion affected person’. For years Miyoko and other ‘Hibakusha suffered physically emotionally and financially as the government refused to help them not wanting to take responsibility for the “heinous acts of the victorious United States”. Moreover the ‘Hibakusha’ were discriminated against by potential employers as many survivors seemed to suffer from a lasting sickness that made the victims weak, dizzy and in many cases aggravated by a feeling of oppression. Miyoko recalls her isolation with tearful eyes as she tells of simple bus rides where people would move as she sat down or look checking as they entered the bus choosing to sit or stand away from the girl with the scars sitting amongst the empty seats.
Today Hiroshima is the international city of peace and Miyoko one of it’s leading ambassadors along with the Horoshima Maidens. If you visit it’ll be very hard not to shed a tear.