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Hiroshima: A survivor tells her story

Yoshiko Kajimoto was aged 14 and working in a Hiroshima munitions factory when the atomic bomb was dropped on the morning of August 6, 1945.

While all her family survived that day, radiation would kill her father a year later and radiation illness would confine her mother to hospital for 20 years.

Yoshiko Kajimoto was 14 at the time of the blast.

Yoshiko gave up her dream to train as a teacher and had to work instead to earn money to raise her three brothers.

She’s now 85 and a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Hiroshima was the site of the world's first atomic bombing. Credit: ITV News

Here is her account of the day the bomb fell on her city:

I had arrived at the factory and was working (making propellers for warplanes) when suddenly I saw a white-blue flash light up the sky.

I thought it was a direct hit on the factory. I realised I might be dying right then. I covered my eyes and ears the way we’d been trained. The moment I ducked under my work table I felt such a force I thought the whole world had exploded.

Then I heard the explosion and it felt like my insides were going to burst. My memory stops as my body was lifted into the air... I blacked out.

– Yoshiko Kajimoto
Yoshiko's father died a year after the blast due to a radiation illness and her mother was left infirm.

The factory was two storeys and made of wood. I was buried under the debris as it collapsed. I was out for four hours. When I came to I heard my co-workers screaming for help.

I could barely move. I thought I had broken my arm. The pain reminded me I was alive. I imagined burning to death. How agonizing would it be? How would anyone recognise me if I was charcoal? Then I noticed a friend was nearby. So I pulled her legs to wake her up and together we wriggled our way free. One of my legs was caught under a wooden beam. I cut myself badly escaping.

After we came out there was nothing. The buildings all around had gone. I looked towards the city and it wasn’t there any more.

We tried to free friends trapped in the factory. It was so scary. Hiroshima was full of dead bodies. Skin was hanging off people. Eyes had popped out. It was horrendous. I hope no-one else ever sees such horror. I made myself busy. I had no time to cry.

We evacuated north of Hiroshima for three days. Then I heard that my home was still okay. On my way back there I ran into my father, who was out looking for me.

It was a pure joy. Normally he was a strict father, but on this occasion he hugged me and burst into tears.

– Yoshiko Kajimoto
US President Barack Obama paid his respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Credit: Reuters

Commenting on today’s visit by Mr Obama, she said:

I hoped he would be here earlier in his presidency.

He can't bring back my father or mother, but I would tell him to abolish nuclear weapons so such evil can never happen again.

I used to think there should be an apology, but now I realise he has to think about his own country too.

Rather than apologising, I just wanted him to come to Hiroshima. If an apology was a priority it would stop him coming. So an apology is not needed, for me. I just wanted him to be here.

For 10 years after the war I hated America. I hated the Japanese government too. My father was dead and my mother was in hospital. I had to work my tail off to look after my brothers.

However, time passes. I became a parent. Gradually I began to forget the hatred. My life became more important.

These days I have American friends. I like all countries, including America.

Japan did terrible things in Asia. And there was Pearl Harbor. Japan is not only a victim, it’s also an offender.

– Yoshiko Kajimoto