When the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, the city's Dohashi district, just 800 meters from the hypocenter, was strewn with countless bodies. Students who had been dismantling a building in preparation for air raids lay collapsed on top of each other. In the burned remains of one home, four or five adults around a table had been turned to skeletons.
Takeko Nabara, a survivor of the bombing who was then aged 15, went to the place where her home had been, and saw a metal chair and her younger brother's kendo mask warped like pieces of candy. Her father, buried under charred debris, had died.
Nabara, who is now 84 and lives in Kobe's Chuo Ward, wrote to the Mainichi Shimbun recalling the sights she saw in Hiroshima the day after the bombing.
"In any case it was a hellish scene, and it was impossible to stay balanced," Nabara said.
At the time, Nabara was in her third year at a girls' school. Mobilized for the war effort as a student, it had been her normal routine to commute to a military factory. But "that day," Aug. 6, was her first day off in a month, and she had gone to the beach with four classmates instead. The beach was about 3 kilometers from the spot over which the atomic bomb was about to explode. As she entered the water, there was a flash of light. "Great cloud rings, doubled up, spread out, sparkling," Nabara recalls.
In the spring of the previous year, to avoid air raids, Nabara had gone with her mother and four siblings to live at her aunt's house in the suburbs. But her 40-year-old father, a dentist had been designated as a first-aid team leader and he remained at home.
"He was a good-natured, doting father," Nabara recalls. When he received some peaches and chocolate from an officer who visited his clinic, he contacted her, inviting her to drop by on her way back from the factory to enjoy them. In the evenings, he would turn up at her aunt's home and have dinner with the children. On the evening before the atomic bomb was dropped, she saw her father off at the train station and said goodbye to him. The moon was beautiful that night.
The day after the bombing, the body of her father couldn't be retrieved from under the charred remains of the home. Her mother retrieved only a small piece of his skull and wrapped it in a piece of cloth. They embraced, crying.
"He must have been sad to leave five children behind," Nabara says.
After the war, Nabara was taken by relatives in Shimane Prefecture, who raised her. She felt lonely living apart from her younger siblings, but as the eldest daughter, she couldn't bring herself to complain to her mother.
Nabara went on to marry a prefectural government worker, and raised two daughters. Last summer, she visited Hiroshima for the first time in a while. Her husband died three years ago, leaving her to live alone, and she had wanted to see her father. In the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Nabara faced a photo of her father.
"War means killing each other, and in the end, it merely results in the families left behind suffering hardship and tears. Only sadness remains," she said. (Story by Takayasu Endo, Osaka City News Department, photo by Taichi Kaizuka)
(This is part five of the six-part series)