On August 6, 1945, first-year students of First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls High School had been mobilized for building demolition works* near Dohashi, approximately 800 meters from the hypocenter. Due to the atomic bombing, many students were killed on the spot instantly or went missing. Students who managed to escape from the site were running through a burning city with their bodies terribly burned and wearing only fragments of clothing. In the end, all the approximately 220 students who had been at work died.
In this section, the last diary logs kept by three first-year students of First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls High School on the day before the bombing are presented. The diaries that were distributed to students on the day of the entrance ceremony were intended for writing about things at school and home and to be submitted to the teacher by class. Students vividly wrote about their daily lives in their own original styles, even during the war, for a short four months from the first day when the students were brimming with hope. Their diaries show the students’ similar daily lives, even on August 5, just like those on other days. On August 6, the next day, however, a single atomic bomb cut off the future of many children, and nothing was entered in their diaries on that day.
*Works to remove buildings in designated areas of the city in order to create firebreaks in preparation for air-raids. On August 6, the special district guard corps, volunteer citizen corps, and mobilized students were engaged in building demolition works from early in the morning.
Etsuko Kumamoto, Class No. 5, First-year student
“August 5 Sunday, Sunny
Got up at 5:00 a.m., Went to bed at 9:30 p.m.
Learning time: 3 h. 50 min., Today’s chores: Washing, heating the bath, cleaning up to help my mother and grandmother, and clearing the table
I got up very late this morning. Since there was no school today, I leisurely cooked rice and enjoyed it with my family. Thinking about my mother, I worried about her.”
Her father Takashi cherished this diary for a long time.
(Summary from her father’s memoir)
“She left home and said goodbye, wearing her monpe trousers and straw hat with her shoulder bag. Who could predict that this would be a last farewell?
… At 11:00 a.m., I waited for her but she hadn’t returned home. In the burning hell, I searched for her everywhere in vain. At 6:00 p.m., I returned home in despair and hopelessness. Then I visited my relatives’ house, and they told me, “Etsuko-chan is here.” I had never felt happier than I did at that moment.
However, she was in a miserable state, having gone blind and her whole body swelled up. Still, she could barely talk. It was a father-child dialog only relying on our voices. On the morning of the 7th, the next day, a mysterious phenomenon suddenly happened. Etsuko’s blinded eyes opened! “Etsuko, can you see?” “Yes.” “Can you see dad?” “I can.” After she had a mixed expression between happy and sad, her condition took a sudden turn for the worse. Then she finally departed from this life at 10:15 a.m.”
Mutsuko Ishizaki (then, 12) was exposed to the bomb at her building demolition work site and went missing. Although her father Shuichi (then, 42) searched for her in every area day after day, he could not find her anywhere.
“August 5 Sunday, Sunny
Got up at 5:00 a.m., Went to bed at 9:00 p.m.
Learning time: 2 h. 30 min., Today’s chore: Wiping
(omitted) In the afternoon, I went swimming with Ms. Konishi. I felt miserable thinking that everyone could float in the water really well, while I couldn’t swim at all. But today was a good day. I will keep doing my good deed for the day.”
Her mother Yasuyo (then, 37) sometimes read the diary Mutsuko left behind, and cherished it until she died.
School uniform found in the burnt-out ruins
This is Mutsuko’s school uniform, which had been made from the fabric of her father Shuichi’s kimono, worn by Mutsuko (then, 12) on the day of the bombing. Since it seems to have been placed neatly folded in the shadows, the school uniform escaped being burned away. Around August 20, Shuichi found the uniform under roof tiles that had piled up at her work site in Dohashi. Her mother Yasuyo (then, 37), who could not go search for Mutsuko due to her injuries, waited for her daughter to return home, but broke down crying when she saw this school uniform brought back by her husband, since it meant she had to accept that her daughter was no longer alive.
Tomiko Umekita, Class No. 4, First-year student
“August 5 Sunday, Sunny
Got up at 6:02 a.m.
Learning time: 4 h. 3 min., Today’s chores: Babysitting, cleaning, sweeping up, heating the bath, washing, and clearing the table
(omitted) Today, Michiko was happy because I put her in the bath. With our mother, she gets an earful whenever she splashes. With me, we can splash together. She stayed in the bath well enough, floating her toys in the water. We ate udon noodles for dinner. Since I seasoned the udon soup, my father and mother told me that it was delicious.
Reflection: Anything can be interesting when I do my best.”
After Tomiko died, her parents did not talk much about her, but her mother Akie (then, 34) had kept her diary and illustrations, which are Tomiko’s mementos she had left at home, and cherished them for a long time.
Illustration, one of her mementos, left at home
This is an illustration created by Tomiko (then, 13).
(Summary from her mother’s memoir)
“On the morning on August 6, I don’t remember exactly when but in my memory it must have been from 6:30 a.m. to around 7:00 a.m. when Tomiko left home as usual with her emergency pack and hoe, wearing her school uniform.
…After the atomic bomb was dropped, despite my husband's search for Tomiko here and there that day and on the morning on the 7th, she was still missing. On the morning on the 8th, seeing a message on the message board of First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls High School, he learned that Tomiko had escaped in the direction of Koi. But when he rushed to find her, he was told that Tomiko had already breathed her last in the morning when it was still dusky. According to my husband, she was wearing her senior’s yukata.”
“Things to keep in mind when entering data in the diary”
These instructions, indicated at the beginning of the diaries, include “Valuing and looking back on your ‘today,’ think over what you have done and admonish yourself in order to improve yourself day by day. The important thing is to enjoy recording your daily lives.” Students wrote about their daily lives with an abundance of originality.
(Part of the contents)
“Today” is a precious day we will never be able to experience again. Our “soul of the day” must equal our “improvement of the day.” It would be a pity if this precious day were abandoned like a page from a page-a-day calendar and never looked back upon. Considering and recording our daily lives means not only preserving the vestiges of our days of yore forever but also leading to self-discipline for a better life and a shortcut for improving our writing skills. In this way, reflecting on ourselves, devoting ourselves, admonishing ourselves and enjoying ourselves, we will record our daily lives.
(Excerpt from the opening paragraph of “Diaries of First Hiroshima Prefectural Girls High School”)
contributor — Takatoshi Kumamoto, Noriko Ueda, Shuichi Ishizaki, Michiko Umekita
creator — Yoshio Hamada, Hidehiko Okazaki