Elinor Benjamin, Storyteller
This page contains our correspondence with Reiko Kajitani, a remarkable woman we met in Shimonoseki. My replies have been edited to remove some of the more mundane details of our daily lives. It is Reiko's story that we want to tell. y husband is photographed with Reiko in her favorite sushi restaurant in Shimonoseki. Reiko asked me to "tell my story and tell people - no more atomic bombs".
A grammatical note: In Japanese they do not use definite or indefinite articles nor plurals as we understand them. I have generally made no edits to Reiko's English, which is excellent. Occasionally I have made an edit where the meaning may be a little unclear and have put my change in [ square brackets].
Letter #1 from Reiko - Received in June 2001
Do you remember me? I met you at the bakery in Shimonoseki. After we said SAYONARA, I felt that I forgot to say something very important. You said you would go to Nagasaki. I forgot to ask why. Did you visit Nagasaki to know or to see about Atomic Bomb?
Iíd like to tell you about my experiences of Atomic Bomb I had in HIROSHIMA. In 1945 I was 19 years old and I was a college student in Hiroshima. In those days students had to work at the munitions industry. We worked very hard to make weapons. On the 6th of August, 1945, that abominable day at 8:15 in the morning we students were in the meeting room of the factory. We were chatting about things to tell our friends. We chatted on and on. Then someone cried "B29". We looked at the plane in the sky. It was in the blue sky with a beautiful vapor trail. It was drawing a big circle. Then I saw a small black ball coming out of the plane. Then the big flash ... Some one screamed, "A [FLARE]". There was no moment to say, "NO, ITíS NOT." A huge BANG came.
... There was an unfilled space in my memory. I donít know how long it was. I felt I was drifting in the dark air, or walking slowly into the dark hole. It was a very strange time. Then I heard weak voices around me, and the voices became louder and louder. The voices brought me to my senses. I found myself falling down on the floor far from the place where I had been.
The factory where I was working was 4.1 kilometers far from the center of the explosion. All the windows were broken. There were fragments of glass all around. Some students sitting near the window were injured.
We students didnít know what happened in Hiroshima, neither did our teachers. Only what we could imagine was that plane might drop the bomb. Going out of the meeting hall, I came to the bank of the river with my friends. There we saw a big cloud growing up from the ground. It became bigger and bigger and shaped a huge mushroom or ... I must say "TOADSTOOL".
"What is that?" I said to myself looking at the big mushroom. "Maybe the B29 bombed an armory in Hiroshima city. But which part of the city?" No one knew what happened. I though THIS IS THE WAR.
At the meeting, a teacher told us the city of Hiroshima was utterly destroyed. So the students should go home now. We were told to make a group to go home together. Our group was made up of about 25 pupils or more. (I donít remember the number exactly.) Miss Kanzaki, PE teacher, was our leader.
Well, Elinor, may I continue my story of A-bomb? When we came out of the gate of the factory, we saw many many wounded people walking slowly. It was a terrible and horrible scene. They were burned black and their burned skin were hanging down from their bodies like rags. They were walking quietly toward their homes. Their hair was standing on end with anger. They lost the words to speak out. That was a silent procession. They looked absent-minded but their eyes told us the anger. I couldnít stare [at] them long.
My house was in Itsukaichi, the suburbs of Hiroshima. We had to pass through Hiroshima city to go home. Miss Kanzaki decided to take a hill side way and followed her. On the way we saw many people dying, but there was nothing to eat except a small piece of tomato. Miss Kanzaki had two tomatoes that day, so we divided one tomato into twelve pieces. It was the sweetest tomato I have ever eaten. Iíll never forget the taste.
About nine maybe (I didnít remember what time it was), we got to Koi station. There we were served a glass of cold water and some Kanpan, a kind of biscuit.
It was so late that we decided to stay with our friend living there. Her house was broken. It had no windows and doors. [It was] full of broken furniture in the house, but we could have a little room to lie down. From her house we could see Hijiyama burning. Hijiyama was very far from her house, but nothing obstructed the view. Hiroshima was utterly destroyed indeed.
Lying on a tatami mat I thought of my family. Did my father survive? How about my brother? They were supposed to be in Hiroshima. I spent an uneasy night. I got up at five and soon we started going home.
Itsukaichi, where I was living was a bed-town of Hiroshima. Many of the people living there went to Hiroshima to work or to study. It was quite a distance from Koi. We walked and walked again. In the town I saw many people waiting for their family, wishing for their safe return. When I came near my house, a lady recognized me and ran to my house crying "Reiko-san came back Reiko-san came back."
I followed her running. I burst into tears. Tears flowed down my cheeks without stop. My father was waiting for me at the gate. As soon as he saw me he ran toward me and hugged me tightly. Mother came out running. We three hugged tightly crying. No words came out. All of my family had returned safely. My father said that he [was in the] black rain at Koi station but he didnít have any injuries. That was luck I thought for my [family was] all safe. Though my house was broken, I had a house to living in with my FAMILY, I told myself.
I had no time to rest. There were many wounded people coming from Hiroshima asking for help. They escaped with nothing but the clothes on their back. We had to help them. There were many things for young people to do. We got together in the temple. First we had to prepare their food. We cooked rice and made rice balls.
The injured were taken to the nearby school and town office. We had no big hospitals in our town then. We delivered food to them. But few people could eat it. Their [burned] skins began to rot and had a bad smell. Flies flew around them worms came out and in from their skins. That was the most terrible scene that I had ever seen. " HELL! NO! MORE THAN A HELL!" I thought.
They could not speak a word. Only I could hear the groans of the injured. What could we do for them? I didnít know what to do. We had no medicine and no doctor.
When I came home two families from Hiroshima came to live with us. One of them, a lady, came to rely on my father. The lady was a daughter of an owner of a big restaurant my father knew well. She alone survived. She came with her friend. The other was a shoe maker. He took his wife and a daughter. His daughter, a five year old girl, was injured. She [was burned] all over her body.
My mother took up her old UKATA, a KIMONO for summer made of gauze, and made bandages out of it. She disinfected them by boiling. She quickly did it, and gave her mother the bandages and a phial of ointment for burns. The little girl lived for three days moaning about her pains. That morning she was sleeping soundly. So her parents were away from her for some time. I was in the next room and heard her speaking to someone. "Look, a butterfly is hovering. Mom, hereís another one. Mom. Come. Hurry, beautiful flowers! Pick some for me," she said and died. I was surprised at the scene. My eyes were willed with tears, and I thought that was a beautiful and wonderful death.
A great many injured died and we had to burn the bodies to ashes by ourselves. We had a very hard time. On the 15th of August the war ended, but the hard time continued.
I had a large family, my parents and their seven children. My parents had to feed their children. The government rationed food during the war, but it was not enough for a large family. Mother planted many kinds of vegetables in the garden. She was very good at growing tomatoes, pumpkins and cucumbers, and we ate weed that we could eat. When I was sick in bed, Mother made some juice made of medical herb called DOKUDAMI. I drank a glass of the juice every day. Mother said to me that it would take the poison of the A-bomb away from my body, and I believe it.
Weíll Iíll stop writing her. ĎThough 56 years went by, there have been many tragedies since then. Iíll write it again, maybe next time. I am afraid if you [will not] understand my broken English. If you have a chance to tell children you story, please them "No more Hiroshimaís or Nagasakiís."
Reply #1 - June 23, 2001
Of course, we remember you. Meeting you was one of the highlights of our visit. We speak of you very often. Everything that happened to us in Shimonoseki was quite magical.
We are deeply honoured that you would tell us your story of your experiences in Hiroshima. All the time that we were on the streets and buses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we kept looking at people of a certain age, and wondering how many of them had been there in August of 1945, and had been through those terrible times. We were so sorry we knew so little of the language. Even if we had been able to speak Japanese, one cannot really ask strangers on a bus such a hard question. At the museum they had videotapes of survivors telling their stories, and we watched a few of them. I donít know why it didnít occur to us that we might meet someone in Shimonoseki who could have told us of this terrible experience. I suppose if we had been able to stay a little longer, you might have told us, but now you have written it for us anyway, and we are greatly moved and inspired by your story. It was so beautifully written. Your English is not "broken". Everything you must have been feeling came through to us. We have been reading your letter aloud to everyone who comes to visit our house, and I know I will be telling it to many, many people. I am planning to make a little internet web-site about our travels in Japan, and I would very much like to make your story a part of it, if that is alright with you. For me, your story has now become inseparably linked to the story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoitchi. Hoichi. who was telling the story of the Heiki people who had also perished in a terrible way, and not so very far away from Hiroshima, either.
Of course, our main interest in visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to visit the museums and memorials. In the museum, we saw pictures of a munitions factory, and now realize that it was probably the one where you were working. Nothing could bring the events to us more clearly than to read your own story. What was most surprising to us was to see how well the cities have been rebuilt, and are thriving today. If it were not for the museums, and the determination that the world must not forget; if it were not for the survivorsí stories, it would be too easy, in a city as beautiful as Nagasaki, to be unaware of what happened. While I was reading all the letters from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the two museums, the idea came to me that I would like to join them in writing protests to heads of state, too, whenever there is another atomic test anywhere, and so I bought a lot of postcards of the Atomic Bomb dome to use for this purpose. I believe that every world leader should be required to visit these museums at least once. I think they should all be required to read the work of Dr. Takashi Nagai as well. I would like to know more about him.
From Hiroshima, I also sent some postcards to the children in the schools I visited to tell them about the story of Sadoko Sasaki, which I think is quite well known to many children in Canada. I have known this story for many years, because our little theatre company in Corner Brook put on a play of the story a number of years ago. A group of us who volunteer with the theatre met one morning to make paper cranes to hang t in the theatre lobby during the play; then when the play was over, we sent the cranes all to Hiroshima. There was a Japanese student visiting Corner Brook on an exchange then, and she showed us how to make them.
The rest of our travels in Japan were wonderful, as well, but in retrospect, we find that our day in Shimonoseki was one of the most memorable. After two nights in Nagasaki, we returned to our friends in Kawanishi City, then went on to visit Fuji-san, Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa briefly, and then back to Kawanishi again. There was a delightful young woman working at the tourist information desk in the prefecture office at Nagasaki. It turned out she had lived in Canada for several years and thought it great fun to be able to help a couple of Canadian tourists. In Tokyo, the highlight was an evening at Kabuki-za. They have head-sets with English commentary and some translation, so were able to enjoy it at a much higher level. How I wish we had more Japanese, for I know we missed a lot, but we will keep working on it. We do hope to return again one day, if we can afford it, and if I can face the two days of airplanes to get there. It is really quite an exhausting process, as you know. It has taken me several weeks to get back into my own time-zone.
We are sending you a few photos. Perhaps the next time you visit the Uohide (?) sushi restaurant, you will bring our greetings to those charming gentlemen, and tell them how much we enjoyed their sushi. It was the best we had ever eaten anywhere, and we loved their restaurant with its beautiful wooden and marble counters and the wooden devil on the wall. Here is a funny coincidence. Our favourite sushi restaurant in Calgary is called Reikoís. Once again we thank you for the wonderful sushi experience.
There is a picture of us at the museum in Nagasaki in front of the exhibit of childrenís art. We were amazed by the mosaic pictures made from paper cranes, and a beautiful quilt with fabric cranes. The fish market picture is at the Kanazawa fish market. It was a wonderful market, but not quite as amazing as the one in Shimonoseki. We had fun there, though. All the merchants kept wanting us to try what they had. I think they like to tease westerners to see if they can find something that will make us say "Ugh!". They couldnít. We tried everything they offered us. We got up too late to go to the tuna auction at the Tokyo fish market. We will have to save that for our next visit.
I will close this letter for now. I hope you will tell us more about what happened after August of 1945. I wondered how your father got on after being in the black rain at Koi. And I wondered about the herb dokudami. How did your mother know about it? It must have done some good, for 56 years went by and you look very well indeed. We look forward to hearing from you again.
With love from
Letter #2 from Reiko - Received in July 2001
Donít you think there was a strange, mysterious power among us? I was pulled into your story of Mimi-nashi-Hoichi, and the name of Lafcadio Hearn bound us together. That was magical incident indeed.
Thank you for the pictures you have sent me. Iíll take two of them to Uohide-Suchi-Shop. They will be glad to have the wonderful pictures.
Dokudami has been known well as a Chinese herb in Japan. We can easily find and pick them in a field or a roadside. The smell of dokudami is not good, but it has been said that it is good for health and it neutralizes a poison. So, my mother had known it. At that time there were a lot of dokudami around us, but in two or three days they were all gone. How we have dokuadmi tea. I sometimes pick them and dry them to make tea.
The next question you asked me is about my father. How my father got on after being in the black rain at Koi. At that time he was a Hiroshima branch manager of Morinaga & co. Ltd confectionary company. I suppose that there would be about 60 staff members in his office, and he was the only survivor. In the ruins of his office he could gather about ten personsí ashes. So, I suppose others were on their way to the office. One of the staff named Anpuku died in the shelter. He was on his way to the office. When my parents went to see him, they could hardly recognize him. He had burns all over his body and he died the next day.
Back to my father. He seemed to be quite all right. He had not time to rest and had a lot of things to do. After the war ended on August 15, four staff members returned to Hiroshima as demobilized soldiers one after another. My father was very glad to see them again, and soon they began to work to rebuild their office.
As they had no house to live in, my father rented an inn in Itsukaichi. We five families got together to live there. The house was big enough for five families. We helped each other and shared anything. Though that was a very poor life, it was the most wonderful time for me. [No more] war for us. PEACE! We can sleep at night. We could [have light} in the house openly. De you understand this feeling?
Anyway our new life started in the new house. Well, Elinor, I have an unbelievable story to tell you. The office in Hiroshima had a big sturdy safe. A young woman in the account section used to put away money and the important papers in the safe, and she put some glasses of water in the safe for fire prevention. Before leaving her office, she filled the glasses with water. When my father found the burned safe, he was very surprised to see almost all of [the papers had remained safe].
My father and the staff began to work to rebuild their office. They lived together and worked together in the same house. They said the important papers remaining after the fire were very helpful They worked very hard to rebuild their office.
My father retired after working six years. He returned to his hometown, Shimonseki. Those days he was troubled with his [scalp]. He had some strange tumors on his head. There was no good medicine for him. When a doctor found cancer on his upper jaw, it was too late. He died of cancer on the upper jaw. He lived to the age of 82. I donít know about the causal relation between his sickness and the A-bomb exactly, but when we burned his body to ashes, half of his skull was left black. I thought the black rain had remained on him to the end.
After returning to Shimonoseki I became a junior high school teacher. You know Shimonseki was also air-raided, and half of the city had been burned down with incendiary bombs. Around my grand-parentsí house, two houses remained, my grand-parents and the [house] next door. In my garden we have a very big tree called KUSU (I donít know the English). The tree protected our house from FIRE. When the fire came near to the house, the tree spouted out water. This is what my grand-father told me. He said that he sometimes wanted to cut it down because it became too big to keep in a small garden, but he loved it so much that he could not do it. The tree is older than I. It is standing grandly as if it knew everything. I love this tree.
After working 31 years as a teacher, I felt so tired that I decided to quit my job. I was 57 years old then, and I found that I had breast cancer. I had an operation and rehabilitation. I am quite all right now. Many people of my age have died of cancer, so I can not say there was a causal relation. But I can say there are many more people who have had cancer in Hiroshima than in Shimonoseki.
Now I live with my sister and my brother-in-law. My sister is 13 years younger that I. We have an old do and an old cat. They are nice. Please tell me about your family. Do you have a pet? Next time Iíll write about my elder sister who became a nun. She died last November. Writing a letter in English is difficulty for me. It takes me a long time. Iíll stop writing here and say SAYONARA.
Please say hello to Ronald.
Reply #2 - Sept 10, 2001 and Sept 12, 2001
Sumimasen! I have taken so long to reply. Your letter must have arrived just after we left to go to Nova Scotia for my fatherís 80th birthday and 2 family weddings. We were away for three weeks. It was my fourth trip to Nova Scotia this summer, as there had been three unexpected trips in June and July for funerals of two aunts and an uncle. When we got back home to Newfoundland in the middle of August, we had to rush with our house renovations to get them all done before we went back to work. We had a new ceiling and a new floor put in the kitchen, and I painted it all. Then, there was work to be done in the bathroom. It is all finished now and all the furniture, and pots and pans are put back into the right places. Life is finally returning to normal, and I can start to relax. So can our three cats. They get very upset when anyone moves their food bowls away from the normal place. One of them was hit by a car while we were still away, but he was kept at the veterinarianís and by the time we got home, he seemed to have recovered totally. I was so worried until I actually got to see him. All our cats are "alley" cats who have found their way to us. We never have to go looking for them. They find us. We also have a fourth cat part-time. He lives next door, but spends half his time with us, even though our cats are mean to him.
I wish I could read Japanese so you wouldnít have to work so hard at writing to me. I know how that feels, as I have a friend in Italy who does not speak English. It takes me a long time to write to her in Italian, and I feel like I am writing "baby-talk". Your English is so good. It must be because you are a poet.
By a happy coincidence we had two young Japanese people staying with us for about six weeks in July and August. They were travelling around Newfoundland and were looking for a place to stay in Corner Brook so they could stay awhile and learn something about our life here, and we were looking for someone to stay in our house and look after our cats while we were away. It was a perfect arrangement, and we got to eat some wonderful Japanese food again. I read your letters to Misako and showed her all our photos. She says she really needs to get to know her own country better, and do some more travelling in Japan. She was so amazed by your story and hopes to meet you someday, so I gave her your address. Her name is Misako Maki and she lives in Yokohama. She has never met anyone who is a hibakusha. There are a number personal stories of hibakusha on the internet and I found one for a Setsuko Iwamoto who was 13 years old at the time and had been evacuated from Tokyo to her grandparents house in Itsukaichi where she was attending Shintoku (?) School. Her grandmother, too, used dokudami leaves and salt on her infected burns and she drank a great deal of water, and she survived. Maybe these stories are published in Japan, too, but it is good to find the English translations on the Internet, so I can tell the children where to look when they are studying about the war.
When you said how wonderful it was that PEACE! finally came and you could sleep at night and have lights in the house openly, you asked if I could understand. I am sure that I can never really fully understand what a relief that must have been, but I know that whenever I hear the English singer Vera Lynnís song "When the lights go on again all over the world" it makes me sad and happy at the same time. I know what an important thing it was for both my parents to know the war was over, even though they did not have the terrible task of rebuilding a ruined city. I know Vera Lynn really was singing that song for everyone all over the world. What a feeling it must have been! There is nothing in my life that could be anything like that.
[Here I have omitted three long paragraphs about my parents and Ronís and his two brothers, and their various heath problems, and the difficulties of travel to see distant family members from eastern Canada.]
Sept 12, 2001
I took a little break from this letter and the world seemed to go crazy. I have finally made myself turn off the terrible television and radio news and put on some peaceful music and try keep my mind off it for a while. Another Hell on Earth. It is so distressing that there never seems to be an end to evil. I used to live in New York and I love the city and the people very much. I just hope that the saner American people will prevail, and not let President Bush listen to the crazy people and do something stupid and dangerous for the world. I donít trust him. I have checked that my friends who work in New York are safe, although they want us to stay off the telephones so that the lines can be kept free for the stranded air travelers, so I havenít called my friend near Boston who flies from that airport almost weekly. Over ten thousand travelers have been diverted to our four airports in Newfoundland when the American airports were shut down. Most of them had to spend at least part of the night still aboard the planes, as they have so few customs and security people available here. The townspeople involved have done everything they could to fix up temporary shelters and find enough bedding and towels and food. They bussed some of them in to hotels in Corner Brook. There were quite a few foreigners at the shopping mall this morning when I went up there. One lady was travelling from Kenya back home to Washington. We seldom see such exotic travelers here, except when we get a couple of cruise ships in each summer.
I will soon start to work in the schools and am trying to learn a few new stories and get myself organized, and do some much overdue housework, and throw out some things. I donít know where all these things come from, but whenever I get rid of one garbage bag full I feel like it is a little victory. I am looking out the window at our 60 year old apple tree. It is diseased and I know that we will have to take it down and it makes me sad. We had a second one that toppled over in the wind two winters ago, so this one really needs to be taken down. I do hope that your kusu tree can be kept growing.
I think I will stop now as I am reaching the end of the 3rd page. I type now because my wrists hurt when I try to write by hand - even more than when I type. I am sure it is the fault of computers. I used to love doing calligraphy, and I hope that now that I have partly retired, I might be able to do it again, if I do the exercises to help my elbows and wrists. Each year, I seem to have more exercises for more different parts of the body. It is hard to keep them all up.
I look forward to hearing about your sister. I am sending a couple of clippings from the Halifax newspaper. We were in Halifax at the time of the 56th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
Ron joins me in sending our love.
Love from Elinor.
Letter #3 from Reiko - received in November
What a long silence! These day I have been busy composing haiku and practicing calligraphy. We have cultural festival at the public hall in Kokura in October. I have to write my haiku on a shikishi (a square piece of fancy paper) with a writing brush and Chinese ink called fude and sumi. And I have another exhibition held in November in Fukuoka. So I have to send my calligraphy work to Fukuoka, too. In this way I have spent my days pleasantly.
Well, Elinor, I feel very sad to know about your parents, especially your father. I know you are in the hard time now. It reminds me of the days when I was in the hard time. When I was 47 my mother weakened her heart. She was troubled with a bad cough all through the night. At that time I was working at junior high school and my sister, whom I live with now, was a senior high school teacher. So we did not have enough time to help her. My father had been with her and helped her all day long as your father does. My father was a gentle and tender-hearted man indeed. He died one year after this wife had died. I think he knew he had a cancer himself. But he didnít tell us about it. He fell down soon after the funeral of his wife. That time I didnít know what and how should I do for him. We couldnít be with him all day.
My home doctor said it was too late. There was no way for him to recover. But I wanted to know the best way for him to get rid of his pain. A name of maruyama vaccine flashed into my mind. Though it [had] not obtained the authorization yet, it had a good reputation as a painkilling drug for a cancer. And it was free from harmful effects. So I consulted my home doctor and my cousin who was doctor in Tokyo about it. I at last decided to give him the vaccine injection.
I asked the doctor how to inject. As it was a subcutaneous injection, it was easy for me to learn. I think it was a very good decision. My father soon got rid of the pain, and he could have a sound sleep and do almost everything by himself. Though I hired a woman, 65 years old, to help him in the day time, she said he did not ask her anything to do for him. He had wanted to do everything by hemself.
I think his life was wonderful to the end, and I am proud of my father. I wish I could have my last day as my father did whenever Iím think of him.
Well, Elinor, it seems another Hell comes to the world. Of course, we should fight against the terrorism, but I think President Bush has to keep a cool head and think over and over before going to war. The grudge bears another deeper rooted grudge I think. I donít want our world to be ruined. The earth is the only place that we can live. Man has to be wise enough to stop going down to Hell. Well, I want to say again, "No more Hiroshimas!"
I have to tell you about A-bomb now. When we were in the most difficult time in August in 1945, the newspaper said that any living thing could not grow for 70 years in Hiroshima, and that the women contaminated with radioactivity might be affected on their babies. The news gave me a great shock. I felt hopeless in my future. That time I suppose I was in some kind of trauma. Whatís the purpose of my life? Why should I live with no hope? And I began to deny the existence of God. I became pessimistic about the future. So when we found green weeds growing on the ground in Hiroshima, how delight[ed] we were! I felt we could see a dim light in the dark.
As I told you my family began to live with other families. That made me cheerful. They encouraged me so much. In April, 1946, I decided to go to college again. The school building was just a temporary shelter. No glass in the window but we had desks and chairs, and good professors. That was enough!
While I was going to school, the city of Hiroshima was under reconstruction. One day when I went to the black market, I heard someone calling my name. It was Tomoko Tateishi, my friend! At first I could not recognize her. She had a lot of scars on her face and wore a scarf to cover her bald head. All of her hair had fallen out! She told me how she [was able] escape from the fire.
At that time, she was living with her father in the centre of the city. Her mother and younger sisters were evacuated into the country. Her father was working for the law court as a judge. When A-bomb was dropped she was in the dining room, and her father was at the front door. He was going to go out.
They were crushed under the broken house by an enormous blast. Her father [was able] get out of the smashed house soon, but she could not. She was under a big pillar. She tried to raise it up again and again, but the pillar would not move. Then she heard her father calling her; she answered him with the sound of knocking. Her father tried to get her, he couldnít move the pillar, never even touched it. She heard him trying to move it again and again. Then she smelled something burning. The smoke came in.
She asked her father to run away, and said, "Donít worry, Father. Iím not afraid. You can [go] away. You have to [go] back to Mother and to help them" But he didnít leave there. He tried again and again to get her out. Then a lot of smoke came around and covered them. He said, at last, pouring some water toward her, "This is your last water," and got away. But he came back soon and he tried to take her out. She heard the crackling of a fire somewhere around her. When she could get out, her house was burning. They were in the fire. He took her out and the ran into the river.
"My father saved me," she said with tears in her eyes, "If he did not come back to take me out, I [would have been] burned at the stake [while] being conscious at the time.
Her story told me how the people were burned. They were burned at the stake [while] being conscious. I saw many half-burned people. They might have been able to get out of the smashed house, but how could they be out from the fire when whole city was the FIRE. And more the light of the A-bomb burned out the whole city. The light burned the people working outside. Only one bomb could burn the whole city and people living there. THAT IS WAR!
Though my friend Tomoko died five years ago, Iíve never forgotten what she told me. I could not see her again, but sometimes we talked on the telephone. She had been sickly.
Iíve stopped writing this letter so long. The war [has broken] out. That makes me so sad. A lot of good people will be sacrificed in this war. I have no words to say. The terrorism destroyed the world peace. We have to live with uneasiness all the time. I am afraid of biological weapon and chemical weapon. Those are very easy for terrorists to use, I think. And we have no way to avoid it. Terrorism is an unforgivable violence. How do the children living now on the earth think about their future? Can they have HOPE. I hope they could have peaceful life without terrorism.
Changing the subject, many migratory birds came to Shimonoseki, and MY KUSU gave them a nightís lodging. That was very nice. They gave me a very enjoyable time. They were singing their happy song! Well, I will stop here. It is eleven oíclock now. Good night!
Almost 10 years have gone by since we met Reiko. We have exchanged letters and cards at holiday times and photos. I have written to tell her of the amazing gift of 1000 paper cranes folded by Akiko Takahashi, one of our Japanese house guests, for me to take to my dying cousin in Halifax. Akiko worked secretly through the nights for a week to have them ready when to give me as a surprize when I started for the airport. They are still hanging in the house where my cousin lived, surrounded a a new generation young people. Inspired by Akiko, I gathered a group of friends to fold 1000 cranes to take to a friend who was undergoing difficultchemotherapy in Toronto. They hang in her kitchen to this day.Although I knew Reiko lived far from the area affected by the 2011 disaster in Japan, and was probably safe, I knew that she would be deeply affected by what we all saw unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear plant and wrote her to tell her we were thinking of her and all our friends in Japan, and had sent a contribution to the Red Cross. I told her we had run into a group of Japanese students of the Halifax market folding paper Cranes to raise funds for disaster relief, where my father made a contribution, too. She wrote back very quickly. >
Dear Elinor and Ron
I'm very glad to receive your letter, and thank you so much for your tender words you gave us, Japanese people, especially the people in To-Hoke prefectures. It makes us cheer up to rebuild the damaged districts.
I've never thought I would see "Hell" again in my life of 85 years.
The very big tsunami swallowed up the towns, houses, cars, ships, trees and many many people living peacefully in the town, at one gulp. I watched thetsunami on TV. It was a sight fearful to look at.66 years ago when I was 19 years old, I saw many people dying on the roadside in Hiroshima. The big mushroom cloud burned their bodies and the big city. I recall that day again, and the nuclear problem. I've been saying "no atomic nuclear's" on the earth. This time we have both Tsunami and Nuclear at the same time, and I can say it was caused by both natural calamity and man-made disaster. We have to think over and over again, when we make a new material, if it is tender to the earth or not. The earth is the only place for us to live. Now, in the damaged district, the young people rose up to reconstruct their town. I think it's wonderful. We Japanese united ourselves to cope with the difficulties. And more, many countries in the world help us. I am very much obliged to them. Now, I'm sure we can get through this crisis. Elinor, thank you again and take care of yourself.
With love Reiko Kajatani
Say hello to Ron and your father