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Interview, HASHIMOTO Yoshiko, June 2011, part 1

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I was born in Kamezawa-cho, Honjyo-ku, Tokyo. I was 24 years old when I experienced the March 10 air raid. I had a baby boy then. His name is Hiroshi. I'll show this to you later. Anyway, I had a baby boy then. -- What's his name? -- Hiroshi. I had three younger sisters. We were the four sisters. At that time, I was 24 years old and Hiroshi was a newborn baby. My second sister Chieko was nineteen and was working at a munitions factory called "Hitachi factory." My third sister Etsuko was eighteen years old. And Hisae was the youngest. She was thirteen. Etsuko and Hisae were the students of Otsuma Girls' School in Tokyo. In wartime, however, schoolgirls had been mobilized to produce weapons at factories, and had not been given enough time to study at school. Therefore, the girls rarely went to school at that time. They would go to work at factory from home day by day. I was the eldest daughter of my family. In those days, the hereditary system was dominant in Japan. As I was the eldest of my sisters, I was brought up as my parents' heiress. So I took a man in marriage. Succeeding to a house was the convention in Japan at that time. I got married like that. At that time, the Japanese army advanced into the oversea land, Vietnam. They were stationed in Vietnam and my husband-to-be was also sent there. Just after they returned from Vietnam, the army was disbanded. Then he came home and we married. Three months after we tied the knot, however, he was called into the army again. We had tough days soon after our marriage. As my husband was conscripted, we were separated. Then he came back and I became pregnant at last. That baby whom I conceived was Hiroshi. As I mentioned earlier, my parents had four daughters and had no son. When my baby boy Hiroshi was born, my parents loved him so much. They were overjoyed with the birth of a baby boy in the gloomy wartime. My family members enjoyed watching his growth day by day and were living peacefully though we were in straitened circumstances. We were a happy family. My father had been running a knitting mill in that area. After the war began, however, he could no longer import wool from abroad because the Japanese transport ships were all destroyed by enemies. As he couldn't get any wool, it was impossible for him to continue his business. Moreover, we had to produce war supplies. Therefore, the knitting wool manufacturers were all mobilized to war plants. It was wartime in which people could never afford to engage in producing sweaters, so my father's factory also had been shut down. He must have been discouraged. My husband had been employed in the packing industry then, just as he has been now. Unlike the knitting business, it dealt with ordnance and thus was a prosperous industry. My family was in such a situation at that time. After he was conscripted three months just after we got married, my husband returned home and our baby was born. Then he was drafted again. That time he was called up for guarding Tokyo. The task was known as "keibi-shoshu." As the war was drawing to an end, it was evident to us that it would definitely be a losing battle. We all no longer believed in our nation's victory. Again, my husband was called out. He was assigned to a guarding mission at a school. So only my parents, younger sisters, baby, and I had been living in our home. Though we felt helpless, we were getting along somehow. Then March 10th came at last. -- Could you please tell me about your pre-March 10th daily life, especially the matter of air defense? -- At that time, each family dug an air raid shelter. People created shelters near their house, in town, or everywhere. Whenever air-raid warnings were given, citizens had to enter the shelters according to rule. The preliminary alert would be issued at first. Then it would change to the air-raid warning. Air-raid warnings would tell us that B29s are coming over. Whenever we heard those warnings, we would take refuge in shelters immediately. We had to do so because it was a rule. Men also would go outside and try to get such items as water supply for firefighting, or some duster for beating sparks of fire. With those items, we would be on constant alert. -- Were the air raid sirens often heard? -- In those days, we formed neighborhood associations in our town. The heads of each group would walk around the town beating buckets or something and crying, "An air-raid alarm has just been given!" Radio was also used to broadcast the air-raid alarms. We would usually know the warnings on the radio. -- Did everyone have radios at that time? -- Yes. Most families owned a radio. On the radio, I often heard the official announcements of air defense alarm or of its cancellation. The buzzing sounds informing us of danger were also frequently heard, and our town got much more busy. Most people didn't try to flee in the direction of Tokyo, and remained in their air-raid shelters. -- Since the beginning of 1945, how often did you hear the air-raid warnings in a week? -- I heard them everyday. -- Everyday? -- Yes. At night,...well,... In 1944, which was the closing stage of the war, Saipan and Guam fell into the U.S. hands. As the U.S. army constructed airfields on those islands, the distance between Japan and the U.S. grew smaller. Therefore, two or three B29s came flying almost every night. The bodies of B29s could just be seen so small like this because they were flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters. Japanese aircrafts couldn't reach such height, could it? -- Exactly. -- The B29s came flying almost daily. They sometimes appeared in the daytime. Whenever the B29s turned up, the preliminary alerts were issued and then the air-raid warnings were given. Hearing those alarms families would all take cover in air raids shelters. -- So, did you enter the air-raid shelter everyday? -- Yes. I remember that we called the B29s "teiki bin (regular flight)" or "B-ko" (=insulting expression of B29). As the B29s came over us day in and day out, we never feared them. We just thought, "Oh, they've come again." -- How was your daily life? Can you explain about getting food? -- Regarding food, we were in a severe situation at that time. -- Can you explain that in detail? -- As these data also show, a distribution system had been enforced in those days. As controlled goods were distributed, we couldn't get any article of good quality. The main article was rice. It was very hard to obtain good rice. Do you know "genmai (brown rice)"? -- Yes. -- Genmai would be supplied to us. Delicate people, especially those who had weak stomach, had difficulty in eating it. They'd eat brown rice after pounding and sieving its rice bran with bottles. Anyway, our staple food was brown rice. As a side dish, vegetables and fish were supplied to us. We had to pay the bill for our rationed food. We had ration books, though. -- Were there any rationed articles for babies? -- Well, this is my passbook for pregnant women and nursing mothers which I received at that time. It's what is now called maternity passbook. The administration office of Tokyo would send that to women who had just given birth to their babies. Without the passbook, women couldn't even get any milk for babies. We had a lot of difficulty in obtaining a bottle of milk because we had to get approvals of the head of our neighborhood association just for buying canned milk. First, a doctor would examine a mother and check if she had breast milk for her baby. If the doctor found that the mother had no breast milk at all, he would stamp the paper which showed his approval of the distribution of milk for the mother's baby. Aside from a doctor' approval, a mother had to obtain the consent of the head of her neighborhood association, and also that of the chief of the ward in which she lived. After getting those approvals, the mother could obtain a can of milk at the distribution station at last. As this picture also shows, babies were very thin and weak in those days. Anyway, a passbook was provided for each pregnant woman and nursing mother. That showed a list of rationed articles including diaper covers and any other goods. Without the passbook, we couldn't get those rations. Meanwhile, the government issued pocket books for the cultivation of the new soldiers. That was called "tairyoku techo (health record book)." Our government adopted this pocket book for the health care of men to make them strong soldiers. It describes, "This pocket book will be used so that the Japanese citizens' health could be kept under the control of the Government..." They use the word "control." It also writes, "...the Government will provide this for you to make you a excellent subject of our Empire." If people didn't fill in the pocketbooks, they were to be punished. The government was very strict. As for me, however, I was always running about trying to escape from the air raids carrying my baby in my arms. As I had no time day by day, I seldom tried to record my physical information in my pocketbook. That was our daily life. We were under the control of our government. We could only get food and daily necessities through the distribution system. The government controlled everything including vegetables under the distribution system. The food ration for each person per day was regulated. A family of eight could have only a half portion of a carrot of this size. That was the portion for eight members of a family. Aside from carrot, we managed to have about 5 centimeters of a Japanese radish for eight members of our family. Anyway, the food share per person was quite small. As for spinach, we couldn't have a bundle. A bundle of spinach is so big like this. Only a stalk of spinach was shared among us. That was all the share of vegetables which were provided for eight members of our family per day in the last years of war. When we went to countrysides for food and goods hunting, those articles which we purchased would be confiscated by authorities on our way to home because citizens of Tokyo were forbidden to visit the countryside in those days. Therefore, the food situation was quite severe for my family. My young sisters all had such good appetites, and we also had a baby. We really had a hard time in food hunting. At that time, everyone was thin. No one was fat. In the last stage of war, the enemy's air raids began under such an exhausted situation of our country. Therefore, it was quite inevitable that Japan would be defeated even if our enemies would never attack us. I really think now, "Why did they have to make air raids on the exhausted Japan?" -- Did young women or families with babies have any particular worries? -- We were full of worries. First of all, students were not allowed to study and had an obligation to produce weapons at factories. Also, we never received special food as rations. Still, we were desperately believing that we should win the war for our country by all means.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 40 seconds
Year: 2011
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 550
Posted by: japanairraids on Aug 18, 2011

Interview with HASHIMOTO Yoshiko, survivor of the March 10, 1945 firebombing of Tokyo by the United States Army Air Forces. Posted by

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