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NIHEI Haruyo interview, June 2011, part 4

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After the war ended, we had been staying at the home of my mother's acquaintance in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture for about half a year. The man had been operating a raw silk manufacturing factory on a large scale. At the time, however, he had no longer dealt in raw silk. Instead, he engaged in war industry. My father and brother worked at the man's factory probably because they had no money. There were a lot of workers at the factory. We were given one of the rooms for workers and lived there. I suppose my brother and father would get paid working at the factory. We had been staying in Okaya until the end of the summer just after the war ended. While we had been there, however, my father missed Tokyo so much and would say frequently, "I wanna go back to Tokyo." But our house was completely destroyed with bombings. Then, the factory owner Mr. Hayashi said that they had another plant in Mitaka, Tokyo. Do you know Mitaka? He urged us to move to Mitaka. That was not in Shitamachi area, though. The manager of Mitaka plant also provided us a room to live in, and we started working again at that factory in Mitaka. Therefore, I had to change my school several times. I attended school in Kameido. Also, I was obliged to go to school even when I stayed in Shimousanakayama just for 1 or 2 months. I also went to school in Ichikawa, Okaya, and Mitaka. It was my father's principle that kids should go to school in any circumstances. However, I would always be a temporarily enrolled student. I wasn't formally admitted to be in schools because we had no permanent address. I didn't have my textbooks or my satchel. Though I had nothing, my father told me to go to school by any means. At school, however, I couldn't understand my classes at all. I used to go to school unwillingly. I was also bullied by my classmates. They teased me saying, "Hey, you towner!" --Were there any other persons like you?-- Do you mean the burnt-out people? I don't remember that well. Probably there wasn't any. At any rate, I'd attend to one school only for 1 or 2 weeks. We had to move from place to place. It seemed that there were some kids who had been evacuated to those places. However, I'm not sure if there were any burnt-out people besides us. Even if there were any, they might have dared not to tell about their circumstances. Though we had to take lunch with us to school every day, we had run short of food. We could only get some beans, potatoes, or barleys. I would probably bring potatoes or something for my lunch. We would eat our lunches covering the contents of lunchboxes to avoid the eyes of others. As our lunches were quite small, we'd finish to eat them in a minute. Also, our clothes were ragged and we had no satchels nor shoes. We'd just wear the old straw sandals or something which we had received from others. While staying in Okaya, my father made a pair of wooden clogs for me. I remember putting the clogs on in a rapture of delight. As Okaya is a snowy region, the snow would get in between the teeth of my clogs and prevent me from walking. I had once come home in bare feet with the clogs in my bosom carefully. Also, probably when we were living in Mitaka, Tokyo, a local boy threw a lizard at me saying, "Hey, you're starved, aren't you? You can have it!" Meanwhile, in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, the residents would go to the mountains to mow the grass and for other purposes. As I was town-bred, I knew nothing about the works in the mountains. I didn't even know how to use a reaping hook. However hard I tried all day, I almost couldn't mow grass in the mountains. While other people would go home triumphantly with much grass they mowed on their backs, I could just manage to cut down a little bit. Carrying the small amount of grass on my back, I would walk home from the mountains weeping and being injured in bare feet lining up at the end of a line. My teacher would scold me, and the kids would tease me saying, "Oh, is that all the grass you've cut down?" And yet, there was also a tenderhearted kid. A boy, who had been regarded as a boss of the kids, said to me, "Hey, carry this on your back," and let me shoulder a large bundle of grass he'd cut down. Then he carried my small bundle of grass on his shoulder, and ran away somewhere. That's how I spent my days in my place of refuge. And, in Mitaka, Tokyo... -- How long did you live in Mitaka? -- I lived in Mitaka until when I was a fifth grader. In the spring when I almost would be moved up to the third grade,... well, I was a third grader while staying in Ichikawa. And then I lived in Okaya through my days as a third and a fourth grader. I was in fifth grade when I was living in Mitaka. In the spring when I was a fifth grader, we went back to our hometown Kameido as my father was anxious to do so. But in Kameido, we formerly had been living in a rented house. So when we returned there, we found someone had already built a house on that site. Therefore, our house no longer existed there. I don't know about our circumstances of those days but, anyway, a veterinarian had been living in our neighborhood. He owned a vast land. He served in the war as an army doctor and eventually was killed in action, if I remember right. Then his wife was evacuated to Yamanashi Prefecture. The couple had three sons and a daughter. The two eldest sons were university students at that time. They also seem to have gone to the front. I don't know if they returned alive after the war ended. Anyway, she came to see us. I don't know how she could contact with us, though. She urged us to build a house on one corner of her family's site, and gave us a partial of their land. It was more than 20 tsubo (app. 80 square yards), if I remember correctly. We built a barrack on that site and started living there. It was around 1948. I returned to the First Kameido Elementary School. As the school building had completely been destroyed with bombings, we'd study in an open-air shack. I would go there for 2 years. -- Did you meet your friends again there? -- No. Masao-chan, who would often crash the ice, Yuki-chan, the big brother of a kid who had returned from the place of refuge, and Masao-chan's brothers and sisters all lost their lives except the younger brother of Masao-chan. His name was Kinzo. He had been called by his nickname "Kin-chan." There were ten in his family, but only he and his father could survive the bombing. Besides, a boy who had been evacuated to the countryside also escaped death. He was finally reunited with Kinzo and his father. Meanwhile, our next-door family members were annihilated. The sole survivor of that family, who had been evacuated to Yamagata Prefecture, became an orphan. He was one year older than me. I never met my playmates again. After returning to our hometown Kameido in 1948, I used to play with my new friends or to go to school with them. They were the kids of newcomers who built their shacks in the burned ground and lived there after the war. As we were just kids, we became good friends easily. After settling ourselves in Kameido again, we lived in good health in those postwar days. My family newly started in business on our site. We had a bicycle while other families never had. I'd use that bike in the early morning or at dusk. During those hours, my father wouldn't use it, so I used to practice riding a bike. Meanwhile, one day my father bought a ball for me at some antique shop. So the neighborhood kids often gathered and played dodge ball with my ball. Poor as we were, we lived happily in the postwar years. However, our happy days lasted just for about a year. We kids entered different junior high schools. Though we would play together after coming home from schools, we gradually became estranged. When I was a schoolchild, I had to change from school to school, and thus I became a timid and somber type. My parents must have been worried about me. They hoped I would attend to a combined junior high and high school, and so they had me go to a six-year private girls' school. My tuition must have been a burden on them because we were poor after the war. In such a way, some kids entered the local public junior high schools while others went to the private ones. And so we went our separate ways. At that point in time, we gradually ceased to play with our elementary school playmates.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 9 seconds
Year: 2011
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 219
Posted by: japanairraids on Aug 19, 2011

Part 4 of a 2011 interview with NIHEI Haruyo, who as a young girl experienced the March 10, 1945 firebombing of Tokyo by the United States Army Air Forces. Posted by

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