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HASHIMOTO Yoshiko interview, June 2011, part 2

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-- Do you remember March 9th, the day before the Great Tokyo Air Raid? -- Surprisingly, it had snowed a few days before. The snow was crusted around the bottom of the telegraph pole, and a strong north wind was blowing. It was so cold that morning. Well, do you know Japanese "omutsu" (cloth diapers)? We can get "Pampers" now, but we never had that in those days. I used to wash my son's omutsu every morning. When my baby urinated once, three sheets of omutsu were necessary for him. I needed to use three sheets of omutsu for him at a time. Therefore, in nursing my baby, at least thirty sheets were indispensable. As a mother, I estimated like that for my baby. I'd hand-wash his cloth diapers every morning and in the daytime. Washing machines never existed at that time. We also didn't have any soap. -- You couldn't get any soap? -- No. We never received any ration of soap. We had to wash cloth diapers in water only. For me, it was okay for the ones stained with urine. The trouble was that we had to wash the dirty diapers soiled with excrement. We'd just wash them in water. Our everyday life was miserable. We were barely surviving by trying to invent good ways for our life. It was much tougher than the difficulty of energy-saving measure in these days. Child care was very hard at that time. We were utterly destitute of daily supplies. Also, we couldn't even get a soap for kids without this handbook. -- Were you sleeping when the air raid began? -- On the previous day (March 9th), it became so windy in the daytime and was noisy. Various things were blown off by the wind. At night, the wind grew even stronger. It was very cold that day. On that day, I managed to give my baby a bath during the day. At that time, I'd go to the bathhouse which was distant from our home. Whenever I wanted to bath my baby in the morning, I'd go to town and look for a chimney of bathhouse. If the chimney was giving out smoke, it meant that the public bath was open. If we didn't see any smoke, it was closed. I needed to make sure which bathhouses would be open. Most bathhouses would start at 3:00 p.m. I usually went to some public bath with my baby just before 3:00 and waited until it started because, if the air raid began while we were taking a bath at night, we should have an awful experience. We'd have to run away with no clothes on at night. So I'd go to bathhouses in the daytime. I'd also take a large cloth wrapper with me because our clothes became infested with louses or fleas. They were so dirty. Therefore, I'd fold our clothes with such a wrapper. If we get our things ready, we can evacuate immediately whenever air raids would start. That's why I'd bring a large wrapper any time I went to some bathhouse. At some public bath, we soak ourselves in the bathtub. While I was soaking in the bathtub with my baby, our soap or towels were often stolen. I had those bath goods stolen. So I couldn't be relaxed fully in the batutub with my baby. I had to fix my eye on my soap lest someone'd steal it. I often had bitter experiences like that in my everyday life. Anyway, my baby was satisfied with taking a bath after a few days and he slept so peacefully. At midnight, around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., American B29s would usually fly from the direction of the Sea of Kashima, Chiba Prefecture next to Tokyo. They'd come flying probably for reconnaissance almost everyday. Then the preliminary alerts would switch to air-raid warnings and we'd notice where the B29s were flying with the help of the searchlights. Those aircrafts silver-glittered at an altitude of 10,000 meters and looked so small like this. If they spread the wings, the total length of the B29s' was over 30 meters. However, they looked quite small up in the sky. They were flying freely. As a mother, I used to hold my sweet baby Hiroshi in my arms and enter the air-raid shelter. Inside that, I'd always talked to him, "I hope nothing will happen to us today." By the way, it was cold that night. We filled the tank with water for fire fighting. As it was terribly cold, the water was frozen. We had to shave the ice to keep some water for fire fighting. My sister and father were shaving the tanks' frozen water here and there while my mother and I stayed in the shelter. Although, by nature, my father wasn't a man who'd yell at others, he shouted in a loud voice at the time, "Hey, get out of the shelter! Things aren't usual tonight!" Then I hastily carried my baby on my back. When I got out of the shelter with my mother, I was taken aback. It was pitch-dark in the shelter at the time. If we let some light through, we must have been bombed by our enemy. That's why it was always jet-black inside the shelter. As it was night then, the outside should also have been very dark. However, when I went outside, it was bright as in the daytime. As I could see anything around there, I was so amazed. I could even clearly see a bucket rolling over the ground with the wind in the distance. I thought that something must have happened, and knew intuitively that we were in an unusual situation. I noticed people walking toward a broad street and I also went there because an extensive view of the street could be seen there. When I got there, I saw the tremendous B29s soaring. Although the enemy bombers would usually look quite small in the sky, they looked enormous on that occasion. It looked as if they were flying just over the telegraph poles in the street. Actually they were flying higher in the air. Anyway, I was totally stupefied. Then I heard a terrible noise like a torrential evening shower. It was really a noise which the B29s made while flying in the sky. Then, all of a sudden, the bodies of B29s automatically opened and the incendiary bombs were dropped one after another. It was a roaring sound. I was really astounded. They probably fell on the ground. On the ground, sparks of fire were dancing like ribbons. I was taken aback and wondered what was to come. My mother was upset and rushed into our house. She entrusted our family's important documents to me and said, "Yoshiko, go just before us! We'll follow you immediately. You should give priority to protecting your baby now!" and entered into our home again. At that time, the railroad called "Sobu Line" had been running close to our residence, and we had previously agreed that we should take refuge under the elevated railroad of Sobu Line in case of danger. I hurriedly received those important documents from my mother and also took my baby's diapers and other daily necessities. Then I went to the underpass of the Sobu Line with my baby and waited for my family members to come. Drawing a bicycle trailer with various items on it, they finally arrived there. At that moment, we were caught in an inferno. The fire spread so quickly. The surroundings were seized with fire in a wink. I was impatiently and desperately waiting for the arrival of my family members. When they got there at last, the fire had just started in one corner of the town and burned fiercely and a strong north wind was blowing against the blaze. I was first overtaken by a crimson snowstorm. The snowflakes looked bright red and drove thickly. I was utterly astonished. Not long after I just felt relieved to meet my family, I had to brush the sparks of fire off. I walked in my wooden clogs then. In Japan, people used to wear wooden clogs in those days because they were lacking in leather. Also, shoes were virtually not produced then and thus it was quite difficult for us to obtain them. -- Did anybody used to wear wooden clogs? -- Most people used to wear them. Sandal straps are fixed on the clogs, and, if those straps catch fire, they'd snap and there'd be no help for it. If the clog thongs actually catch fire, we have to remove our clogs and to run away in our tabi (Japanese socks). I was also in barefooted then and my father said to me, "Wait, this must not be a good place for our refuge." As railroads should be the enemy's bombing targets, he insisted on leaving the underpass of Sobu Line and escaping somewhere. I said to him, "But, Daddy, the streets are in a blaze in every direction. Where can we escape?" "Just a little ahead, there is 'Tate-kawa River' running along the railroad. Let's go there." He also explained that river water would protect us from fire. Then we tried to run toward the river. At that moment, my second sister strongly insisted that she would remain there. We could never talk her into leaving that place. She said, "I'll guard our family's belongings here!" As I explained earlier, we were thoroughly short of essential commodities at that time. It was hard to get anything. Also, we had run short of food. Therefore, I fully understand that my sister's insistence on trying to protect our family's belongings. Though our family members all tried to persuade her into escaping with us, she never accepted that. She persistently repeated, "These items are essential for our daily life!" However often we might try to persuade her into following us, she kept saying, "I'll protect our belongings. You all should run away immediately." Then a violent wind was blowing. It was as if our voices would be blown off. As it was unbelievably fierce, we could no longer try to persuade my second sister. Since it couldn't be helped, I unwillingly left her there and our family members except her decided to head for the Tate-kawa River. To get to the river, we first had to come onto the broad thoroughfare called Mitsume Street. I'm not exactly sure how wide it was, but it probably was about 20 meters. We then had to walk along that street toward the river. When we came onto the spacious Mitsume Street, I was totally amazed to see a stream of people. A tremendous crowd of people were there. It was as if a black river...

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 13 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 406
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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