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KANEDA Mari interview, part 1

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When I was nine years old, I was in third grade and participating in the child evacuation program. It was August 1944. For about seven months... We schoolchildren left our parents and lived together in the country with our teachers. Nine years old... but I remember it well. I missed my family and Tokyo very much. I remember crying with my futon over my head. For the first week or so all the kids cried every night. But the teachers soon became very strict. My class's teacher went back to Tokyo and we were left in the teacher we'd always call "the old lady teacher." She was the scariest of them all. She'd scold us, "How can you cry like that when the soldiers are fighting for the country?" Our life became a strict miniature version of the military. In March 1945, the sixth graders graduated. I was still in third grade. I was still in third grade, but my mother intended to take me and my other siblings with her to stay with relatives in Osaka. So she asked the teachers to send me home with the sixth graders. I was the only third grader among all the older kids on the train back to Tokyo. So on the night of March 9, we loaded into the train at Shiroishi Station in Miyagi Prefecture and we arrived in Tokyo on the morning of March 10. Tokyo had been attacked while we slept on the train. By the time we got to Ueno Station, everything we saw was burned ruins. All of us students were first sent to Fuji Elementary School, but the school had burned down and was in terrible condition. But they said Asakusa Elementary was still standing, so we were sent there. There were over one hundred of us... Maybe more. Perhaps 120 or 130 students... So we were waiting at Asakusa Elementary, but it was also a designated refugee shelter and people were pouring in. I was so shocked by what I saw. Everyone's clothes were covered in black soot. Black and in tatters... I'm sure it is because they had rolled around on the ground to extinguish the flames. But their hair was also singed, people's hands were so burned that their fingers stuck together, many of them couldn't see... Looking like empty shells, all these people came in in their tattered clothing... Some of the clothes were so thin that it looked like they had simply draped seaweed over their body. Someone announced that we had returned and all these people began to move. There were dramatic scenes of children and parents being reunited. The parents were in tatters and covered in ashes, but they embraced their children and everyone wept great tears. It was like the whole school was shaking under the weight of these dramatic reunions. I wanted to be embraced by my own mother quickly. I looked all over, but couldn't find her. Eventually, an uncle who lived near the Nishiarai Daishi temple in Nishiarai (Adachi Ward) appeared because he'd heard that Asakusa had burned down. My uncle took me home. I had two sisters. My younger sister was in first grade and my older sister was a second grader in junior high school. My father had died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage when I was three years old. None of my sisters were there either. My uncle said we'd go to his house in Nishihara, so I followed him. No buses or trains were moving so it was a very long journey. We walked. I'm not sure how long it took, but by the time we got to Nishihara the sun had long set. Beyond the Arakawa River, houses were still standing. But all of Shitamachi until that point was a burned out wasteland. We walked and walked and that was all we could see. As we walked, I saw many, many of blackened corpses. Those black bodies looked like dead mannequins or burned up logs. There were all kinds of bodies... Just everywhere... At first I didn't realize they were dead people. But I heard my uncle mutter, "All these poor people were alive just yesterday..." and I realized with a shock: "These were people!" I realized they were bodies for the first time... I was only nine and as I followed my uncle there were just so many corpses around us... I tried not to look at them. But they were all over. Like lumps of charcoal. ...lying on the ground.. We walked through them all the way to Nishihara. My uncle eventually visited hospitals in an effort to locate my mother and sisters. All the hospitals in Asakusa that had remained standing. Perhaps he rode his bicycle. My uncle was sure that Nishihara would soon be bombed as well, but my uncle worked in a military factory so he stayed in Tokyo. However, he sent me with my aunt and her family to live in Nara. In Nara, I prayed fervently night and day that my mother and sisters would be safe. I thought that perhaps they were wounded in a hospital somewhere. With my childish hope, I prayed that they "just be alive somewhere..." I'd wake up early each morning and visit a nearby temple. The lady who lived there would always see me and one day she came over to ask me. "What is a little girl like you always praying so diligently for?" When I explained it to her, she said, "I'm sure they're okay." And she patted me on the head. Next, I was sent to live with an aunt in Hyogo Prefecture. When I got there about four months had passed since March 10. It was the hot season of July. I was informed that my sister's body had been discovered in the Sumida River. I cried very hard. I'd kept the tears in for so long, but the shock was just too great. I think that my other aunt had just been unable to tell me that my mother was dead. She'd kept quiet about it. My mother's body had also been discovered with my sister's. But my little sister's body was never discovered. It's still missing. I imagine it was washed out into the ocean. My mother and older sister's bodies were taken out of the river in June. And the notification came in July. So they'd been in the river for three months... Their bodies had swollen... They said it was just too horrible to look at. Even after being told in July, I still wanted to imagine that "my mother must be alive," or "surely my sisters are okay." It was how I kept up my spirits. But when we were walking down the streets of the village, people would point at me. I'd hear them whispering, "That girl is an orphan," and I realized I was truly alone.

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 19 seconds
Country: United States
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 463
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 13, 2010

KANEDA Mari interview, part 1, 12:30 minutes

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