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HASHIMOTO Yoshiko interview, June 2011, part 3

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The surging crowd just looked like a flowing dark river. A large number of people were simultaneously trying to go toward the Tate-kawa River for the same reason. They were walking on and on. On the Mitsume Street, the air-raid shelters had been created one meter apart and thus the road was quite treacherous. People were probably making their way around those shelters and kept on walking at a trot all together. They were in a panic because they were making a scramble to escape. The street was extremely crowded with people. If I take my eyes off from my family members just for a moment, I would never be able to see where they were again. It was such a place. My parents were furiously running away grasping my youngest sister's hands firmly on both sides lest she should get lost. As my third sister was just walking beside me, I tried to join hands with her. To my suprise, she had an okama. It's Japanese rice-cooking pot. People overseas might not know that, though. She was running with the okama in her hands tightly. Rice was contained in it. It was the rationed rice which we had received that day. I suppose she was running with the rice pot just for our family singlemindedly. While running, she kept getting pushed away here and there. I cried, "Hey, Ecchan (Etsuko), be careful!" and she answered, "I'm okay. That's nothing!" She was a relay runner and would often run anchor position in a team. Etsuko was a popular sportswoman in our town. She was pretty. She was such a girl and was running with the rice pot frantically. I was concerned that she might be exposed to danger and, sure enough, the distance between Etsuko and I graudally became greater and finally I lost sight of her. Though I felt misgivings about her safety, I also thought, "Well, she'll be okay. She's a strong girl." I strived to walk toward the Tate-kawa River for my life. Then I could join with my parents and youngest sister around the bridge. We waited for Etsuko there for some time, but she finally didn't appear. At the bridge, I thought, "Here we are at last!" On the bridge, however, people had just been thrown into utter panic. We could never feel relieved at all. The evacuees were surging from both sides of the bridge. They collided against each other and were violently jostled. There were warehouses on either side of the river. They caught fire and started to burn vigorously. As the wind fiercely fanned the flames, it just looked like a fire of gas burner for oxygen welding. The fire blew against us like a flame of burner. People were burning alive with those flames blown against their bodies. It was quite a horrible sight. Persons were burning alive. I saw a woman whose hair was on fire. She was writhing about on the ground. Men's clothes also took fire. They became covered by flames and died instantly. We suffered from a burning hotness. I felt as if I was in a furnace. It was immensely hot. People around me died one after another. In the meantime, my baby began to scream on my back. It was a tremendous cry. In surprise, I looked back and saw something bright inside his mouth. I was astounded and looked into my baby's mouth. It was a spark of fire. He had been crying all the time. A spark of fire leaped into his mouth just because he had been crying all the time. In a panic, my mother yelled at me, "Get your baby off your back quickly!" I did so in a great hurry and held him to my bosom. My mother spread a nursery coat over my back. Then we, along with my sister and father, protected each other from the burning fire and endured. It was awfully hot. I thought I should lose my life here. I imagined how painful I would be in my last moments. My father seemed to fear that we all should die if we would remain there. He jumped to his feet and said to me, "Yoshiko, you can swim. Dive into the river!" He repeatedly told me to do so. My mother also scolded me saying, "Take courage! Your father told you to plunge into the river! Hurry up!" Though I was scolded by my mother again and again, I couldn't readily nerve myself for diving into the icy water on March holding my baby. While I hesitated, my mother got up and cried, "Look sharp!" Then she took off her air-raid hood and put it over my head. The presence of my baby and I hampered my family members from escaping freely and respectively. Believing that they'd also escape and look for us later, I decided to dive into the river with my baby and walked toward the edge of the bridge. At the moment, I saw my mother's hair streaked with gray and her sorrowful expression. Her image is indelibly imprinted in my heart throughout my life. Meanwhile, there was a bridge across the Tate-kawa River. Generally, bridge girders are made of iron. In wartime, however, iron girders had even be removed and collected for remaking as ordnance. Instead of iron, logs were laid as the girders. I saw the logs had already been on fire and bursted into flames fiercely. Holding my baby tightly, I walked over the burning logs and dived into the river.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 16 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 284
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 JapanAirRaids.org.

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