Survivors' Stories

Seigo Nishioka, 80, Hatsukaichi City

Absent that day and survived

Speaking out for his lost schoolmates

“It was so hot, wasn’t it? And you felt such pain. You wanted to see your family, didn’t you?” Thinking of his schoolmates who died in the atomic bombing, Seigo Nishioka, now 80 years old, spoke to a monument standing at Hiroshima Technical High School in Minami Ward.

On August 6, 1945, 192 first-year students, mobilized to help dismantle buildings to create a firebreak in the Nakajima-shinmachi district, part of present-day Naka Ward, were killed in the blast. The site was just 600 meters from the hypocenter.

Mr. Nishioka was a first-year student, too, but he was feeling out of sorts that day and so wasn’t able to join the heavy work at the demolition site. Instead, he left his home in Nishihakushimcho and went to school to do some lighter work for the war effort. The school, located in Sendamachi, was about 2 kilometers from the hypocenter. Just after Mr. Nishioka arrived at school, the atomic bomb exploded.

The blast occurred a minute or two after he passed through the school gates. He was hit by the bomb’s intense flash and blown into the air. Buried under the debris of a toppled building, he was found by an adult, who helped him escape. Mr. Nishioka suffered burns to the left side of his face and his left hand, along with a gash on his left leg, about 5 centimeters long, that wouldn’t stop bleeding.

He was shuttled to various first aid stations. At a first aid station set up at a school in the Saka district, he could finally get to his feet again. Leaving Saka, he boarded a train and boat to head to his paternal grandparents’ house on Ikuchi Island, part of present-day Onomichi City. Along the way, he happened to run into a neighbor who told him that his parents and two older brothers were all safe.

For some time he was receiving treatment for his injuries. Then, in December 1945, he was able to return to school. His homeroom teacher was overjoyed to see him, but also had to break the news that all the first-year students who were working in Nakajima-shinmachi that day perished in the A-bombing. Mr. Nishioka was unable to focus on schoolwork that day. “I had been looking forward to seeing everyone again,” he said.

After school, he paid a visit to the site where his classmates had been working on August 6 when the atomic bomb was dropped. He called out the name of a close friend again and again: “Ito! Ito!”

Mr. Nishioka has long lived with a feeling of guilt over having survived. For many years he was unable to bring himself to attend the memorial ceremony held at the school every August 6. Finally, though, at the ceremony marking the 33rd anniversary of the bombing, he went.

This year, as usual, he will head to Peace Memorial Park at 4 o’clock in the morning on August 6, and visit the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, where the remains of unknown victims are interred. Perhaps some of these remains are of his old schoolmates. Later, he will attend the school’s memorial ceremony.

Speaking with conviction, Mr. Nishioka said, “I’d like to let my classmates know that I’m fine. For their sake, I want to live as long as I can to convey the folly of war and the horror of nuclear weapons to others.” (Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer)

Hiroshima Insight: Hiroshima Technical High School

192 first-year students were killed in the atomic bombing

Hiroshima Technical High School [officially, “Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima Technical High School”] was known as Hiroshima Technical School [officially, “Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima Technical School”] at the time of the atomic bombing. Now located in the Deshio district of Minami Ward, back then it was located in the Sendamachi area, part of Naka Ward. Today the Hiroshima Prefectural Library stands at that spot.

According to a book outlining the school’s 80-year history, a total of 214 members of the school community, including students, teachers, and staff, became victims of the atomic bomb. In particular, 192 first-year students and three teachers were helping to create a firebreak in present-day Nakajimacho, about 600 meters from the hypocenter. Afterward, only a few of the students’ bodies could be identified.

After the war, a wooden memorial was constructed by the main gate of the school. Then, in 1962, when the school moved to its current site, a new monument was built to comfort the souls of the dead. In 1987, another monument, this one bearing the names of the victims, was completed at the school, while a monument for those who went missing was newly made near the spot where the students were killed.

Teenagers' Impressions

Try to understand the survivors’ feelings
I had the feeling being an A-bomb survivor has been tough, psychologically, for Mr. Nishioka. He showed us a picture he drew of a terrible scene he saw just after the blast and told us he heard a voice from the picture shouting at him, “Don’t draw this!” It may be impossible to completely understand the feelings of the survivors. At the same time, I think the important thing is to try to understand and hand down their feelings to future generations.” (Yumi Kimura, 16)

Nuclear weapons produce endless sorrow
Mr. Nishioka told us that, after the bombing, a common greeting was “It’s good that you survived.” In war, killing becomes commonplace. He told us, “Please pass on the folly of war and the horror of nuclear weapons.” Nuclear weapons produce endless sorrow. And so I’ll do my best to honor his wish. (Saya Teranishi, 16)

Staff Writer’s Notebook

After the atomic bombing, Seigo Nishioka returned to the site where his schoolmates had perished on August 6 and shouted out the name of a friend. That friend was Izuo Ito, who was 14 year old at the time. Mr. Nishioka and Izuo were both first-year students and they enjoyed playing the harmonica and singing songs together that they had learned at school.

The blast severed the bond between the two good friends, and Izuo’s remains could not be found. However, research into the unidentified remains held at the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park yielded answers and, in 1986, Izuo’s remains were returned to the hands of his family 41 years after the bombing. Izuo Ito now rests in peace in Nagano Prefecture, his father’s hometown. Mr. Nishioka hopes, before he grows too old, to visit Izuo’s grave and say a prayer for him.

Mr. Nishioka says he can vividly recall his friend’s face, and his close-cropped hair, when they were 12 or 13. For instance, he remembers Izuo’s nervous face at the school’s entrance ceremony, under the cherry blossoms, and the signs of heat and hunger Izuo endured while working for the war effort. They were in school together for only four months, but the memory of his friend has lingered in Mr. Nishioka’s mind all this time. (Sakiko Masuda)

(Originally published on July 23, 2012)