Hiroshima’s Children

Posted on August 8, 2023 By


by Sarah Terzo


On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Two hundred forty-seven thousand people, over half the city’s population, were killed. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Contrary to what Americans are often told, the bombings may never have been necessary to end the war.

In 1951, Japanese professor Arata Osada compiled the testimonies of children who survived. In 1980, they were translated and published in the United States.

Witnessing Burned and Injured People

Hiroaki Ichikawa was five years old when Hiroshima was bombed. He described walking through the city:

[W]e saw naked people with their burned skin hanging from them like rags. We saw others covered with blood, being carried to safer places in trucks.In the tobacco factory about a mile and a half from the bomb center were many people crying from the pain of their burns. (p. 9)

Helping Others, If Only They Could

Kimiko Takai was also five. When she and her father fled from rapidly spreading fires in the wake of the blast, they saw bloated bodies floating in the river. They encountered a woman trapped under her house and her father stopped to help. When he couldn’t free the woman, Kimiko watched him cut off her leg with a rusty saw. (p. 50-51) Her sister, aunt, and uncle died in the bombing.

Toshihiko Kondo was in first grade. He was playing with friends when the bomb fell, and ran back home, only to find his house completely destroyed. He and his father set out to find his mother and brother. They too, were fleeing the fire. He says:

I heard a baby crying a few houses away. The cry was trembling with fear. We wanted to save the baby but there was nothing we could do because the house next door was already on fire. (p. 84)

Presumably, the baby burned to death.

They found Kondo’s brother, but he later died from his injuries. His mother also was killed.

Hiroshima's Children

Losses from the Atomic Bomb

Masao Baba was five at the time of the bombing. His home was destroyed, his father was killed, his brother lost his ear, and his little sister lost an eye. He says:

Other kids tease my little sister because she’s got only one eye, but she tries not to cry. Sometimes though, she cries anyway when they all start laughing at her . . .

If our father were alive, he would take her to the hospital and her eye would get better but we don’t have enough money to do that…I always worry about her and it’s hard to study because I worry whether she is being teased or whether she is crying by herself. (p. 36)

The family was prosperous before the bombing but afterwards were very poor and living in a house that was “falling to pieces.” (p. 36) Many other families lost everything they had and struggled to survive and find food after the bombing.

Toshio Nakamori was six. He lost both his parents. He says:

When I go downtown, I often see little children walking along the street holding their father’s or mother’s hand. They look so happy, and this always reminds me of my own parents. My father and mother were very kind and loved me very much. I feel they will come back at any time.

Sometimes I whisper ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy.’ But they don’t answer. I feel sad and envy my friends who have parents. (p. 37)

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An Orphanage in Japan

Yoshimi Mukuda was already living in an orphanage when the bomb was dropped. She was in first grade and had been evacuated to the country during the war. On August 10, she returned to Hiroshima. She recalls:

There was a streetcar that was burned until you could see right through it, and you could see the passengers burned black inside. When I saw this, I started to shake and couldn’t stop.

And then we came to where the orphanage used to be. Not one of our beautiful buildings was left. The hall, the girls’ wing, and the boys’ wing – there was nothing left of any of them but ashes. We had so many wonderful times in that big hall. (p. 42)

Mother Kitamura, who ran the orphanage along with her husband, lost her daughter in the bombing. After the bombing, the orphanage struggled:

[W]e had a lot of trouble getting food. Father said he didn’t care whether he ate anything himself, but he wanted food for the children and he went here and there and into the countryside looking for food. And he had much trouble getting donations. (p. 42-43)

The people of Hiroshima had little or no money to donate. Mukuda says, “A lot of little children joined us at the orphanage after the atom bomb. We try to take good care of them.” (p. 43)

Children Dying of Injuries and Radiation Poisoning

Ruriko Araoka was four years old when the bomb was dropped. Her house collapsed. She and her mother stood looking at the wreckage:

Just then a neighbor came by carrying my little brother on her back. He had burns on his face and hands, and his face was very swollen… He was three years old, and such a sweet little boy. He died a week later. When he died, he was crying ‘Mummy, Mummy.’ (p. 27)

Ruriko describes what she saw while they were running from the fires:

The hill was almost covered with people whose clothes had been burned off. Some had burned skin hanging from them and some were all black and had already died. (p. 28)

Mineo Yamamoto was in sixth grade. He and his mother were living outside of Hiroshima. They went to the city, looking for his 13-year-old brother. He recalls:

Soon after we had started walking, we saw groups of people in ragged clothing coming from the direction of Hiroshima. Their faces were so scorched that we couldn’t tell if they were men or women. They were fleeing the city. One of them had a five- or six-inch piece of wood stuck in one eye…

We started seeing children and adults lying on the ground… [W]e saw that they were people who had been terribly burned and had fled that far, but then could go no farther.

Some had already drawn their last breath. Others were crying out in agonized voices, ‘Help me! Please give me some water.’ There were children crying for their mothers. (221)

Someone told them that their brother had gone home. Mineo says:

All of our sorrow disappeared with that, and we hurried home. When we got home, there was my brother without a scratch on him, not even looking particularly tired. (221)They were overjoyed to see him alive.

Mineo’s brother told him his school had collapsed, and all his friends had died. He survived because he was under a desk. Unfortunately, Mineo’s brother soon got sick from radiation poisoning. His hair fell out, and his condition got worse and worse. Mineo says:

He was still clearly conscious when the doctor told us that there was no hope of saving him.

‘Mother, help me, please,’ he said, grasping her hand and crying. ‘I don’t want to die. Please help me.’

He kept calling out in pain and asking for water. About an hour before he died, he seemed to be in great pain, lifting up his body and shaking his head. It was so bad, I could hardly bear to be with him…

He vomited something strange… I could not tell if it was coagulated blood or part of an organ or what. (p. 222-223)

Mineo and his mother stood by helplessly as his brother died after weeks of suffering.

Spending Time in a Hospital

Akira Shinjoh was in sixth grade and was in school when the bombing happened. He ran home to find his house destroyed and his father and brother badly burned. His mother had lost an eye.

Akira’s head was covered with blood. When his anxious mother washed it off, they realized his head was uninjured – the blood was from other students who’d been near him in the classroom.

Nearly everyone in his class died, either in the initial bombing or later. He says, “I spent the empty days going to the funerals of my teachers and friends.” (p. 219)

Akira began vomiting and started losing his hair. He went to the hospital and describes his stay:

In the beds around mine at the hospital, there were people whose open wounds had rotted and were breeding maggots. There was a child of about six years old, who screamed every time the doctors peeled the gauze off his burns to treat them.

Each day, one or two of the people with me died, and new patients came in., They died too. The bodies were cremated at night in the hospital yard. The wind carried the smell of the burning bodies into the rooms of the hospital. (p. 219)

Akira eventually recovered.

These children experienced horrors no one should endure. Their stories were only a few out of thousands.

Source: Arata Osada, PhD, translated by Yoichi Fukushima Children of Hiroshima (London: Taylor & French Ltd., 1980)


For more of our posts on the bombing of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945), see:

“Everybody Else in the World Was Dead”: Hiroshima’s Legacy

The Danger That Faces Us All: Hiroshima and Nagasaki after 75 Years

Rejecting Mass Murder: Looking Back on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

For positive action against nuclear weapons, see:

A Global Effort to Protect Life: The UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

The Reynolds Family, the Nuclear Age and a Brave Wooden Boat

Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons

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