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The photographs taken by Motoichi Terao of family members and street scenes in the area of Hiroshima hit by an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, before he died of illness on the battlefield in 1944, have been carefully kept by his son Okiharu, 81, a resident of the city of Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture.

At the time of the bombing, the Terao family was living in Kajiya-cho, an area to the south of Honkawa National School — now Honkawa Elementary School. The domed roof of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, which was later turned into the A-bomb Dome, could be seen across the river from the house.

“I am nostalgic for the area of those days,” Okiharu said. The scenes he witnessed in person after the atomic bombing are juxtaposed with such fond memories.

Motoyasu Bridge around 1939. Buildings visible include the Taishoya Kimono Shop (now the Rest House). | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO
Motoyasu Bridge around 1939. Buildings visible include the Taishoya Kimono Shop (now the Rest House). | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO

His father, Motoichi, an army officer, would commute to the Chugoku Military District Headquarters from the official quarters where he lived with his family. Kajiya-cho was an area replete with rows of small factories and lumber shops. Motoichi’s hobby was photography, and he is said to have taken photos in numerous areas such as his own neighborhood, including the Nakajima Honmachi area where the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was later established, the environs around Hiroshima Station and the Kannon area, where his relatives lived.

“I only have blurred memories of my father,” Okiharu said, opening an old photo album.

The album contained photos of him taken soon after he was born, in 1939, along with images of his relatives celebrating the Children’s Day festival in May. The beaming faces of people in the photos provide a glimpse of how Motoichi viewed his subjects through the camera.

Shizuko Terao holds her son Okiharu in 1939. | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO
Shizuko Terao holds her son Okiharu in 1939. | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO

Motoichi was sent to mainland China in 1943. Okiharu then lived with Shizuko, his mother, and two younger brothers. His memories of those days include getting a haircut at the Hamai Barbershop and playing in the river.

“I was surprised one time when my younger brother fell off a boat into the Honkawa River. My cousin reached over and plucked him out of the water,” said Okiharu.

In July 1945, after a yearlong delay, a notice of Motoichi’s death was delivered to the family. The notice reported that Motoichi had died from illness on a Changsha county battlefield in China’s Hunan Province. With the news, Okiharu and his family evacuated to the area of Gion-cho, now part of Asaminami Ward, where Motoichi’s parents’ home was located, carrying their valuables and photo albums. On Aug. 6, soon after they had left, the area including their house was leveled by the atomic bombing.

The following day, Okiharu and his mother walked over to the Kajiya-cho area.

“I saw the charred body of someone whose head was immersed in a water tank used for fire prevention. It was an unforgettable scene,” he said.

Walking together with them was Okihiro Terao, his younger brother, who is now 80 and lives in Asaminami Ward.

Motoichi Terao stands at the entrance of his home. He commuted to work at the Chugoku Military District Headquarters by bicycle every morning. | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO
Motoichi Terao stands at the entrance of his home. He commuted to work at the Chugoku Military District Headquarters by bicycle every morning. | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO

“Our mother later told me that she had no choice but to stand still for a moment in front of the burned-out remains of our home,” Okihiro said, reflecting back on those days.

Their house was located about 350 meters from the hypocenter.

“If my father’s death notice had been delivered half a month later, and if we hadn’t evacuated, both our lives and the albums wouldn’t have survived. I believe my late father saved us,” said Okihiro.

After the war ended, the mother and boys moved around both within and outside Hiroshima Prefecture and experienced a great deal of hardship. Okiharu never told anyone that he was an A-bomb survivor, but now visits the Peace Memorial Park every time he has a chance to go to Hiroshima.

“I want to convey the fact that people led normal lives in the area before the bombing,” he said.

Ten years ago, he donated the original data of three photos to the Peace Memorial Museum.

Taniguchi Shoten, which was run by Shizuko Terao’s relatives in Takajo-cho (now part of Honkawa-cho, Naka Ward). | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO
Taniguchi Shoten, which was run by Shizuko Terao’s relatives in Takajo-cho (now part of Honkawa-cho, Naka Ward). | COURTESY OF OKIHARU TERAO

Toshiya Terao, 57, Okiharu’s eldest son, who also lives in Miyoshi, understands his father’s wishes well. This fiscal year, Toshiya applied to the program run by the city of Hiroshima for the training of “memory keepers,” who carry on the tradition of communicating the testimonies of A-bomb survivors.

“As a second-generation A-bomb survivor knowing a father whose life was changed by the atomic bombing, I want to pass on to others the memories of the A-bomb survivors and their wishes for a peaceful world,” he said.

The original article was published by Chugoku Shimbun on June 21.

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