Minnesota's Greatest Generation

Anna Tanaka Murakami: "I Saw the Big Sun"

Anna Tanaka Murakami, an American of Japanese descent, was sent with her sister to live with relatives in Japan during the Great Depression, and the girls remained there throughout World War II. Living in Kure, just ten miles from Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing, Ms. Murakami remembered the "big sun" of the explosion and the towering mushroom cloud, and the devastation and sickness that followed. She was interviewed for the by Thomas Saylor in 2003.


Anna Tanaka Murakami Oral History


TS: Let me ask about that. What news did you have about the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima [on 6 August 1945]? After all, Kure is less than ten miles away from Hiroshima.

AM: Well, the day before the bomb was dropped I was at the train station buying tickets to go back to the country, and just before me they put up the "Sold Out" sign. So the next day I was walking to the station again, at eight o'clock in the morning, then I saw the big sun, and then I saw the big cloud, like a mushroom.

TS: So you could see this from Kure?

AM: Yes, it’s just a few miles away; you can see it. (Pauses.) Then everyone said that Hiroshima was attacked by a poison bomb, because we didn't know what kind of bomb it was. Then my cousin, who had a restaurant business, he was going to buy things in the country, so he give us a ride to Hiroshima. He dropped us off there.

My sister was in Hiroshima, at the Red Cross hospital, as a student nurse. And she was there, so that's why we went to see her; we didn't know if she was safe or not.

TS: Did you go by train to go see her?

AM: No, my aunt's cousin was going to buy stuff for the restaurant, so he gave us a ride in the truck. So we went there and he dropped us off there and we walked to the hospital and we asked for my sister. Somebody said, "Yes, she's here." We saw her, but we could just say hello, that's all, because she was so busy [taking care of people].

Because when we went to there, the other ones, people they were packed in like a case of sardines. Dead. And it was summertime. We went the next day, but already they were burning the things. And the wind was blowing, and the smell. It was awful. (Pause.) But after we saw my sister we started walking toward the station to go back to the country, and that time a B-29 came. Way up there. But of course I was a cocky teenager. my mother [Anna's aunt] said, "Take cover," because the siren went off. And I said to her "They're aren't going to do anything, because they just came to see what they did." But she took cover in the ditch, she was that kind of person, but I just looked up in the sky.

TS: Could you see the plane up there?

AM: Oh yes, just a little starlight. but we could hear the noise, and that's how we knew it was a plane. Then we left Hiroshima and went back to the country. Of course, my mother, something was in the ditch, [because] my mother got sick the next day. She lost all her hair, and her temperature was way up high. We put an icepack to her [head] to keep the temperature down.

TS: So she got radiation sickness?

AM: Yes, but I was lucky. Being a cocky teenager, I didn't take cover. (Laughs) Nothing happened to me.

I don't suffer with anything. I mean, even if some trouble happens, I survive. That's why sometimes I get disgusted that the American people complain so much. I feel like, you should go through the war once, and then you don't complain! I did have a German girlfriend, and she felt the same way - American people complain about little things, you know, and we don't do that.

TS: You had it so bad I guess.

AM: Yes, and nothing bothers us. If something happens to us, then we say, "Tomorrow will be a better day." That's the way we feel. I can't understand so many people complains for little things. I tell them, I tell my kids, little things shouldn't bother you.


Murkami, Anna Tanaka; Thomas Saylor, Interviewer, Minnesota's Greatest Generation Oral History Project, Thomas Saylor; Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Collection, 2003.