(7 of 11)
Kawamoto did not like having the military around his school, but he appreciates the military values of discipline. He connects discipline with self-knowledge. Once, when he was a very small boy, his father took him in a boat out into the bay and threw him in, to teach the boy to swim. Kawamoto struggled and tried to grab the side of the boat, but his father pushed him off with a pole. Only when the boy sank did his father pull him back. "I asked him why he did not help me sooner. I thought my father was trying to drown me. Later I understood that he was really trying to save me, that I would only learn to swim if I came that close to death."
Of the modern generation Kawamoto says it does not possess "the kind of heart that knows how to stare into itself and discover its own strength. Onore o shiru: to know oneself. It is essential. People today live too much by their individual desires, and so are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past. One must vow not to repeat those mistakes. Unless you know your self, you cannot make a vow that counts."
In the Peace Museum now, Kawamoto uses a long wooden pointer to indicate, in a large circular panorama, the route of the rest of his escape. Above the center of the panorama a bright red ball representing the hypocenter hangs by a cord. Kawamoto touches the pointer to the area of the playground, then moves it out into the city, away from the hypocenter, toward the Kyobashi River and the Miyuki Bridge.
"We were trying to get away from the fires and head for the river. On the way, I lost sight of my teacher and proceeded alone. People burned too severely to survive grabbed at me as I went along. Those who could walk stumbled over the bodies; they wore tatters and were covered with ash. I saw a living baby clinging to the breasts of its dead mother. I saw another child of three or four beating her dead mother with her fists. Perhaps she did not know that her mother was dead and in desperation and confusion was trying to wake her up.
"Near the Miyuki Bridge I met my classmate Kimura. Kimura belonged to the odd-numbered group, so he had been working in the streets when the bomb went off. His face was charred. He lived in West Hiroshima, and he said he was going home, which meant that he was heading back toward the direction of the hypocenter. I told him that it was impossible to go back, that the area was all in flames. He was delirious and would not listen to me. He only repeated, 'I want to go home. I want to go home.' He walked away toward the flames. Later his family could not locate his ashes."
During the war people kept their own reservoirs in case of fires. The water in these reservoirs lay filthy and stagnant through the year, but Kawamoto was desperately thirsty. He started toward one of the reservoirs, but saw that people were lying dead, half in, half out of the water. Coming to the Miyuki Bridge at last, he leaped down the steep stone steps, stumbling over others plummeting down. There was a logjam of bodies at the base of the steps. "I was so scared." He tried to drink the muddy water, but spit it out. He clambered up the riverbank.
"I lay on my back in the heat. There was no shade to cool me. Thick clouds were billowing above my head. It was a thunderhead. Fires glowed in the clouds. The sky was dark. I thought, 'I will never see my mother again.' Then I passed out."