by George Taniwaki

Did you watch the debate on Monday night? I did. But I am also very interested in the post-debate media coverage and analysis. This morning, two articles that combine big data and the debate caught my eye. Both are novel and much more interesting than the tired stories that simply show changes in polls after a debate.

First, the New York Time reports that during the presidential debate (between 9:00 and 10:30 PM EDT) there is high correlation between the Betfair prediction market for who will win the presidential election and afterhours S&P 500 futures prices (see chart 1).


Chart 1. Betfair prediction market for Mrs. Clinton compared to S&P 500 futures. Courtesy of New York Times

Correlation between markets is not a new phenomena. For several decades financial analysts have measured the covariance between commodity prices, especially crude oil, and equity indices. But this is the first time I have seen an article illustrating the covariance between a “fun” market for guessing who will become president against a “real” market. Check out the two graphs above, the similarity in shape is striking, including the fact that both continue to rise for about an hour after the debate ended.

In real-time, while the debate was being broadcast, players on Betfair believed the chance Mrs. Clinton will win the election rose by 5 percent. Meanwhile, the price of S&P 500 futures rose by 0.6%, meaning investors (who may be the same speculators who play on Betfair) believed the stock market prices in November were likely to be higher than before the debates started. There was no other surprise economic news that evening, so the debate is the most likely explanation for the surge. Pretty cool.

If the two markets are perfectly correlated (they aren’t) and markets are perfectly efficient (they aren’t), then one can estimate the difference in equity futures market value between the two candidates. If a 5% decrease in likelihood of a Trump win translates to a 0.6% increase in equity futures values, then the difference between Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton being elected (a 100% change in probability) results in about a 12% or $1.2 trillion (the total market cap of the S&P 500 is about $10 trillion) change in market value. (Note that I assume perfect correlation between the S&P 500 futures market and the actual market for the stocks used to calculate the index.)

Further, nearly all capital assets (stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate) in the US are now highly correlated. So the total difference is about $24 trillion (assuming total assets in the US are $200 trillion). Ironically, this probably means Donald Trump would be financially better off if he were to lose the election.


The other article that caught my eye involves Google Trend data. According to the Washington Post, the phrase “registrarse para votar” was the third highest trending search term the day after the debate was broadcast. The number of searches is about four times higher than in the days prior to the debates (see chart 2). Notice the spike in searches matches a spike in Sep 2012 after the first Obama-Romney debate.

The article says that it is not clear if it was the debate itself that caused the increase or the fact that Google recently introduced Spanish-language voting guides to its automated Knowledge Box, which presumably led to more searches for “registrarse para votar”. (This is the problem with confounding events.)

After a bit of research, I discovered an even more interesting fact. The spike in searches did not stop on Sep 27. Today, on Sep 30, four days after the debates, the volume of searches is 10 times higher than on Sep 27, or a total of 40x higher than before the debate (see chart 3). The two charts are scaled to make the data comparable.


Chart 2. Searches for “registrarse para votar” past 5 years to Sep 27. Courtesy of Washington Post and Google Trends


Chart 3. Searches for “registrarse para votar” past 5 years to Sep 30. Courtesy of Google Trends

I wanted to see if the spike was due to the debate or due to the addition of Spanish voter information to the Knowledge Box. To do this, I compared “registrarse para votar” to “register to vote”. The red line in chart 4 shows Google Trend data for “register to vote” scaled so that the bump in Sept 2012 is the same height as in the charts above. I’d say the debate really had an unprecedented effect on interest in voting and the effect was probably bigger for Spanish speaking web users.


Chart 4. Searches for “register to vote” past 5 years to Sep 30. Courtesy of Google Trends

Finally, I wanted to see how the search requests were distributed geographically. The key here is that most Hispanic communities vote Democratic and many states with a large Hispanic population are already blue (such as California, Washington, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York). The exception is Florida with a large population of Cuban immigrants who tend to vote Republican.


Chart 5. Searches for “registrarse para votar” past 5 years to Sep 30 by county. Courtesy of Google Trends

If you are a supporter of Democrats like Mrs. Clinton, the good news is that a large number of queries are coming from Arizona, and Texas, two states where changes in demographics are slowly turning voting preferences from red to blue.

In Florida, it is not clear which candidate gains from increased number of Spanish-speaking voters. However, since the increase is a result of the debate (during which it was revealed that Mr. Trump had insulted and berated a beauty pageant winner from Venezuela, calling her “miss housekeeping”), I will speculate many newly registered voters are going to be Clinton supporters.

If the Google search trend continues, it may be driven by new reports that Mr. Trump may have violated the US sanctions forbidding business transactions in Cuba. Cuban-Americans searching for information on voter registration after hearing this story are more likely to favor Mrs. Clinton.


by Michio Taniwaki

This is a continuation of the story of the Taniwaki family tree with biographies of generations 5 through 8. The stories of generations 1 to 4 are in a Jan 2014 blog post. If you are one of my relatives, please provide information to complete these stories.


Eight generations of the Taniwaki family tree

Fifth generation

Tatsui Taniwaki 谷脇達意

Tatsui was born in the 1890s as the eldest child of Umetaro and Tsuru. She married Nobushi Yokoyama. They lived in Taiwan (which was a Japanese colony at the time) for several years. She died in the 1990s.

Nobushi Yokoyama 横山農夫志

Nobushi was a school teacher in Taiwan. He also managed rental property owned by Tsuru, his mother-in-law. Without consulting her, he mortgaged the houses to start his own business, planning to secretly pay her back from the profit. His plan failed and Tsuru lost the houses to the bank. Tsuru’s book showed the last entry was in 1931. The relation between them could not be worse.

After the war, Nobushi, Tatsui, and their son Shizuo moved back to Japan and lived in one of Tsuru’s rental houses.

I don’t know if Nobushi is related to Yasukichi (Matsu’s husband) or if the same family name is a coincidence.

Kiyomi Taniwaki 谷脇清実

My father was born in 1901 in Japan as the second child and elder son of Umetaro and Tsuru. Umetaro left for the U.S. in 1904 and Tsuru followed in about 1909. He was left with his grandparents who did not treat him well. At age 16, he came to America where he worked mostly as a farm laborer with the intent of buying his own farm.

In 1924, the U.S. passed a restrictive immigration law that would effectively prevent new immigrants from Japan from entering. Kiyomi hurried back to Japan and married Sadai and returned with her to America.

Around the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s Alien Land Law was constitutional. This made it illegal for Japanese immigrants to own or lease farmland. Kiyomi continued to work as a farm laborer. He did a good work fast and preferred piecework over hourly rates. He made $5 a day (about $100 in 2010 dollars, which was quite high for farm labor).

But since he could not own a farm, his work required moving from one farm to another. This was not suitable for a family man. He got a job in Hayward and worked for a carnation grower, Fujii Nursery. Now with a steady job, Kiyomi and Sadai had two children, Michio (me) in 1926 and Hideko (my sister) in 1931.


Sadai, Michio, and Kiyomi Taniwaki, circa 1929

Around 1928, someone from Tsuru’s family wanted to come to America for school. This required a U.S. sponsor who could cover any liability. Kiyomi asked the nursery owner, Fujii to be the sponsor and he accepted. The young man got involved in a quarrel with another student and injured him. This was potentially a large liability case and Kiyomi would do anything to keep Fujii out of it. He sought help from Shigeki Oka, a man from the same prefecture. He paid Shigeki $200 (about $3500 in 2010 dollars), but he didn’t do anything. In the end, Kiyomi somehow managed to make the young man go back to Japan and convinced the victim to not claim compensation from Fujii.

With the onset of the depression, Kiyomi wanted to take his family back to Japan. But because of this legal problem, the trip was delayed until December, 1932.

When the family returned to the farm, his aunt Tomi and her husband Unkichi did not have place to go, so Kiyomi gave them the house that his grandfather Eiji built many years ago and gave them 100 yen (about $1000 in 2010 dollars, but several months cash income in rural Japan) to disassemble it and move it to a new location.

Kiyomi built a two-story house for his family. People described it “as big as a school-house.”

In 1937, the Japanese army invaded China. Because he had not served in the army when he was younger, Kiyomi was called to service at the late age of 36. He served in the Supplementary Transport Unit. There, he often met English-speaking people. Despite differences, the Chinese referred to him as a gentleman. He came home after six months.

Kiyomi died on 1987 Dec 13.

My father told me the following stories about our farm. Our farm once had large camphor trees, a prominent landmark. One day, a local official, who was seeking recognition or a promotion, ordered the tress cut down in order to make camphor blocks that the local lord could use to protect his clothes from moths. Our family was discouraged by this and quit growing camphor trees.

He also said in late 1930s, the area was covered with network of tree roots. Leftover wood was used to make hibachi (stoves used to warm hands, not to be confused with the cooking devices known in the U.S.). I remember seeing two of them, the larger one was about 70 cm (2 foot) in diameter.

Sadai Ono 小野貞意

My mother was born on 1905 Jan 7 and married Kiyomi in 1924 and immediately moved to the U.S. She and Kiyomi had two children born in the U.S. before moving back to Japan in 1932. She died on 1986 Feb 26.

Sakae (Oski) Taniwaki 谷脇栄

Oski was born in 1903 in Japan. He had just started school when his mother, Tsuru, took him to America to join Umetaro.

Oski was a very quick learner of English. Only two month after moving to America, he came home from play and told his mother a story of  why the moon is yellow. He said in Japanese, “A woman was making butter. It didn’t turn out well, so she threw it away. It went high into the sky and became the moon.” He said he learned it from a  neighbor. Since the neighbor was not Japanese, he must have heard the story in English.

When his parents moved back to Japan in 1924, Oski remained in the U.S. and attended the University of California, Berkeley to become a pharmacist. However, while in school he realized that California would refuse to grant him a license because he was not a U.S. citizen, ending his dream.

Though everyone called him Oski, my uncle’s given name is Sakae. Oski is a nickname taken from the name of the bear mascot of UC Berkeley.

Oski was one of the founding editors of the New World Daily (Shinsekai nichinichi shinbun), a bilingual newspaper for Japanese immigrants in San Francisco.

In 1935, Oski went to Japan to look for a job since America was still in depression. He came to see us at Kochi prefecture first. Then he proceeded to Taiwan where Tatsui, his older sister, and her husband, Nobushi, were living. Nobushi came up with an English teaching position and English reporter work at a newspaper, but Oski didn’t like these jobs and returned to America.

In 1942, thousands of Japanese Americans living in the western U.S. were forced to evacuate their home and deported to internment camps under U.S. executive order 9066. Oski, Gladys, and their young son Hugo were among them. Each person could only carry a single suitcase. All homes, cars, and other possessions had to be disposed. Rather than sell their appliances and furniture at distress prices, Oski asked neighbors to store these items for them. After the war, he could not locate the neighbors. Everything they owned was gone.

While incarcerated in the Amache relocation camp near Granada, CO, Oski worked as an editor for the camp newspaper, the Granada Pioneer. Near the end of the war, Oski was released from the camp and employed as a taxi driver in Chicago.

After the war, the family moved to Denver, where a small Japanese-American community was growing. Oski died about 1986.

Shizue (Gladys) Ioka

Gladys was born about 1911 in California. She married Oski in the 1930s. They had two children, Hugo and Walter (Nobu). She ran a Japanese gift shop and bookstore called Kobun-sha in Denver (not to be confused with the magazine publishing company of the same name in Japan). She died about 2000.

Sixth generation

Shizuo Yokoyama 横山静夫

Shizuo is the only child of Nobushi and Tatsui. He graduated from Imperial University (now National Seven Universities) with a degree in agriculture. He worked for the kencho (prefectural government) until his retirement at age 60. He has come to America twice.

Kimiko [___] _公子

Kimiko married Shizuo in 1950s. She was a school teacher, now retired.

Michio Taniwaki 谷脇道雄

I am the elder child of Kiyomi and Sadai. I was born on 1926 May 30 in Oakland where a Japanese midwife had a clinic, but lived in Hayward California until December 1932. By then I was in a school. My family moved back to Japan where I had a hard time adjusting to the new life in Japan, but eventually became familiar with the environment.

By 1942, Japan was engaged in the Pacific war. My father paid tuition to enroll me in what was equivalent of high school. During this time I started a radio repair business.

After graduation, the war was still on and I was drafted and sent to Hiroshima to become a radio operator for one of the army owned ships. Before the training was complete, the atomic bomb was dropped. I was very lucky and was not injured. Details of my experience are published in a three-part Dec 2012 blog post.

After the war, I wanted to return to America, but encountered legal problems because of my dual citizenship. I had voted in Japanese elections and served in the Japanese army. I was unable to get a visa until 1953.

In the U.S., I lived in Hayward and worked for the same carnation grower as my father, Fujii Nursery. I also started a little TV repair shop in a rented house.

I married Hisae in 1958 and we had our first son, George. One day, Oski and Gladys visited us and invited us to move to Denver. We accepted. As of this year, we have lived in Denver for 52 years.

I have gone back to visit Japan four times since returning to the U.S. The first was in 1975 with the entire family. My children have been there more frequently than I have.

Hisae Ota 太田尚枝

Hisae was born on 1935 Nov 29 in Chongjin, a city in what is now North Korea which was then Japanese territory. She lived in a Japanese enclave and attended a Japanese school and doesn’t remember seeing any Koreans in the city. Hisae, her mother, grandparents, and five siblings all younger than her lived in the city. Her father, like most able-bodied Japanese men, was serving in the army.

Japan announced its surrender to the allies on 1945 Aug 15, but the Soviet Union did not recognize it. Instead, it invaded China and Korea. The Japanese army was already recalled leaving the Japanese civilians defenseless. Hisae and her family fled their home.

The Soviet airplanes used machine guns and bombs to attack the cities and then the convoys and trains carrying the fleeing civilians. With some exception, Koreans were not very friendly. Hisae’s family hoped to reach Busan, a port in southern Korea protected by the allied forces. This was a stressful undertaking. During the retreat, her baby brother and  both grandparents died.

In Japan, they reunited with her father and lived in Yamaguchi prefecture. Immediately after the war, food and medicine were scarce and a newborn baby sister died.

In 1956, the U.S. government allowed a small number of refugees to immigrate. Hisae’s family was accepted and they moved to San Pablo, CA. Their sponsor was the owner of Oshima nursery, a rose grower. I was working for a carnation grower in Hayward and had a friend working near the Oshima nursery, so I visited the area frequently. One day I met Hisae and two years later we got married in 1958.

Hugo (Kiyoshi) Taniwaki

Hugo was the elder son of Oski and Gladys. He was born about 1938 in CA. As a child his family was deported to the Amache relocation camp in Colorado and spent three years in confinement. He lived most of his life in Denver. He died in 2013 while in Phoenix, AZ.

Margaret Yamada

Marge was born about 1940 and married Hugo about 1958. They had two children, Ronal and Elaine (Vicki).

Walter (Nobu) Taniwaki

Walter is the younger son of Oski and Gladys. He was born in 1949.

Stephanie Uyeda

Stevie was born in 1949 and married Walter in 1972. They have no children.

Seventh generation

Fumiko Yokoyama 横山典子

Fumiko is the elder daughter of Shizuo and Kimiko. She was born about 1955. She married a man named Nishimura, they have no children. She likes to travel and visited us in Denver several times. She guided us during a trip to Tokyo in 2006.

Hiroko Yokoyama 横山浩子

Hiroko is the younger daughter of Shizuo and Kimiko. She was born about 1958 and is married with no children.

George Taniwaki

George is my elder son. He was born in 1959 in Alameda, CA and grew up in Denver, CO. He does not speak Japanese, but has visited Japan for both business and vacation. He writes a blog at where this story is posted.

Susan K. Wolcott

Susan was born in 1953 in Sunnyside, WA, the third of four children. She and George were married in 1989 while they both lived in Chicago, IL. They currently reside in Bellevue, WA and have no children. Susan does not speak Japanese but has been to Japan several times to teach a CPA review class in Tokyo.

James Taniwaki

James is my younger son. He was born in 1962 in Denver, CO. He lived in Kobe 1984-85 for a year of study abroad and worked in Osaka 1985-89. Since then, he has been to Japan at least 45 times on business. Jim speaks “enough Japanese to get into trouble, but not enough to get out of trouble.”

Ronal Taniwaki

Ronal is the elder child of Hugo and Marge. He was born in 1959 in Denver, CO.

Elaine (Vicki) Taniwaki

Vicki is the younger child of Hugo and Marge. She was born in 1960 in Denver, CO.

None of the members of the last generation have children. So this may be the end of our branch of the Taniwaki line.

[Update: Removed names of some relatives at their request.]

by Michio Taniwaki

I am the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son and can trace my ancestry back five generations. My ancestors lived on the island of Shikoku, near a place now called Susaki-shi. They were members of the farming class (meaning they owned the land they farmed on). Many other farmers did not own land. Instead, they were sharecroppers who tended a plot and lived in a house on land owned by another family in exchange for a share of their output.

We can’t call these ancestors the Taniwaki family because back in the early days, commoners did not have family names. Family names were restricted to the ruling class. Family names became required for all persons, not just the ruling class, after the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Taniwaki is an uncommon name in Japan. However, there are many people around Susaki with the family name Taniwaki. I am not related to most of them. Perhaps it is because people in the area just liked the name Taniwaki (it means side of the valley) and used it for their own families when they were ordered by the government to choose a name. Perhaps it is because in the past one of the ruling families had the name Taniwaki and it was a familiar name.

Before the advent of the government family registry (called koseki), our ancestors recorded all births, marriages, and deaths at the Buddhist church. The priests maintained a registry called kakocho. Records were also kept by the shōya, a community leader appointed by the top-down local political system. Knowledge of ancestors was passed down the generations by stories with the help of the custom of visiting the family cemetery. Landowning families, like ours, maintained their own private graveyards on their property. You would think then that it would be easy to trace our family history. However, churches burn, grave markers wear out, and families move. History can get lost.

Below is my reconstruction of my family tree. If you are one of my relatives, please provide information to complete this story.


Eight generations of the Taniwaki family tree

First generation

Shohei 庄平

Shohei is the oldest known ancestor in the family line. He was born in the late 1700s and died in 1856 or 1857. His grave and those of his ancestors are not found in the current family cemetery as explained below.

Shohei’s wife

I don’t have any information, she probably lived from about 1795 to 1860.

Second generation

Yoshihei 芳平

Yoshihei is the eldest son of Shohei and his wife. He was born in 1808. He married Iwa. After several years with no children, they adopted a young man to be an heir, a common practice in Japan called yohshi-engumi.

Yoshihei and Iwa later had three of their own children, all sons. When their oldest son became an adult the family transferred their house to the yohshi and moved to a new site about a kilometer (0.6 mile) away where they built a new house. They probably continued to work on the same farm after the move.

Iwa 岩

Iwa was born about 1815 and died in 1897.

Other siblings

I don’t have any information on any other children Shohei and his wife had.

Third generation

Adopted son

The adopted son and his wife moved into Yoshihei’s home. After Yoshihei and his family left the property, one of his duties was to maintain the ancestral family cemetery which included the burial plot for Shohei.

My late father told me that his grandfather, Eiji (Yoshihei’s son), once took him to the grave site. It was not in good shape. Stones were scattered about and he said, “This is where our long gone ancestors were buried.”

Son 1

The eldest biological son of Yoshihei and Iwa was born after the adoption of an heir. Since he could not stay on the farm, he became a carpenter and moved to Hokkaido, which was then Japan’s frontier. There, he designed and built houses using techniques he developed.

A story I heard was that one day, a house this son built had to be relocated. Workers found that unlike most houses, it did not show the normal sequence of construction and was impossible to disassemble. They had to go to him for assistance.

Eiji 栄次

Born in 1842, Eiji is the second biological son of Yoshihei and Iwa. He was 18 years old when the family moved to the site of the new home. Eiji was already a skilled carpenter and designed and built the new house. It was west-facing; the original house was east facing. He earned the title miya-daiku (literally shrine carpenter, a master carpenter) meaning he designed and built projects for the ruling class and would train and supervise his own crew of apprentices. Projects included maintaining local o-miya (Shinto shrines) and building the first primary school in our area when education became compulsory. Eiji died in 1926, the year I was born.

Ushi 丑

Ushi was Eiji’s first wife. She lived from 1847 to 1904. I don’t have any more information.

Ito 糸

After Ushi’s death Eiji married Ito. What I heard about her was not good. While Umetaro (Eiji’s son) and his wife were in America, she mistreated her step-grandchildren Tatsui (my aunt) and Kiyomi (my father). Sakae who was the youngest was lucky, he had gone to America and was with his parents.

Son 3

Prior to the Meiji Restoration (1868), travel abroad was forbidden. However, after trade was opened between the U.S. and Japan, many men migrated to the U.S. for a chance to make money, mostly in farm labor, logging, or construction.

The last son of Yoshihei and Iwa went to America not to work, but to study photography, which was not possible to learn in Japan. Upon returning to Japan, he went to Hokkaido and opened a photo studio.

Commenting on the two sons who moved to Hokkaido, my dad, Kiyomi said, “Those who lead unusual lives tend to leave no legacy.”

Fourth generation

From this point on, all relatives have family names at their birth.

Umetaro Taniwaki 谷脇梅太郎

Umetaro is the eldest child and only son of Eiji and Ushi. He was born on 1869 May 18. He had a reputation as a playboy, a poet, and being somewhat irresponsible.

When Umetaro was 20 years old he was drafted into the army and sent to Asakura near Kochi-shi, the barracks of the 44th regiment. One day, there was a shooting contest and Umetaro won the first prize. He invited leaders of his company to a geisha house where sake was served and geishas danced and sang. He didn’t have money to pay for this and so sent the bill to his father.

War broke out between Japan and China in 1894. Umetaro was recalled and the 44th regiment was sent to Korea. He came out safely, but this experience made him hate war.

About 1900, a burglar broke into a neighbor’s house. A mob caught the burglar and beat him to death. The mob realized the seriousness of the matter. Umetaro, who was not part of the mob, intervened and negotiated with the police. The police agreed not to make a case.

In 1903, Japan was to engage in another war, this time against Russia. Umetaro was afraid he might be called back to the army again, so decided to go to America. It seemed a good idea, he would be safe from the army and wages in America were good.

No records indicate when Umetaro went to America, but it is most likely in 1904, the first year of the Japan Russia war. His gravestone says that he had been in America for 20 years. From other records I know he and Tsuru returned to Japan in 1924.


Umetaro Taniwaki, circa 1910

On his return, Umetaro wanted to build a new house, a large mansion. He drew up the plans but only got as far as building a long retaining wall around the house. He bought pine trees for 15 yen (about $150 in 2010 dollars, but the equivalent of half a month’s pay in rural Japan). People said, “Stupid Ume.” He also bought new furniture, utensils, and Japanese scroll paintings and calligraphy. Although he never wanted to be a carpenter or cabinet-maker, he made a cabinet for his phonograph and records. I was amazed by its quality.

Three years after returning to Japan, Umetaro died on 1927 Sept 19. While on his death-bed, he wrote his final short form poem, it was to say Tsuru will lead happy life. His last words were, “I won’t send for you.” Tsuru who died in 1950 said, “He hasn’t.”

Tsuru [___] _鶴

Tsuru was born in1879 and married Umetaro in 1897. They had three children. After Umetaro left for the U.S. in 1904, he was expected to send back money to his family. But after a few years with no remittances, Tsuru wanted to go to America to see what her husband is doing. She took the youngest child, Sakae (Oski), with her. I don’t know the exact year, but a neighbor said Sakae carried a school shoulder bag, so he was probably 6 or 7, making it between 1909 to 1911.

Upon the arrival at the workers camp near Tacoma, WA, she found that all men who were cutting trees and preparing land for development looked weak and in low spirits. Their diet was poor too.

These laborers could not speak English. One went to a grocery store, dropped a rock and said “kokekokko” mimicking a hen to buy eggs. I don’t know if this is a true story, but it is not hard to imagine that their lack of language skills attributed to the poor diet.

Tsuru started to cook for these workers. She saw edible plants growing wild, picked them, cooked them, and served the workers in exchange for cash. “Boys were so happy,” she said.

It became clear that a worker’s camp was no place to make money. Tsuru saw better opportunities for business. She moved the family to Seattle and bought a hotel. How they got the down payment is not known, possibly they borrowed from Eiji who knew that Tsuru had a good business sense. When she was younger, Eiji was having a problem collecting money from one of his customers. Tsuru volunteered to go and collect the money and she did it.

After some success in Seattle, Tsuru moved her family to Sacramento and opened a restaurant catering to Japanese.

One day at the restaurant, they bought a barrel of miso. Inside the barrel was a metal can. Soon a few Chinese appeared and took it with them. Tsuru never saw the content of the can but it was obviously part of a smuggling operation.

The restaurant was busy and Tsuru worked hard. But not Umetaro, he only pursued enjoyment such as playing the samisen. Eventually, Tsuru could not take any more so she sent him home. But he disliked the monotonous, old, and poor country, and he traveled again to America.

In 1924, with some money in their pockets, they both left America.

After Umetaro died in 1927, Tsuru did not want to live on the farm. Instead she moved to Susaki-shi and bought a dry goods store. Actually buying is not accurate, women could not own real property. She loaned money to a local merchant and the store was mortgaged. The store carried dry goods such as dried beans of many varieties, dried seaweeds, sugars of many colors, straw hats, chōchin (paper lanterns), and such. Her price was competitive and the store always had customers.

Tsuru also bought several rental houses in Taiwan, which at the time was a territory of Japan. Again, for legal reasons, the property was registered under the name of her son-in-law who was made the landlord (more on that later).

About 1932, Tsuru began selling a medicine for jaundice based on an old Taniwaki family remedy. The story is that once upon a time a pilgrim who traveled from temple to temple became ill and one of my ancestors helped him and nursed him back to health. The pilgrim showed his gratitude by giving our ancestor the formula for the medicine. Since then our family had been dispensing the medicine whenever asked to.

To make it a business, Tsuru began to advertise in a wide area. She produced 100 or more signs to display on the roadside. One day, the police came to the store and told her that the signs were not allowed. “Your medicine could not be as good as the signs claim.” The police may have exceeded their authority but an appeal would be prohibitively expensive. Tsuru gave up.

During the war, the Japanese government reduced the number of retail outlets and Tsuru had to close her store.

After the war, under the occupying force’s order, Japan passed a sweeping land reformation law. All farmland not cultivated by land owners had to be sold at below market prices to the tenants. Tsuru lost most of her farmland and the rent it produced.

Tsuru died in 1950.

Matsu Taniwaki 谷脇松

Matsu was born in 1871 as the second child of Eiji and Ushi. She married Yasukichi Yokoyama (横山安吉) in 1895 and they moved to his farm. I believe they were both alive at the end of the war.  I don’t have information on any children they had.

Tomi Taniwaki 谷脇富

Tomi is the youngest child of Eiji and Ushi. She was born in 1880. She had a mental disability and so was not a good candidate for marriage. In 1907, Eiji arranged a marriage between Tomi and Heikichi Ichikawa (市川平吉). They divorced a year later without any children and she returned to the family home.

After the deaths of Eiji (1926) and Umetaro (1927), Tsuru moved to Susaki. She (or perhaps Umetaro before he died) arranged Tomi to marry Unkichi Ichikawa (市川運吉) in 1927 and gave them a small plot of land. Tsuru asked them move into and take care of the now empty family home until Kiyomi returned (more on that later).

I don’t know if Heikichi and Unkichi were related to each other or not. My guess is they were not as Ichikawa was a common name in our area. Tomi died about 1940.

The stories of generations 5 through 8 continue in a Feb blog post.

[Update1: Corrected or added several birth dates and wedding dates. Corrected kanji errors and grammar errors. Added references to koseki and kakocho records. Yoshihei moved his family to a new site for a home, but continued to farm at the old site. Asakura is a town near Kochi-shi, not a city in Fukuoka prefecture. Only one house was broken into by the burglar. Tsuru cooked for the workers at the camp near Tacoma but did not open a restaurant there. Added info about Matsu and her husband. It was Tsuru, not Eiji, who asked Tomi and her husband to move into the house. Added comment about ambiguity of Tomi’s husband’s name.]

[Update2: Clarified that Heikichi and Unkichi are actually two different men. Updated family tree.]

[Update3: Asakura was annexed by Kochi after the war. Tsuru was born in 1879, updated family tree. Heikichi was not a neighbor. Land was given to Tomi for her marriage with Unkichi, not Heikichi.]

[Update4: Removed names of some relatives from family tree at their request. Added link to part 2.]

Below are two maps I created to indicate the locations of events described in my father’s memoir reproduced in three earlier blog posts. These are live maps, so you can click on the map to see the actual data on Bing Maps.

The first map is of Southern Japan. It shows the cities (numbers 1 through 5) that my father traveled through by train and ferry from his farm in Susaki-shi, Kochi-ken on the island of Shikoku to get to Hiroshima-shi on the main island of Honshu. It also shows the two cities (6 and 7) mentioned later in the memoir. The short link to this map is


Map of southern Japan showing the cities mentioned in my father’s memoirs. Courtesy of Bing Maps

The second map is of the city of Hiroshima. It shows the location of the army camp (1), the bomb shelters (2), ground zero (3), Niho Elementary School (4), Hiroshima train station (5), East training ground (6), sentry post west of city (7), temporary crematory (8), and the army headquarters (9). The short link to this map is


Map of Hiroshima-shi showing the landmarks mentioned in my father’s memoirs. Courtesy of Bing Maps

The bomb shelter where my father was working when the atomic bomb detonated no longer exists. It was closed off and covered over. There is now a service road in the park that passes near the point. Using Bing Maps you can create a bird’s eye view looking west that shows the topography of Hiji-yama-koen (Hiji hill park).


Bird’s eye view looking west shows the topography near the army camp (1), bomb shelters (2), and a temporary crematory (8). Courtesy of of Bing Maps

I have updated the original blog posts to include links to the maps. Links to the memoir are: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Much thanks to Greg Huber and other readers for feedback on how they used online maps and the relative location of ground zero to various locations mentioned in the memoir to help them understand the extent of damage caused by the bomb.

This is the last of three blog posts that are an excerpt from a notebook my father carried as a young man.

Note: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of human injuries.

Part 1 of this story was posted 12/27/2012.

Part 2 of this story was posted 12/28/2012.

By Michio Taniwaki

Two days after the bombing, I was among a group of the soldiers ordered to go to the East Training Ground (map 2 #6) which was located in north central Hiroshima. We could not go straight there. Though the fires were mostly burnt out in the city, under the ashes embers were still smoldering. We made a detour first toward the north near the Hiroshima-eki (train station, map 2 #5) that was destroyed but not burnt down, then to the west. As we walked, we passed three elderly people talking. “What will become of us?” they asked each other.

Hiroshima Train Station a few months after the bombing shows a makeshift terminal in front. The concrete façade appears in good condition but the building is actually unusable and was later demolished. Photo from Gateway to Peace project

As we approached the entrance to the training ground, a private first class and I were assigned to stand sentry at the intersection. Nothing unusual happened. Fires were still burning at some distance away. Once in a while people walked in front of us, but the private first class didn’t move or say anything except when asked for directions or other questions.

There was a satsuma imo (sweet potato) patch behind us. Since we were hungry I checked the size of the potatoes by digging. But they were much too small to eat, about the size of fingers. In the morning we returned to the assembly area and slept in the grass.

In and around the training ground were many tents set up for emergency kitchens and first aid. They were mostly set up by navy. There were some trucks among them that belonged to the navy too. “What is the army doing,” we wondered.

While we were resting, somebody came to tell us that there was a noncom lying at the railroad crossing. He was wearing the mark for the Army vessel unit. “You are the same group aren’t you? Why don’t you go and take care of him?” Four of us went to the railroad crossing. A noncom was lying next to the track. His breath was rapid and shallow. He was unconscious. We fashioned a stretcher from a door we found, placed him on it, and carried him to our station, then to the navy’s first aid station situated in front of a Buddhist temple.

The medic said his skull was fractured and there was no hope for him. The medic dressed the noncom’s wound anyway. Many soldiers were on the floor, and we tried to place him there. A corporal or sergeant stopped us saying, “This place is taken by our unit, no others except civilians are allowed to be in here.”

We thought he couldn’t have such authority, but we left and placed the patient under a tree out of the sun. Presently, we were sitting next to three wounded older privates. One of them asked for a cigarette, so I gave some. Another man wanted to drink water, so I went to a neighboring house to get some water.

Soon our noncom died. We reported this to Corporal Koike who inspected the noncom’s jacket for his identification. The corporal found his name, Kobayashi, but his unit was only written as “Re.” Corporal Koike said, “I don’t know what ‘Re’ is. I have to go to the headquarters to find out.” He left the station, and two of us were now watching over the corpse. The medic saw this and said, “You army-san are so inconvenient. Don’t you know that naval jackets have the name of the unit clearly written on them so you can identify instantly?”

This was not our first time to be at this location (training camp). We came here once before to practice radio communication. We had set up a station and exchanged messages with the home base. The infantry would have to run and crawl on the ground, but we sat under a shade tree.

Nearby, a couple of girls were playing ball. One girl would bounce the ball while singing a song. If the ball bounced off the other girl, she would take over and sing and bounce. The song went like this, “Second mama is stepmother, and Mama is angry because you are too late with a big bucketful of water. Stamping, kicking and beating. ‘Mama, Mama forgive me.’”

At some distance, a barely audible whistle and sound of machinery were heard, a faint smoke column was rising slowly into the clear blue sky. That was far and away. Here and now, the main hall of the temple was full of the wounded and more were coming. Everything, houses and fields were destroyed and the area around us looked like a battleground or hell.

The replacements for corpse watching came so we returned to the barracks. That afternoon we built a hut to sleep in. We used material salvaged from the barracks. The hut had a roof and floor but no walls, good enough for the season.


[The following are notes my father wrote in 2010 for a 65th anniversary remembrance speech he gave on the steps of the Colorado state capitol building.]

We were ordered to go to Niho Elementary School about a mile to the east (map 2 #4) where one of many temporary hospitals that had been set up, and helpers were needed. There were hundreds of patients, women, old people, and children mostly of elementary school age. They didn’t talk loudly or cry.

There were no beds, tatami (rice straw mats about 1 m by 2 m, as hard as door mats) were spread on the wooden floor. There were no doctors or trained nurses, only a few medics and some untrained helpers like us. What we could do was limited to serving water, feeding them some onigiri (rice balls), although many patients didn’t have an appetite and vomited, and assisting them to the restroom. Help was needed day and night. We didn’t have oil or ointment to treat the burns nor bandages nor any pain killers or other medications. We didn’t have the slightest notion that these patients were suffering from radiation sickness.

We moved dead bodies and brought in new patients. Without medication patients didn’t fare well. A boy who was quietly lying had maggots in his eyes, I picked them out and cleaned his eyes with water. A middle-aged man who said he was a watchmaker and his wife both frequently asked me for my help. After 3 days of work without a break to sleep, our replacements appeared. The couple begged me to stay but I could not continue.

The next day we were ordered to stand sentry at the west end of the city (map 2 #7). There were no more fires and no more embers under the ash so we walked straight across the city. Wide areas were completely burnt, only the skeleton of concrete buildings and charred trees were left standing. But as we approached our destination, houses reappeared and there were houses with little damage. I suppose some were vacant, but every 4th or 5th house had a sign for bereavement posted meaning people were living there.

Sentry work was uneventful. We were ordered to go back to the barracks without having done anything meaningful.

The next day we were assigned to transport corpses to one of many makeshift crematoria in the city (map 2 #8). We started from near our camp. Many bodies were children. It took two men to pick up a body, one man lifts the legs while another lifts the arms and together they put the corpse into a stretcher. Grabbing arms was a nightmarish experience, skin peels off the arms and you lose your grip, the body falls down, but the skin remains in your hands. Everybody hated this job. I did more than a fair share, and I was thanked for that, a rare event in the army. Railroad ties were used for fuel, and corpses were placed on the stack. In most cases corpses were not identified. The air was filled with a strong stench and it filled our lungs. When we came back I overheard someone saying, “Then there was a man who had a bunch of watches. He offered me one for getting some medication, but I couldn’t do anything. He died soon. We cremated his body and all the watches too.”

On August 15, we were told to gather at the center of camp to hear an important announcement and warned not to misbehave no matter what was said. It was the Emperor’s voice on the radio, the first time ever we heard it, announcing the end of war, and concluding we should prepare to, “bear the unbearable and suffer the insufferable.” My feeling was “Thank god it’s over.” I tried hard not to look happy, I am still in the imperial army, but I think I am not alone. The commander of our regiment, who was hospitalized, said according to a noncom who was also in the hospital, “I’ll go home in the countryside and be the mayor or something.” (In Japan, a mayor in those days was hired by the city or township, not elected.) The noncom added, “These words are unbecoming of a commander.” I thought “Why don’t you wake up.”

I imagined that surrendering meant soon the army will be dissolved, and we will be discharged from the army. “How nice,” but before that we had to surrender all weapons and equipment to the Allied forces. Sorting and moving kept us busy. We were working without adequate food.

One day a request for volunteers was made, “Headquarter needs kitchen helpers.” I raised my hand and accepted along with few others. We went to the headquarters in Ujina, a seaport for Hiroshima (map 2 #9). The area seemed to have escaped the blast.

The headquarters was made up from a few poorly constructed buildings arranged in a square that surrounded a courtyard. A civilian employee directed us to the kitchen and told us to do the daily routine, cooking gohan (boiled white rice) enough for all personnel whose number varies day-to-day. The rice must be measured and rinsed then placed in a large pot that looked like a huge upside down steel helmet. We then added the correct amount of water. For fuel, we were to use boards piled up in the backyard, which were wet from the rain. We had to dry them by placing them around the fire. Okazu (side dishes for gohan) would be cooked by civilian workers. Our hunger disappeared quickly.

The commander was diabetic and ate fresh chicken every day. (Nobody else had access to such luxury.) Someone had to kill the bird and remove the feathers, that became my job. Cleaning and cooking the bird was a civilian cook’s job. There was no heavy manual work here, and food was plentiful. Often there was surplus resulting from unreported personnel reductions and we threw the extra food away. Somebody, possibly a former employee found this and started to collect it saying it was animal feed, but he complained of the unsanitary condition in which the food was found. It was clear he wasn’t using it for animals.

One day we received kazunoko (dried herring roe, a delicacy usually reserved for New Year’s Day) in a shitodaru (a barrel that holds about 40 liters or 10 gallons). We placed it out front so anyone who came to the kitchen could scoop some out. For a while it moved fast but, then eventually we heard, “No thanks, no more.” They refused to eat it.

We were ordered to burn the military maps. So we used the once valuable navigational charts being stored in the map cabinet as kindling to cook with.

As the days passed, the headquarters’ food requirements declined. Within a few weeks we were dismissed from kitchen duty and returned to our original unit. We borrowed a cart from one of the civilian workers. We put our belongings on it, but when we finish unloading nobody was willing to return the cart, not me either. So we kept it. I don’t think it belonged to him personally.

By now, many of the men had been discharged. The remaining men were housed in tents. We were still moving materials. One day, old-fashioned uniforms appeared and they were distributed among us. There were indications that some senior noncoms were taking goods home. More men were discharged and they went home.

New orders arrived. We were to move to Mihara-shi, a small city about 60 km to the east (map 1 #7). We hired a small ship to move everything we had including radio equipment. We occupied a dormitory for the workers of a rayon factory. We were assigned to watch goods we stored at a storage shed which was a flimsy building. We were armed with mock rifles. Nothing happened for many nights, but one evening, suspicious men appeared. The guards responded with the weapons and yelling. The would-be burglars ran off. Those of us who were not there heard this story with amazement.

One day I was ordered to dig some earthworms from the vegetable garden. The soil was dry and sandy. There were no worms. “You don’t even know how to dig worms,” I was told.

Another day I was told to go to town to pick up an urn previously ordered, which was for Yamamoto who was in the 4th Company and moved to the 5th Company. Poor soul. Someone was trying to pour the ash from the bag into the army style urn, an unpainted cedar box about 15 cm on each side. Staff Sergeant said, “You don’t have to put all the ash in the box, pour out some onto the garden,” the same garden I was ordered to find worms.

It had been more than two month since the end of the war and we were getting tired. Our companies were mostly gone. Officers and some noncoms were working with books and records. By this time the signs of rank were removed so it was hard to know who was who.

One day a private took out a sword and said, “Let us go, or I’ll commit hara-kiri (ritual suicide).” Usually such an outburst would bring some punishment. Instead, we privates were all discharged. Before leaving we received some surplus goods including several hoods for rain coats, some okome (uncooked white rice), and miso (soup paste) in a pail. I gave my miso to a radio shop owner I had become acquainted with. My okome was exchanged for some unsweetened biscuits. We also received severance pay of 1,000 yen, about ten months worth of civilian’s pay but because of hyperinflation worth only about 10 dollars [about $200 in 2010 dollars]. Much later I found that our status was actually civilian employees, but I didn’t know it at the time. Whoever released us was at least honest enough to give us our severance pay.

I tried to buy a ticket for home, but was told that all trains were full and no more tickets could be issued. The radio shop owner intervened and I was able to get as far as Takamatsu-shi (map 1 #2), the entrance to Shikoku. I had to wait a day, but was able to get a ticket to Susaki-shi (map 1 #1), my hometown. As in all other stations, the place was so crowded that there was no place to sleep. An out-of-order telephone booth became my overnight shelter. The next day I was finally on the way to unite with my anxious family.


An interview of my father and other Hiroshima survivors appeared in the Rocky Mountain News in Aug 2005.

For more information on the bombing of Hiroshima, visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

[Update: I created two maps of locations mentioned in this memoir and added links. For details, see Jan 27 blog post.]

This is the second of three blog posts that are an excerpt from a notebook my father carried as a young man.

Note: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of human injuries.

Part 1 of this story was posted 12/27/2012.

By Michio Taniwaki

Just outside of gate of the army camp and across the street was a city park, Hiji-yama-koen (map 2 #2), named after the hill. Part of the hill was to become air raid shelters. The air raid shelters looked like coal mines or tunnels. They were long, narrow and had an L- or T-shaped end. For the building materials such as post and boards for the tunnels, we went to the site of demolished homes.

[Throughout the summer, several army companies, including mine, were assigned to tear down houses in an attempt to] create fire lines in case of fire caused by Allied incendiary bombing. We ran to these sites, picked up the demolition debris, carried them over our shoulders, and placed them near the entrance of the shelters. This was done before breakfast.

We called the task of digging air raid shelters “Hijiyama work,” and during the month of July we did Hijiyama work once or twice a week. Members of other companies were also doing this work and they were working more often than us. These shelters were to protect radio equipment and were being built near the barracks. Some companies were working almost every day, but our company had many with poor physique so our work was ineffective.

A noncom always led us to one of the shelters. There usually was another noncom from a company responsible for telephone and telegraph communications, we called them Wired communication. They set dynamite, installed supporting posts, and did other work that required some knowledge and skill. Meanwhile, we carried dirt and gravel using a cart on a rail or more commonly using baskets on poles, two men working together.

Hiroshima had been built on the Ōta-gawa (Ōta River) delta [the delta rivers are now called the Hon-gawa or Hon Rivers] which is compacted sand of eroded granite and so easy to dig except deep inside the tunnel where we reach bedrock and dynamite had to be used. We preferred night shift, because after night shift we were allowed to sleep 6 hours during the day, time when others were in the training room.


The first two pages of the notebook my father carried during the war. The first page lists the serial numbers of all the paper money in his possession. He was ordered to record them by the army. Photo by George Taniwaki

Toward the critical time

I found two good friends, Usami of Tokyo and Ushijima from Fukuoka-ken. Ushijima was like Shiota, and we criticized the military and discussed the outcome of the war. We did this during the breaks, we had to keep some distance from others. I don’t remember if I talked about the war with Usami. We did not meet very often, but we made a good company to carry dirt with basket and pail. When the going got tough he hummed away the Grand March and I liked that, it was far better than Japanese marching songs that are mostly primitive.

Corporal Koike was assistant to squad leader, Sergeant Sakamoto. One day, he was giving us a lecture, but against his expectation we could not memorize what was taught. “Can’t you do better than that?” he asked. “No. It must be my fault. Even if you worked hard, if the instruction isn’t right, you can’t do well. So I’ll punish myself.” As soon as he finished his words he began to hit his cheek with his fist. That made us hold our breath.

Private Baba shouted, “Corporal Koike, please stop. If you have to hit, hit me instead.”

We made a resolution to obey his orders. The next day I overheard an older private scolding a new private like us. “What’s the matter with you? Yesterday you guys acted like a cheap play.” I felt an anger. We worked harder after this incident, but it didn’t last more than two weeks or so. Most of the time we were training to transmit and receive signals.

Toward the end of July we began to hear a rumor, that we were to have maneuvers and so-and-so would be sent to such-and-such location. One day I had to go to the company commander’s room for housekeeping duty. There I saw the itinerary and found out that I was with the group whose destination was Kurashiki-shi, about 80 miles east (map 1 #6), this would be a fun.

About this time we did house demolition every day to cut fire lines, but the demolished houses were left sitting on the ground. Would they work when the bombing started?

Whenever we heard the air raid sirens, we put on armor-like garments, steel helmets and rifles if you had one. Each time, the 4th Company had to move all the communication equipment from storage to the air raid shelters at Hijiyama. When all was done, usually the air raid warning was cancelled and everything was moved back. Eventually, we left the equipment in the shelter and brought them back out only when needed. We also performed fire drills, which was the same as the civilian way, using buckets of water and bamboo sticks with mops attached. (One dips the mop into water and beat the burning objects, including incendiary bombs, to put the flames out.) The effect was doubtful, fire extinguishers seemed more useful, but we never learnt to operate them.

On the evening of August 5th, the air raid sirens went on again. As usual bombs didn’t fall as far as we could tell, but we had to perform the standard routine. When all was done we went back to sleep. We expected to get permission to sleep a half day or so because of the extra work during the night. But Communication Class 2 which I was a member of was ordered to perform Hijiyama work between 06:00 and 12:00. “Rotten deal,” I thought.

Sergeant Sakamoto led us to the Number 4 Shelter. We placed our jackets, canteens, and other things in a shack near the air raid shelter entrance. I tried to remove my watch from the pocket of my jacket and dropped it. The watch stopped and it stayed stopped for 3 or 4 months. The supervisor of the day was a hard-working man who made us work hard too. Soon we were exhausted, but work had to continue without a break. I and a few others used shovels to fill an ore cart and Usami was almost ready to push it out.

Suddenly lights went out. Due to poor makeshift wiring it would break down quite often. This would provide us a much-needed break, but we did not want to reveal our joy. Instead, we said, “Too bad” in presence of the sergeant and supervisor. Usami pushed the cart on the track in complete darkness, but nobody else made any move for fear of running into someone or something.

While in the dark, we heard a “BOOM.” It was not very loud, yet the pressure pushed the eardrums inward. “What’s that?”

“Dynamiting in a nearby shelter.”

“The air compressor exploded.”

“No it’s a bomb, I’m sure of it.”

Sergeant Sakamoto said, “I’ll get out and take a look.” Soon he came back and with excited voice said, “All of you come out quick, our barracks are wiped out.”

"What does he mean wiped out?" To find out we moved through the darkness and got out.

The first thing I saw was two injured men being carried down the hill. I went to the shack where I left my jacket just to see the shack was no longer standing there, my jacket was blown out and canteen was at the corner of the blown shack. The barracks were obscured by the cloud of dust, but I could see the nearest structure, a garage with the door blown and roof lying on the ground. The rear end of the building was still standing but leaning toward the front end. Our training hall had its pillars broken. The roof looked as if a giant’s hand pushed it down and left an imprint of a wavy pattern (like skin over ribs), so you could see where the rafters were. Windows were broken or blown in. Shingles were scattered on the ground and also inside. Some walls were blown down and some others were leaning. (As the dust settled,) I could see our living quarters looked no better. I thought there must be a huge crater where the bomb hit, but there was no crater anywhere near the barracks.

I moved my eye sight to out of barracks, as far as I could see, the city suffered the same or even heavier damage. This has to have been a new kind of bomb, a dreadful one. I was terrified at first. Then a happy thought welled up in my mind, after a big event like this military discipline would become loose.

It is hard to describe how strict the discipline was. For example, each soldier was ordered to keep a cash book (in order to record the serial numbers of all currency he held). The book was inspected so they would know that we were not hiding extra cash. And they didn’t stop there. They checked our pockets, clothing, personal belongings, and inside of book covers without telling us. Finally, they checked the gaps in floor and wall boards several times.

Letters to home were censored which was expected. But Corporal Uto picked one recruit, and read out loud part of the letter he wrote to his older sister. He commanded, “Rewrite the letter, it’s too sissy.”

Now with this bomb, the barracks were destroyed, men were injured, discipline could not be maintained. In the midst of disaster I felt private happiness.

At a short distance away, the remaining 4th Company had gathered. 80% of 4th Company had been injured and 50% required some treatment. I found Usami, who had been injured. He said, "As I pushed the cart to the exit, I saw a blinding flash, then I was blown backward about 2 meters. I tried to get up, but I was blown down again.” [The atomic bomb created a blast wave which consisted of a high pressure shock followed by a low pressure one.]

Someone pointed upward and said, “Look.” In the sky there was a huge cloud that looked like a cumulonimbus except it was moving in all directions at high speed. [Actually tons of dirt and ash being swept up by the blast. For location of ground zero, see map 2 #3.] Days later we heard that a strange kuroi ame (black rain) [the now highly radioactive dirt and ash dropping back down to earth] fell in some parts of the city. A tree branch over our heads was burning. “How odd, we ought to put out that fire,” someone said. But nobody moved.

At about noon, civilians walking toward Hijiyama Park began arriving. The tree shade probably attracted them. The sirens wailed again. Civilians and soldiers got into the shelters. I was in a shelter with young noncom candidates that looked about 16 or 17 years old. They screamed when something touched their backs with severe burns. One of them stopped next to me with burned skin and obviously in a great deal of pain. I offered water, which he drank.

The air raid warning was cancelled so we got out. Then I saw more people arrive with burns over their bodies, which was a horrible scene. Some appeared to have skull caps on their heads. A closer look told us that the caps were actually their hair. Probably they had hats on, so the tops of their heads were protected while the hair and skin on the lower parts of their heads had burnt away. Some people were burnt on their front, some burnt on their backs, and most had burns on their arms. Their skin was peeling from their arms and dangling. Their steps were staggered. There were children, old men, and women. Some young women were wearing chemise with hems burnt (their dresses had burnt away) and they were staggering toward the shade.

The thought that “war is terrible” came to my mind and receded. “War will continue,” I was sure. Wounded men were rescued from the barracks and sent to the hospital. Some men from 4th Company were among those sent to the hospital, but the Company miraculously had no fatalities. Most wounds were caused by falling objects, some lost much blood.

The kitchen had been damaged, and a regular meal couldn’t be prepared, but we received emergency rations made up of rock hard biscuits at about 13:00. The army didn’t provide any food or care for civilians. For the first time we felt that we were lucky to be in the army. Hundreds of wounded and sick civilians were arriving in Hijiyama Park and sat down under the trees. Most of them were so weak they didn’t move from where they sat nor raise their voice.

The most important job of our company was head count. Until nightfall roll calls were ordered several times. We spread blankets in the open space and spent a restless night watching the red sky through the tree branches. Night sentries were posted, but it was very lax.

The next morning we went back to the barracks to retrieve some supplies, our personal effects, and building material such as boards. Our living quarters were on the second floor. The main stairway was damaged so we used the emergency stairway on the outside wall. Inside looked worse than we thought with broken pillars, fallen beams, blown in windows, fallen shelves and other debris filled the space. We had to negotiate obstacles to move about. Somehow we got in and finally I was at our room. Large bunk beds were the prominent objects and they were like extra floors, as many as eight beds were on each floor. I saw the upper floor lost its supports and landed on the lower one where my bed was situated. Next to my pillow was a crushed steel helmet. Too close for comfort.

I picked out my personal items and those of my buddy, Higuchi. I found his glasses and put them in my pocket. Then I made two bundles and threw them out of the window to be picked up later. Higuchi was injured and sent to a temporary hospital set up at Niho Elementary School (map 2 #4). A few days later he was discharged, so I handed him the glasses. He was so happy to be able to see again. He said before the bomb he had two pairs of glasses, but at the hospital he had neither of them. To show his appreciation he offered me part of his meal. This was not a small favor. Everybody was hungry for lack of food.

That night sentries stood guard as usual, but a new special order was issued, “Watch for runaway soldiers.”

See part 3 of 3 here.

[Update: I created two maps of locations mentioned in this memoir and added links. For details, see Jan 27 blog post.]

The following three blog posts are an excerpt from a notebook my father carried as a young man. He kept the notebook with him while he was a soldier in the Japanese Army during World War 2. His experiences as reported in this blog are recollections written by him after the war, while living in Japan in 1947. He translated these notes to English from 2011 to 2012.

By Michio Taniwaki

On February 10th 1945 I received a notice ordering me to report to an army camp in Hiroshima on April 24. It was only 2 months after my physical examination. This order was no surprise to me, it was only a matter of when not whether.

Beside helping my dad’s farm [in Kochi-ken on the island of Shikoku, map 1 #1] I had a part-time radio repair business. I had a quite a few radios to repair between now and April 23. Most difficult work was to acquire the replacement parts. New parts were nice, but often used parts had to do.

The custom here was that when solders leave home he has to visit relatives, neighbors, grave site of ancestors, and attend prayer meeting at the locally supported Shintō shrine. I did not believe in Shintō and I didn’t want to trouble myself to wasteful activity.

The day of departure was tumultuous with many people coming to say goodbye and wishing me good luck. In my mind, Japan was to lose the war and we (soldiers) would be quickly discharged, but this was something you never would utter, or you would be accused of being unpatriotic.

At the railroad station I met two other young men, total strangers, who are also leaving for service. I was chosen to speak; to make a thank you speech. I was not in the mood to make a lengthy meaningless speech so made a very short one. My mind was unsettled, but got in the train. As the train left the station, the calls of “banzai, banzai got farther away and soon overcome by the sound of the train.

After midnight, I took a ferry (from Takamastsu to Uno, map 1 #2 to #3), changed trains (at Okayama map 1 #4) and next morning I was in Hiroshima (map 1 #5). We checked in at Uomitsu Ryokan (inn). Among many men about ten were from Kochi-ken, but they were all strangers to me. There was a gunzoku (a civilian army employee) to manage our affairs. That evening two girls appeared and sang and danced to entertain us. “How nice of them,” we thought. The song they sang was an unfamiliar one. Years later, I heard the same tune in California. Were they Nisei? Were they looking for other Nisei? Did they survive the A-bomb and make it back to America?

The front cover of the notebook my father carried in 1945 as a Japanese soldier. After the war he recorded his recollection of the events in this notebook. Photo by George Taniwaki

Basic and officer training

Next morning, April 24, we were led to the barracks of Akatsuki 16710 butai (army regiment) which is a unit of the army that possessed landing ships. I was assigned to 4th Company. The barracks (map 2 #1) looked like ordinary infantry barracks, cheaply constructed drab long two-storied buildings, a hallway ran through the center lengthwise to divide the rooms. 4th company occupied several rooms. We were placed upstairs. All rooms were equipped with rows of huge shelf-like bunk beds. Between the beds were long tables with chairs. We listened to instructions, ate, read, and wrote at the tables. The room was much too small for the number of men and very uncomfortable.

Training didn’t start right away. Men from the personnel department checked our background several times. I didn’t mention where I was born. (I am an American citizen, born in Alameda, California, but raised in Japan. I feared what would happen to me if this was ever discovered.) They also checked our belongings. Then army uniforms, shirts, boots and other items were issued.

Three or four days later we were in medical service room for physical examination. A medic, private first class approached me and said, “Are you Taniwaki?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you know me?” he asked. “I am Nishimura of Miyanoshimo.”

“No, I don’t.” He could have been family of one of my radio repair customers. but I had never seen him before.

“Are you allowed to write home?” he asked.


“If you have a message to send home, I can write and send it to your folks,” he offered.

“Thank you very much, I don’t have any message, thank you anyway.”

Three or four days later we had the army induction ceremony. Sekihan (rice with red beans) was served. This was the first and the last such treat. We were learning everyday routine for the army. At 05:30, a bugle sounds and we shouted “Get up” and jumped out of the beds and folded the blankets as instructed. The blankets must be folded neatly and there should be no wrinkle and placed them on the rice-straw-filled mattresses. Then we pulled out the boots from under the bed, ran down the stairway, put our feet in the boots, ran a few steps forward, and tied the shoelaces. Then we ran to form roll call lines. If we didn’t do it fast enough, they made us repeat it 2 or 3 times.

One morning the commander of our regiment appeared. The company commander reported to him that all personnel are accounted for. “You have been here for a week now I suppose you are getting used to army’s daily life,” he said. “You might be still thinking about home, but you should never take a foolish act (and desert).” After this we learned a correct way to salute. When all done we returned to our room for breakfast.

Before the army I had heard that you have to eat fast, or be punished. But our squad leader, a corporal, said, “Chew well, army’s food is tough.” It was tough and poor in quality and quantity. After the meal some of us washed the dishes and rest of the men tidied up the room. If we didn’t do it fast enough, there would be thunderous, “What are you doing?” and “Hurry up.” Face slapping and kicking usually accompanied the thunder.

Beginning the next day, we heard, “Ten minutes before the assembly for the drill. Make sure there are no wrinkles on the blankets and they are lined up perfectly straight.” Unlike infantry, our drilling was done indoors. The communication hall was also used as our training room. The hall contained an instructor’s desk and rows of benches with telegraph keys mounted that were connected to a monitoring device at the instructor’s desk. First we learned a correct way to hold the key and proper posture.

Training would start after breakfast and ended before dinner time. Homework of memorizing 5 letters was ordered. There were two breaks, morning and afternoon. During the break we performed standard exercise, used latrine, smoking was allowed within two meters of the “ashtrays.” The ashtrays were ugly rusted water-filled vegetable cans. Cans were counted and recorded so it was important not to lose or damage them. Every evening ashtrays were cleaned. During the break if you were not doing anything, you were vulnerable to an order for errand. Even smoking was good enough to avoid an errand, so I started to smoke. This became a habit.

I found a few good friends. Shiota, Sakai and Shimizu all from Fukuoka-ken. We criticized government and leaders of army for the foolish decision to start the war against the Allies, especially the U.S. We tried to predict the progress of the war. We agreed Japan would lose the war. I had added that, “But eventually peace will return between Japan and America, then I want to go to America.” It was a rather unusual statement. This was in a country where people were led to believe that Japan is invincible, that Japan is a nation of virtue. I don’t know if this sort of propaganda was concocted by government officials or its collaborators, but newspapers were willing to cooperate. They told us, “America and England are barbaric so they must be destroyed.” People believed it, and speaking or even uttering any words contrary to it was considered a major crime. Through the grapevine we learnt that the battle at Okinawa wasn’t going well for Japan. We also knew that in Europe, Germany finally surrendered. Someone asked if Japan will win the war. Sergeant Sakamoto said, “If you didn’t surrender to the last man it should be considered victory forever.” Obviously he was among the believers.

The sergeant read a newspaper article about Germany, solders were given 30 days worth of rations and ordered to go back to Germany on their feet. Using their currency was strictly prohibited. I imagined myself carrying rations and crossing the Shikoku Mountains to go home.

After each afternoon session we went back to our room for dinner followed by cleaning the room, polishing shoes belonging to older solders, and cleaning rifles, if you had been issued one. There were not enough for all men. All these chores plus homework kept us working at dizzy pace.

Evening roll call was done in the living quarters at 20:00. After a short waiting time an officer of that week appeared. Corporal Uto saluted the officer and shouted, “Total number 42, absent 5, present number 37, absentees are 3 for sentry, 1 each infirmary and company duty. All are accounted for, sir.” After the report, so-called roll call education started. First, we had to memorize names of commanders in the chain from the minister of army down to commander of our squad. We also memorized excerpts of their instructions, and later excerpts of the army’s manuals were added. If you failed to memorize we would be treated with face slapping and other punishments. This training lasted for two months. Training was conducted by older privates and noncoms. Then we placed our shoes on the floor as neatly as we could. In no time “light out” was ordered. We got in the bed, hard and stiff, then we heard the light out bugle, and all lights were turned off. Talking was prohibited.

After we become accustomed to the army routine, we were ordered to stand night guard inside the company barracks. The duty cycle was 1hr, 15 min, meaning more sleep was lost. A city street ran just out of the gate to the barracks. Older privates and a corporal were assigned to that guard duty. They were also allowed to go to goods sales room, although the room was nearly empty. Once in a while grapefruit or tokoroten (gelatin with no nourishment) were available. How did I know this? My good buddy, Shiota managed to get to the store and bought some grapefruits and gave me one.

The only entertainment here were meals and sleep. Most people sleep and dream about tomorrow, we slept to forget about today. Before I entered army, I thought at least enough food was available for the military. Instead, we had some rice and thin soup. One good side effect, digestive system had no troubles.

Those of us who finished high school (perhaps 20% of new recruits?) were put into a separate room for education to prepare for the test to receive special training for leaders. If you passed the test you would receive additional special training to become a noncom or officer. This would mean more responsibilities and possibly longer service, and that didn’t enthuse me at all. Fortunately, selection was based solely on the test, and there was no rule that you must pass the test.

Up to this point, the leader of room was Corporal Uto, who was out of Army Youth Communication School. Personnel out of this school were known to be rude and barbarous. He hit me a few times. Once during the training, he criticized me for minor difference in my tsu” sound. “Your pronunciation has been affected by high school English,” he claimed.

“No, this is an accent of Kochi-ken.”

“No excuse allowed.” He didn’t know that I was American born. I didn’t reveal this fact to anybody, even today (in 1947) none of my buddies know this.

In our new grouping, Sergeant Sakamoto became our leader. He was older than Corporal Uto, far better personality and with a wealth of common sense. He was also a good spearman, and he taught other noncoms how to use spears made from steel files. “This is not mere sport, he said. “If American land in Japan, we must fight like this to supplement our lack of rifles.” Civilians were also being taught to fight with bamboo spears these days. Nobody complained about these foolish acts.

The test for leaders candidates was held and results were made known. I failed, but Shiota and Sakai both passed. Shiota said, “Maybe because I was really calm.” He also added, “You know, the army badly needs more noncoms and officers.” Later I was told there was another way to become a noncom and I should apply. “No thank you.”

The officer candidates left for new assignments. The company was reorganized, and I was placed in the second platoon, so I carried my belongings to the new room. This was a terrible place, a den for barbarians, and we were like a bunch of thrown in rabbits. We were subjected to beatings, kicking, and other abuse. The worst offender was Tsuboi whose rank was private first class, soon to be corporal. He was probably fresh out of Army Youth Communication school. We hated him and tried to avoid him if possible.

There were monthly health check to test our physical condition which revealed that we were losing our weight. Only one or two men out of 50 gained. I lost 0.5 kg the first month and 1 kg the next. In the third month I lost 1.5 kg. I probably lost the most during the fourth month, but there was no test in the fourth month.

See part 2 of 3 here.

See part 3 of 3 here.

[Update: I created two maps of locations mentioned in this memoir and added links. For details, see Jan 27 blog post.]