Stories of Hope-Hiroshima Maidens
Maidens X - Y
Michiko Yamakoa (far left) in a traditional Japanese dress.
On the day the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, fifteen-year-old Michiko Yamakoa was walking to work as a telephone exchange operator, just eight hundred meters away from the blast. Of the Maidens, Michiko injuries were some of the most severe. She was unable to move her neck, and she couldn’t control her drooling because her lips had been burnt off. Also, she had one eye hanging loose, and all of her fingers were stuck together.
At first, her family took care of her, but they had a hard time understanding her condition. They soon became afraid of catching what they thought was her “disease.” Her family had no money; it was only Michiko and her mother living together. Michiko was bedridden for one whole year.
Michiko's mother helped by massaging her keloids, which made them softer and less severe. Michiko’s mother could not stand to see her daughter suffering so much. Therefore, she tried to choke Michiko to death. The attempt failed.
People called Michiko a monster because of her disfigurements and would throw stones at her. The only way Michiko ever made any income was by sewing shorts and selling them. Since her fingers were unable to move, she could only sew a straight line.
After ten long years, Michiko went to America. She underwent thirty-seven surgeries and skin grafts to fix her face and her hands. Afterwards, Michiko returned to Japan and became a dress maker.
Michiko volunteered at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan, where she told children about her story. Her face remained distorted despite all the surgeries. Of all the Hiroshima Maidens, Michiko was the one who suffered the worst. She overcame thinning bones and depression, fought breast cancer, and made it through thirty-seven surgeries. Still, she was able to stay strong and face the world.
After her reconstructive surgery, Motoko Yamashita returned to Japan where she lived unmarried.
Atsuko Yamomoto was the first Maiden to be operated on. In New York, she prefered to go with Hiroko Tasaka to see their friends rather than spend her time doing anything else.