Editorial: Japan should do more to pursue a world without nuclear arms
August 6, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
An atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 74 years ago today on Aug. 6, 1945. Many people's lives were lost in the blast and the survivors and their offspring are still suffering from the effects of the attack, such as through radiation-related diseases. The average age of atomic-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, is nearly 83. It is necessary to step up efforts to prevent the memories of the tragedy from fading.
The main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was fully renovated this year for the first time in 28 years. The facility now focuses on the lives of each and every victim and survivor. Specifically, 538 items such as victims and survivors' belongings and photos are on display to show how the victims died and the challenges survivors faced in the postwar period. The change of the displays is aimed at more strongly demonstrating the actual situation regarding damage from the blast.
Words, photos and personal effects of atomic-bombing victims and their relatives are on display at a single location. The museum's goal of touching visitors' emotions appears to have been successful.
For example, a shirt worn by a 13-year-old junior high school student at the time of the bombing and his lunchbox are exhibited together with the words of his mother, "Why did you die before me?" This is heartbreaking.
The underpants worn by a boy who died at age 2 after suffering serious burns when he was carried on his mother's back at the time of the bombing are displayed along with his words, "It's hot. It's hot," as well as a photo of the smiling infant.
Displays also show the lives of war orphans and those who suffered A-bomb microcephaly, further highlighting the tragedy.
The atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also putting more efforts into international movements to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In their respective peace declarations, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki municipal governments are for the first time also calling on the central government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and seek its ratification.
It is the role of politics to respect such feelings. The international community has been drifting more toward conflict than cooperation since U.S. President Donald Trump came to power. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia has expired, raising concerns that an arms race could intensify.
As the sole atomic-bombed country in the world, Japan needs to continue efforts to create a trend for nuclear abolition even if it is difficult.
A growing number of foreigners are visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. In fiscal 2018, foreigners accounted for nearly 30% of approximately 1.5 million visitors to the facility. Many of these foreigners have left messages praying for peace in visitor notebooks with comments such as, "I learned of the challenges that atomic-bomb survivors face and realized how happy we are now."
Visitors to the museum who view the displays will certainly realize the absurdity of nuclear arms. The Japanese government should try hard to spread such awareness on a global scale.
Full text of Hiroshima Peace Declaration on 74th A-bomb anniversary
Mainichi Shinbum, 6 August 6, 2019
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui reads out the Peace Declaration, at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2019. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)
HIROSHIMA -- The following is the full text of the Peace Declaration read on Aug. 6 by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui at a ceremony to mark the 74rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.
Around the world today, we see self-centered nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill. What are we to make of these global phenomena? Having undergone two world wars, our elders pursued an ideal -- a world beyond war. They undertook to construct a system of international cooperation. Should we not now recall and, for human survival, strive for that ideal world? I ask this especially of you, the youth who have never known war but will lead the future. For this purpose, I ask you to listen carefully to the hibakusha of Aug. 6, 1945.
A woman who was five then has written this poem:
Little sister with a bowl cut / head spraying blood
embraced by Mother / turned raging Asura
A youth of 18 saw this: "They were nearly naked, their clothes burned to tatters, but I couldn't tell the men from the women. Hair gone, eyeballs popped out, lips and ears ripped off, skin hanging from faces, bodies covered in blood -- and so many." Today he insists, "We must never, ever allow this to happen to any future generation. We are enough." Appeals like these come from survivors who carry deep scars in body and soul. Are they reaching you?
"A single person is small and weak, but if each of us seeks peace, I'm sure we can stop the forces pushing for war." This woman was 15 at the time. Can we allow her faith to end up an empty wish?
Turning to the world, we do see that individuals have little power, but we also see many examples of the combined strength of multitudes achieving their goal. Indian independence is one such example. Mahatma Gandhi, who contributed to that independence through personal pain and suffering, left us these words, "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit." To confront our current circumstances and achieve a peaceful, sustainable world, we must transcend differences of status or opinion and strive together in a spirit of tolerance toward our ideal. To accomplish this, coming generations must never dismiss the atomic bombings and the war as mere events of the past. It is vital that they internalize the progress the hibakusha and others have made toward a peaceful world, then drive steadfastly forward.
World leaders must move forward with them, advancing civil society's ideal. This is why I urge them to visit the atomic-bombed cities, listen to the hibakusha, and tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the National Peace Memorial Hall to face what actually happened in the lives of individual victims and their loved ones. I want our current leaders to remember their courageous predecessors: when nuclear superpowers, the US and USSR, were engaged in a tense, escalating nuclear arms race, their leaders manifested reason and turned to dialogue to seek disarmament.
This city, along with the nearly 7,800 member cities of Mayors for Peace, is spreading the Spirit of Hiroshima throughout civil society to create an environment supportive of leaders taking action for nuclear abolition. We want leaders around the world to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament, as mandated by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and respond to the yearning of civil society for entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a milestone on the road to a nuclear-weapon-free world.
I call on the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakusha's request that the TPNW be signed and ratified. I urge Japan's leaders to manifest the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution by displaying leadership in taking the next step toward a world free from nuclear weapons. Furthermore, I demand policies that expand the "black rain areas" and improve assistance to the hibakusha, whose average age exceeds 82, as well as the many others whose minds, bodies and daily lives are still plagued by suffering due to the harmful effects of radiation.
Today, at this Peace Memorial Ceremony commemorating 74 years since the atomic bombing, we offer our heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic bomb victims and, in concert with the city of Nagasaki and kindred spirits around the world, we pledge to make every effort to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons and beyond that, a world of genuine, lasting peace.
Hiroshima mayor pushes Japan to join nuke ban treaty, Abe declines
August 6, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
People attend the memorial ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2019. (Mainichi)
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) -- Hiroshima marked the 74th anniversary of its atomic bombing by the United States on Tuesday, with the city's Mayor Kazumi Matsui putting pressure on the Japanese government to join a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons in his peace declaration speech.
But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined to accept the request, saying the treaty does not reflect the reality of security. Japan has refused to participate in the treaty, along with other countries under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, as have the world's nuclear-weapon states.
"I call on the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakusha's (atomic bomb survivors') request that the TPNW be signed and ratified," Matsui said in the annual declaration at the memorial ceremony, referring to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed in July 2017 with the support of 122 nations.
"I urge Japan's leaders to manifest the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution by displaying leadership in taking the next step toward a world free from nuclear weapons."
For the past two years, Matsui had stopped short of explicitly demanding that Japan join the treaty, citing his wish to not make political capital from the peace declaration. The treaty is not yet in force since it has not been ratified by the required 50 states.
Holding a press conference after attending the ceremony, Abe said the treaty is "not based on the real aspects of security."
In a speech delivered at the ceremony, he did not mention the treaty, only saying Japan will serve tenaciously as a "mediator between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states" and "take the lead in making such efforts" in the international community.
Efforts to abolish nuclear weapons have been increasingly complicated by developments surrounding nuclear powers.
This year's anniversary came after the United States on Friday formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a major nuclear arms control pact with Russia signed in 1987, raising fears of a new arms race.
The move, combined with other pressing issues such as Iran's nuclear activity and the denuclearization of North Korea, could add to global uncertainty before governments review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the keystone of the international nuclear disarmament regime, next spring.
Attended by some 50,000 people and representatives from about 90 countries including the United States, Russia and Britain, the annual ceremony took place at the Peace Memorial Park near Ground Zero.
"Around the world today," Matsui said, "we see self-centered nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill."
The power of individuals is weak, he said, but added there have been many examples of collective strength achieving desired goals.
"Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit," the mayor said, quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's nonviolent independence movement against British rule.
He pointed out that "coming generations must never dismiss the atomic bombings and the war as mere events of the past."
To convey the reality of the atomic bombing, a Japanese classical "tanka" poem, written by a woman who survived the bombing at the age of 5, was cited in the declaration for the first time.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his message, "The world is indebted to" people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other A-bombed city, "for their courage and moral leadership in reminding us all about the human cost of nuclear war."
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November during the first papal visit to Japan since John Paul II toured in February 1981.
Despite occasional heavy rain due to a typhoon, local people of all ages and tourists visited the Memorial Park from early morning to pay tribute to those who died in the bombing and wish for peace.
Yasuo Kubo, 74, who experienced the bombing as a baby, offered a prayer as he does every morning. But he feels "special" when the anniversary comes.
"We must not go to war again. Everyone will understand that if they come here."
Yumeka Yamamoto, a 19-year-old local university student, said classmates from other prefectures gave her a questioning look when she said she would go to the park on the morning of the anniversary.
"I felt a bit sad. I want people outside Hiroshima to be more interested in (the atomic bombings)," she said.
A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the exact time on Aug. 6, 1945, when a uranium-core atomic bomb named "Little Boy" dropped by a U.S. bomber exploded above Hiroshima killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of that year.
A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 the same year and Japan surrendered six days later, bringing World War II to an end.
The combined number of surviving hibakusha from either bombing stood at 145,844 as of March, with their average age at 82.65.
Hibakusha: Conscripted Korean criticizes policies forcing Japanese name changes
August 5, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Kwak Kwi-hoon talks about the renewed main exhibition at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in Hiroshima's Chuo Ward, on June 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Misa Koyama)
HIROSHIMA -- This summer will mark the 74th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings in August 1945. A treaty banning development and other uses of nuclear weapons was adopted by the United Nations in 2017, but divisions between nuclear armed and non-nuclear armed states became evident at the 2019 Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held this spring.
· 【Related】Hibakusha: 'Zainichi' Korean reveals true identity to come to terms with Hiroshima A-bomb
The prospects of a nuclear-free world seem far off for hibakusha, A-bomb survivors now aged over 82 on average, who strongly wish for a world free of the weapons.
Kwak Kwi-hoon, 95, is a South Korean national living in Seongnam. He is the honorary president of the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association, and has worked tirelessly for the relief of hibakusha living in his country and residing outside of Japan.
In a dark room at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in June, a softly lit photograph of Kwak is on display. This spring, he made the trip to Japan for the first time in two years to visit the museum's renovated main building.
"I wasn't affected as a Japanese person. I am Korean," he said angrily. In front of him, reproductions of his military pocketbook and his disaster certification were on display.
But the name on the documents isn't Kwak Kwi-hoon, it's Tadahiro Matsuyama. An explanation provided with the items says it is his Japanese-style name. "Just based on this, people won't understand why I had a Japanese name," he said.
Born on the Korean Peninsula when it was under Japanese rule, he was named Matsuyama in accordance with the Soshi-kaimei policy, which required Korean people to change their names to Japanese ones.
In 1944, the height of the Pacific War, Kwak was conscripted at age 20, just before he was set to graduate from teacher training school. He was deployed to the army in Hiroshima.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped, he was irradiated immediately upon leaving his barracks some 2 kilometers from the A-bomb's hypocenter. He sustained burns to his head and back, and was left on the verge of death.
As items that prove he was exposed to the bomb's radiation, his disaster certificate and other effects are valuable evidence. But Kwak feels very strongly about his name, which should be "protected even at the risk of one's life." In his hometown in North Jeolla Province, people have proudly worn the name Kwak for over 500 years.
"The way people think about their surnames in Japan and South Korea is fundamentally different. For South Koreans, having your name forcibly changed is the worst form of humiliation," he explained. Precisely for that reason, he could not overlook the lack of detail on the Soshi-kaimei policy.
Kwak was a plaintiff in a suit for A-bomb survivors living abroad who sought eligibility for health management allowances under the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Assistance Act. The challenge was launched after the former Ministry of Health and Welfare discontinued payments on the basis that residency outside Japan disqualified them from support. "It wasn't just Japanese people who were victimized by the bombs," he said.
In December 2002, the Osaka High Court ruled in the plaintiff's favor. The presiding judge stated, "We have no choice but to accept the fact that a hibakusha is a hibakusha, wherever they are."
The renovated Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is the first to have set up an exhibition space for foreign hibakusha. A long held wish of Kwak's has been realized. Along with himself, a German man and at least one Malaysian hibakusha are introduced at the exhibit. He praised the display as historical progress.
To see the new exhibition, Kwak, who experiences difficulty in walking due to pain in his knees, pushed himself to make the trip to Japan. He doesn't know when he'll be able to make the journey again. For that reason, he was glad to have been able to tell the museum what he thought.
With conviction in his eyes, he said, "People from other countries were also affected by the atomic bombing. I want it (the exhibition) to spread this fact that cannot be countered by anyone. "
After the normalization of relations between Japan and South Korea in July 1967, Kwak founded the forerunner organization to the South Korean Atomic Bomb Sufferers Association, of which he remains honorary president.
(Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)
US nonfiction book on lives of hibakusha after Nagasaki A-bomb released in Japan
August 3, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Yasue Ujigawa holds a copy of "Nagasaki - Kakusenso go no Jinsei," which she translated into Japanese from Susan Southard's "Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War," in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on June 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Asako Takeuchi)
Susan Southard, the author of "Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War," is seen in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Susan Southard)
TOKYO -- The nonfiction book "Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War," which first came out in the United States and raised debate in a country where many consider the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan justifiable, was recently released in Japanese.
· 【Related】Exhibition of hibakusha A-bomb experiences painted by Hiroshima students to open in Tokyo
Author Susan Southard of North Carolina, who carried out multiple interviews with hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, and finally completed the book after 12 years, told the Mainichi Shimbun that the stories of the hibakusha "are so powerful and intimate" that they can sometimes penetrate people's hearts.
In the book she described the history behind the dropping of the atomic bomb on the southwestern Japan city of Nagasaki, as well as medical treatment of hibakusha, a radiation survey, public opinion in the U.S. and other issues focusing on the lives of five hibakusha.
One of them is Sumiteru Taniguchi, the late former co-chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, who used to show a photograph of him taken after the bomb with burned and melted skin on his back to inform people in Japan and overseas about the horrors of nuclear weapons.
The book, when published in the U.S. in 2015, evoked a strong response among the public. Southard said she received many emails from readers, and while about 75 or 80% of comments said they were "deeply moved" by her book, around 20% of the messages were filled with anger and hatred with senders stating that "the bombing was the right thing to do."
Southard, who came to study in Japan as a high school student, served as an interpreter for Taniguchi when he delivered a lecture in the U.S. in 1986. After the address, she spoke to Taniguchi and came to know further details of his experience as a hibakusha and the difficulties he faced following the bombing.
Wanting to know more, Southard visited Nagasaki the following year to hear more people's stories. She conducted numerous interviews with other hibakusha between 2003 and 2011, and thoroughly read through various materials on the bombing.
Each of the hibakusha she interviewed led different lives, including Mineko Do-oh, who gave up on getting married due to the bombing and threw herself into her work for the rest of her life. Southard also interviewed Etsuko Nagano, who kept blaming herself for the A-bomb deaths of her younger brother and sister after she brought them back to Nagasaki from where they had evacuated during World War II.
After getting to know that "the impact of the bombing continued far beyond the first day," Southard felt "it wouldn't be honorable" if she didn't write about their lives following the bombing.
"I grew to love the five hibakusha and they trusted me with their stories," said Southard. "I wanted to tell their stories so much." She explained that there are people in the United States who do not know "what happened beneath the mushroom cloud" and she thought it was "important for Americans to understand the impact of our actions of dropping the bomb," which became her motivation for finishing the book.
Unfortunately, of the five hibakusha, two of them passed away before the completion of the book in 2015, and Taniguchi also died in 2017 at the age of 88.
Yasue Ujigawa, 62, who translated the book into Japanese, said she was shocked to find many stories in Southard's book that she "never knew about, even as a Japanese" when she read the book in 2016. Ujigawa of Tokyo's Itabashi Ward says she placed emphasis on accuracy when translating, such as quoting exactly what interviewees said.
The 464-page book titled "Nagasaki - Kakusenso go no Jinsei" in Japanese is priced at 3,800 yen, not including tax. For more inquiries, please call the publisher Misuzu Shobo at 03-3814-0131 (in Japanese).
(Japanese original by Asako Takeuchi, City News Department)
Hibakusha: 'Zainichi' Korean reveals true identity to come to terms with Hiroshima A-bomb
August 2, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Lee Jong-geun stands in front of a memorial for Korean victims of the atomic bomb that was dropped by the U.S. military on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima's Naka Ward. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)
HIROSHIMA -- There is a second-generation Korean resident of Japan, or "Zainichi" Korean, who began talking about his experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima under his real name -- but only once he was in his 80s. The now 90-year-old man's true name is Lee Jong-geun.
He had lived most of his life hiding his Korean heritage. But seven years ago, when he decided to start talking about his experience of the bombing, he simultaneously resolved to stop living by his Japanese name. "I can't speak about my real experience unless I do it as a Korean," he says.
His parents came to Japan looking for a better life than the one they lived in poverty on the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule at the time. They went by Japanese names even before Japanese government ordinances were passed to force Koreans to adopt them. Lee, who was born in Japan, went by Masaichi Egawa outside the home.
When people found out Lee was of Korean descent, he was bullied. Once when he was in elementary school, a man he did not know urinated on him. And yet, when World War II began, news reports that the Imperial Japanese Army was delivering devastating blows to U.S. forces made his heart sing. Lee wanted so much to become Japanese that he defied orders from his father to speak Korean at home.
At age 14, Lee started working at the Hiroshima Railway Bureau as an apprentice. At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, when he was 16 years old, he was exposed to the "Little Boy" atomic bomb during his commute, approximately 1.8 kilometers east of the hypocenter. "Everything in front of me turned orange," he recalls. He saw waves of yellow light for about two to three seconds, and instantly got down on the ground, but suffered burns to his cheeks, neck and hands.
When he got to work, machine oil was rubbed onto his burns as an emergency measure. He walked 16 kilometers back to his home, where his mother, upon her return at night, grabbed him and cried inconsolably. Lee had not wanted his colleagues to know that he had Korean roots, so he had not told his parents where he was working. Because of this, his parents had been looking all over the devastated city for him.
After the war ended, Lee continued to hide his background. He was told by a superior at work that he needed to submit a "koseki" family register to become a permanent employee, so he quit the railway bureau. He could not find work at companies run by Japanese, so he worked at Zainichi Korean-owned businesses, including a trucking firm, or sold rice wine on the black market to support his family.
His longing to become Japanese did not change. He had been born and educated in Japan. Out of consideration for his parents' feelings, though, he did not obtain Japanese citizenship, but he did not reveal his real name or his experience of the Hiroshima bombing, and lived life as a "regular" Japanese person.
It was in 2012, some 20 years after he had retired, that opportunity for transformation struck. He learned through a newspaper that the Tokyo-based NGO Peace Boat was planning a round-the-world trip of "hibakusha" -- or people who had been exposed to the atomic bombing -- for them to tell their stories. He was drawn by the words "round-the-world" and decided to take part.
In order to board the ship having revealed that he was a Zainichi Korean survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he had to confront and reconcile, for the first time in his life, with his past. It suddenly dawned on him. If Japan had not colonized the Korean Peninsula, he would not have been born in Japan, and he would not have experienced the atomic bombing. He had to talk about that day not as Masaichi Egawa, but as Lee Jong-geun.
When giving testimony of his experiences, Lee does not just speak about Japan as a victim of the atomic bombings, but makes it a point to speak about Japan as a perpetrator of wrongdoing in the war. "It is because I am Lee Jong-geun, not Masaichi Egawa, that I can truly communicate my yearning for a world without war or discrimination," he says with conviction.
(Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)
The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the nuclear bomb of 1945. | KYODO
Revealed: What happened, physically, to the city of Hiroshima after the A-bomb
by Rowan Hooper
· Japan Times, June 20, 2019
Everyone in Japan knows what happened on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. At 8:15 a.m. a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The city had been spared conventional bombing by the United States so that the effects of a nuclear weapon on an undamaged city could be assessed. The device detonated about 600 meters above the city.
We know about the terrible effects of the blast, of fire and of radiation, and we know about the horrific cost on human life. At least 66,000 people were killed and around 69,000 more were injured in the explosion alone. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey mapped Hiroshima after the explosion and made calculations about the bomb’s yield and destructive capacity. You may have seen photographs of the city before and after the bomb, and pictures of the mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima in the moments after the blast.
But marine ecologist Mario Wannier made a discovery a few years ago that raised a chilling question no one had thought to ask. What happened to Hiroshima?
Not what event took place on that day, of course we know that, but what happened, physically, to the buildings of the city? Where did Hiroshima go?
The bomb exploded with a force equivalent to around 16,000 tons of TNT. About 70 percent of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed, with almost every structure in a 1.6 kilometer circle under the bomb completely obliterated. Only about 50 buildings of particular strong construction, such as the Bank of Hiroshima, remained intact. Much of the rest of the city was swept up in the vast mushroom cloud.
Wannier had taken samples of sand from the Motoujina Peninsula, 6 kilometers south of the hypocenter of the Hiroshima bomb, and was examining them to assess the health of the ecosystem. But what he discovered were tiny glass globules, thousands of them. He took samples from other beaches on the peninsula and examined them using electron microscopy and X-ray analysis.
An image of Hiroshima, destroyed after the nuclear bomb of Aug. 6, 1945, with the autograph of ‘Enola Gay’ bomber pilot Paul Tibbets. | VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (PUBLIC DOMAIN)
The glass globules were fallout debris. Wannier estimates that these particles make up around 2.5 percent of the sand of Hiroshima beaches. It is the city itself, torn up in the blast, melted in the inferno of nuclear heat, and scattered. It is now mixed with sand of the beaches. Wannier calls the granules Hiroshimaites, following “trinitites” the name given to fallout granules at the test site for the Trinity nuclear bombs in New Mexico.
“Initially I was looking for microorganisms in beach sands as a proxy to gauge the health of shallow marine environments off the beach,” he told me. Instead he discovered a lost city.
Wannier found granules of Hiroshima in all six beaches he sampled around Motoujina, estimating the mass of the fallout debris down to a depth of 10 centimeters to be about 36 metric tons for those beaches. He estimates that the total amount of the fallout debris comes to thousands of tons.
“We have found fallout debris 12 kilometers to the southeast of the A-bomb explosion hypocenter, around Great Torii Gate, Miyajima island, and also some 30 kilometers to the northeast,” he says. “We assume that the distribution of fallout debris roughly matches the area covered by the atomic cloud.”
Examples of the range of nuclear fall-out particles collected from beaches on Motoujima Peninsula, near Hiroshima. | MARIO WANNIER
After the bombing of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki a few days later, the emergency responses were naturally focused on rescue and saving lives. Wannier and his colleagues, writing in the journal Anthropocene in April, reflect on the odd fact that no one had thought about what had happened to the city itself.
“Somehow, in this situation of extreme emergency,” the authors write, “the question of the whereabouts of the vanished urban built structures was not addressed.”
Their publication is the first description of fallout debris from a nuclear explosion in an urban environment.
Despite the fact that a more powerful bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the physical effects of the explosion were not as dramatic as Hiroshima. That’s because the blast at Hiroshima was kept in by the surrounding mountains. However, Wannier expects that if someone looks around Nagasaki they will find similar granules as he found around Hiroshima.
“We have no samples from Nagasaki,” he says. “Based on the Hiroshima analogue, it is highly likely that similar melt debris will be found.”
Hibakusha: Nagasaki activist, 79, looks to entrust nuclear movement to next generation
May 22, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Koichi Kawano is seen speaking at the May 9, 2019 hibakusha meeting in Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture. (Mainichi/Yuki Imano)
NAGASAKI -- On May 9, there was a sit-in hibakusha gathering in front of the Peace Statue at Nagasaki Peace Park. The meeting takes place on the ninth of every month, marking the Aug. 9, 1945, U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki. This month's congregation marked the 444th time for such an event.
Koichi Kawano, 79, took to the microphone to speak about the stand-off between the United States and Iran. "This is a crisis," he said to the around 100 people in attendance, continuing, "Our hearts are one when wishing for the abolition of nuclear weapons."
Born in North Pyongan Province on the Korean Peninsula, now part of North Korea, Kawano was brought back to his parents' hometown Nagasaki as a child. Aged 5 in August 1945, he was around 3.1 kilometers away from the atomic bomb's hypocenter. Now a resident of the nearby town of Nagayo, he has been an activist for the end of nuclear weaponry in roles including his long tenure as chairman of the Hibakusha Liaison Council of the Nagasaki Prefectural Peace Movement Center.
"While enduring untold misery, we have won our rights with our own strength," he says, looking back on the messages their hibakusha meetings have sent against the government's constitutional amendment policies and security legislation designed to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in a limited manner.
"Perseverance is power" has been Kawano's guiding motto in engaging in the movement's activities, but this spring he faced a difficult reality. Masanori Nakashima, president of the Nagasaki Prefecture A-bomb Health Handbook Friendship Society, died aged 89 on March 15. The two men were allies in peace activism. Representatives of five local hibakusha groups, including Nakashima and Kawano, announced a joint statement on peace issues and handed a written request to the prime minister on Aug. 9.
Of the five hibakusha group representatives who were alive in 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the bombing, three including Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council chair Sumiteru Taniguchi have passed away. Taniguchi died in 2017 at 88 years of age. "Even with his limp, he dragged himself to that office to hear other hibakusha speak," Kawano reminisced, while looking ahead to an uncertain future, saying, "What will happen to these groups after we die?"
Kawano himself underwent surgery for esophageal cancer in 2017. Due to ill health he was forced to pull out of a survey of hibakusha in North Korea as a member of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs in fall 2018. Despite setbacks, his drive for peace remains unchanged. Kawano confronted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the Japanese government's disinclination to sign and ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in a face-to-face meeting in 2017, asking, "What country's prime minister are you?"
As time marches on from the events of August 1945, Kawano is putting his faith in the next generation. "The increasingly quiet voices of the hibakusha must not be drowned out," he says. At the monthly sit-ins in Nagasaki Peace Park, the number of high school age attendees has increased. As he welcomes the last summer of his 70s, Kawano's resolve remains strong. "Peace activism is powered by people. I want the movement to continue, to carry on the wish never to see another generation of hibakusha in this world."
(Japanese original by Yuki Imano, Nagasaki Bureau)
Hibakusha: 'Youngest' A-bomb survivor works to preserve Hiroshima memories
February 13, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
Jiro Hamasumi speaks in front of a painting about "exposure to the A-bomb inside the mother's womb" in Tokyo, on Jan. 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Asako Takeuchi)
TOKYO -- Jiro Hamasumi says he is "the youngest hibakusha," or atomic bombing survivor, as he was in his mother's womb on Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima. Now 73, Hamasumi is leading a fundraising drive to establish a center to promote and preserve hibakushas' activities and memoirs.
· 【Related】Hibakusha: After lengthy wait, 92-yr-old S. Korean man receives A-bomb survivor's certifica
"Hibakusha records are heritages for humanity," says Hamasumi, a resident of the western Tokyo city of Inagi. "Passing down the memories is something we must do." He began working in December last year to raise 600 million yen over three years to establish the "No More Hibakusha Keisho (heritage) Center" in the capital.
The unborn Hamasumi "experienced" the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing two days after the blast as his pregnant mother walked around the city center searching for his father, who had been working near ground zero. She could only find her husband's personal belongings. Hamasumi was born about six months later. He holds a government-issued A-bomb survivor certificate.
When Hamasumi turned 49 -- the age his father died -- he wrote to his older siblings to ask them to speak about their A-bomb experiences. Hamasumi came to know 16 years ago that there are other people like him -- those who survived the bombing as fetuses -- when he joined a peace movement through the establishment of a local hibakusha society.
One such prenatal radiation exposure victim wrote in a personal note, "I was stigmatized as a hibakusha even before I was born." Another used harsh words to describe their family members. Others took their own lives due to poor health. Each time Hamasumi learned about these people's lives, his belief grew that even those with indirect experience of the bombing have stories to tell.
Four years ago, Hamasumi was picked as assistant secretary of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) because of his relative youth among hibakusha. Nihon Hidankyo, formed in 1956 by A-bomb survivors seeking "no more hibakusha," has demanded the abolition of nuclear weapons and compensation from the government. "I've learned the history of the hibakusha movement and felt the weight of its 63 years of history," said Hamasumi of his stint at the federation.
In 2011, a nonprofit organization was set up to pass down hibakushas' memories. For this project, some 10,000 documents and other items have been collected with the help of people including university students. Those young people -- including students who researched the lives of hibakusha or others playing the roles of A-bomb survivors in their video clips -- gave Hamasumi greater motivation to carry on with his mission of passing down the survivors' experiences. "Watching those young people deepening their understanding of hibakusha was a big boost for me," he said.
Hamasumi lectured about the experience of hibakusha to university students in New York when he visited the United Nations headquarters to submit signatures in support of the "Appeal of the Hibakusha" for the elimination of nuclear weapons. "I want you to understand what it means to become a hibakusha even before birth," he told the students as he stood by a picture painted by his Japanese artist friend and themed on radiation exposure in the womb. His story triggered serious reactions from the audience, including questions about their possible roles for the future.
Hamasumi is determined to pass on to younger people the horror of radiation that can continue over generations.
(Japanese original by Asako Takeuchi, City News Department)
‘They died with stones in their mouths’: Hiroshima’s last survivors tell their stories
January 2, 2019 9.58am GMT
PhD Candidate, The Open University
Elizabeth Chappell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The Open University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.
At 84, Shoso Kawamoto is one of the few surviving hibakusha – the Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors – orphans, still telling his story. When I first interviewed Kawamoto for my work in 2012, I hadn’t come across tales of orphans in Hiroshima.
The bomb, dropped by the US on August 6 1945, made orphans of around 2,000 children, mostly from central Hiroshima, who survived because they had been evacuated to the countryside. When they returned after Japan surrendered on August 15, they found their parents gone and their city razed to the ground.
Shoso Kawamoto, who survived Hiroshima at the age of 11. Elizabeth Chappell, Author provided
More than 90% of the population of central Hiroshima perished. Almost all the families of the evacuees died; only six to 11-year-olds and the infirm had been evacuated. Once back in the city, these orphan children usually died within months; despite the efforts of local women to feed them, there just weren’t enough rations to go around.
Although author Robert Jungk had interviewed some orphans for his book Children of the Ashes, it was unusual to find a member of this group still alive to tell their story. I met Kawamoto through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which curates hibakusha stories.
Kawamoto was accustomed to talking about his experience to groups gathered at the museum, where a few of the remaining survivors told their stories. They would often begin with the line, “This is my hibakusha story …”, relaying the facts of what happened on August 6, which is simply known in Hiroshima as “That day”, or “Ano hi”. Then they would weave in their own personal experiences. Kawamoto had been telling his story since he had retired and returned to Hiroshima. He had been away from his city, which was filled with painful memories, for more than three decades.
Utter devastation in central Hiroshima, August 6 1945. US Army
Children of the bomb
Setting out to interview the hibakusha for my study The Last Survivors of Hiroshima I decided to take a different tack, which surprised them. When I first met Kawamoto in December 2012, I asked him to focus initially not on the horrific aftermath of the bomb, but on something different. I wanted to hear about what his life was like as a child before the atomic bomb. The story that emerged over the following three years came out of a growing friendship with Kawamoto based on that simple enquiry. Indeed all the hibakusha I interviewed for my study responded warmly to this question.
Born in March 1934, Kawamoto was brought up in an area of Hiroshima now known as Kakomachi. He had two sisters and three brothers including an older one who’d had been mobilised as part of Japan’s colonial war effort in Manchuria. His mother was related to the Asano, the once-powerful samurai lords of Hiroshima, and his father was a glass craftsman.
Kawamoto had been evacuated to Miyoshi, a neighbouring prefecture, along with other children from his school and lodged in a temple run by a Buddhist nun. While working in the fields on August 6, 1945, he noticed a white cloud rising in the sky over Hiroshima, but no one could tell them what had happened to the city.
He was lucky. So too was his 16-year-old sister, Tokie. She had been working at Hiroshima train station when the bomb dropped, and was saved by its thick walls. The next day she went to Miyoshi to find Kawamoto and bring him back. Unable to locate the rest of their family, the two took shelter in the remains of the station.
A mother and her child in the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. AP
It was here Kawamoto witnessed the way the orphans eked out survival. A black market sprang up around the station where local women set up stalls to feed the orphaned children. Older children bullied younger children; the only way the smaller ones could survive was by scraping the food left in the pans. Towards the end of 1945, Kawamoto saw many children die of starvation. Some were so hungry, he said, they died with stones in their mouths.
In February 1946, Tokie died too, of undiagnosed disease, probably leukaemia. Kawamotowas adopted the following month by a Mr Kawanaka, the owner of a soy sauce factory in a village called Tomo. Kawamoto worked there for the next 11 years.
By the time he was 23, he met a girl and fell in love. They got engaged, but his fiancée’s family blocked the marriage because he had a hibakusha health certificate, which proved he had come to Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb. People were afraid to be around those who had been exposed to radiation. Afterwards, vowing never to marry, Kawamoto lived the rest of his life alone, building up a restaurant business in the nearby city of Okayama.
Although Kawamoto had told me so much, there were many silences and things left unexplained. It was clear he must have lived as a street child for about a month in 1946 when his sister died. But he said he had only “witnessed” the street children.
Then and now
A sense of shame and taboo still clings to hibakusha stories, especially those of orphans, since they remain unclassified, their entire families wiped out by the bomb. In 1945, both Japan and the US sought to censor and control the information about the horrific humanitarian consequences of the atomic bomb; this continues to have repercussions for the way the hibakusha live their lives and tell their stories.
When Japanese people started to express outrage about the bombings, the US, now occupying the islands, imposed strict censorship in September 1945. The Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett, writing for the Daily Express, had parts of his report from the ground in Hiroshima, The Atomic Plague, censored.
Photographs and film reels of the bombed cities were then confiscated and although The Life Span study was established in 1947 to study the biological effects of radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, access to financial support for medical care only came in 1957.
Today, much has been done to publish the testimonies of Hiroshima’s survivors. Recently, a popular genre called “atomic bomb culture” has burgeoned and includes animé films such as In This Corner of the World, based on pre-war Hiroshima.
Over a period of three years I followed up with Kawamoto, and revisited with him the places that were important to his childhood. He also shared many more sad stories of surviving orphans, some of them still living impoverished, difficult lives in prison, hospital or in care, into their late seventies.
On a later occasion we shared lunch together with some other hibakusha I had interviewed. By focusing the study first of all on childhood, a common ground of shared experience opened up for other survivors too, from which powerful, healing stories could emerge. In telling his, Kawamoto told me, he had found his ikigai – his reason to live.