3,569 Hibakusha in Hiroshima passed away last year.
An A-bomb killed many people when it was dropped on Hiroshima. Even half a century later, it still kills people. This is the terror of the A-bomb. Although a single murder would be a big deal on TV, the mass-destruction by after-effects of radiation does is no big matter. Cancer may hit anyone even if they have never been exposed to radiation. Some Hibakusha may live long lives. But think of the Hibakusha and think of the families supporting Hibakusha who must live despite having cancers in all their internal organs and who have to endure repeated operations.
Mrs. Kazuko Kagawa, who worked for a Hibakusha guidance clinic, died on June 21, leaving behind a husband and two children. Mrs. Kagawa was thought to be healthy, unaffected by any disease. But all of a sudden, soon after the last World Conference against A & H Bombs, she was taken to the Atomic Bomb Hospital in an ambulance. No visitors were allowed for a while, and she was diagnosed as having hypoplastic leukemia. When she was two years old, she was exposed to radiation at home. She was at 2.2 kilometers away from the hypocenter.
Sadako Sasaki, subject of the Childrenfs A-Bomb Statue, was also two years old when she was exposed to radiation at 2 kilometers from ground zero. Folding paper into cranes and praying for peace, she died. Both Kagawa and Sasaki were in good health until they suddenly fell in with leukemia.
The whereas only difference between them was that Sasaki died at 12 years old after 20-months hospitalization, Kagawa died when she was 58 after spending 10 months in hospital. About Kagawa's case, a doctor of the A-Bomb Hospital said he was surprised at purple speckles emerging on her arms and legs in early August. The doctor said it was highly possible that radiation from the A-bomb had affected her chromosomes. At the suggestion of the doctor, Mrs. Kagawa applied in September to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare for official recognition that she had A-bomb disease. But even after her death, the ministry has not discussed her application yet.
In April this year, the Japan Confederation of A and H Bombs Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) made representations to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. A ministry official then apologized for the delays in granting recognition that A-bomb survivors are victims of A-bomb disease. Minister Sakaguchi Chikara told us that the ministry would swiftly and scientifically acknowledge A-bomb victims.
Despite Sakaguchi's promise, the ministry rejected 77 cases out of 98 by saying that their diseases were not caused by the A-bomb radiation. 40 out of 43 applicants from Hiroshima Prefecture were turned down. Eight people died without knowing whether they would be designated as A-bomb victims or not. When the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare apologized, 10 A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima had already died.
Some hundred cases still havenft been processed. What is more surprising is that only a small number of Hibakusha apply for official recognition as victims of A-bomb disease. They are like the tip of the iceberg. Many Hibakusha do not even know about this system. Or if they know, many people choose to be left alone to die in peace.
The U.S. Occupation Forces in September 1945, just after the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, announced that all Hibakusha died and that no one is suffering from the after-effects of the bombings. The U.S. Occupation Forces forbade other countries' news reporters to step into Hiroshima, and cut Hiroshima off from the outside world in order to treat Hibakusha in Hiroshima as guinea pigs.
We should not think of the A-bombings as past history. Half a century has passed since then, but they are still killing people. Ignoring or belittling this fact is tantamount to what the U.S. Occupation Forces did to Japan, and it will result in the underestimation of the A-bomb damage, the abandonment of the Hibakusha, and support for the development of nuclear arms.
These days scientists publish paper after paper presenting new search results. They conclude that people who were a long way from ground zero and people who received low doses of radiation have a higher than average death rate. Furthermore they say that Hibakusha die earlier not only of cancers but from other diseases too. Another monograph says that neutron rays give damage chromosomes 6 to 16 times more than gamma rays. Of course, there are still many matters that are still unclear in relation to the A-bomb damage. The second generation of Hibakusha will be one of the problems in near future. We, Hibakusha and scientists, should humbly examine and respect the facts.
In Hiroshima, many Hibakusha are still waiting for a Hibakusha notebook, which is like an official certificate given to A-bomb victims. A-bombed orphans are now A-bombed old solitaries. Totally befalls many of the Hibakusha and many die in solitude. Some Hibakusha are still on a waiting list to enter a nursing home after more than three years. Areas covered by the nuclear fallouts are still not correctly designated.
For more than half a century, the tragic experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been and will continue to be, I believe, the biggest power to block nuclear wars. This May, about 9,000 students from 110 schools from throughout Japan visited me to listen to my experience. I was really busy in my role as a historyteller. We are old and not many of us are left. Bearing our pain and sickness, we, the historytellers, continue our activity.
We must achieve a 21st century of peace, free from nuclear weapons. The reduction of nuclear weapons is not enough. We must rid the earth of all nuclear weapons.
Our struggle to block nuclear wars and abolish nuclear weapons is a struggle rooted in the Hibakusha. Together with all Hibakusha and peace-loving people throughout the world, I here pledge on behalf of the people of Hiroshima to continue the fight for the abolition of nuclear weapons.