International Meeting
2003 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Address of the Hibakusha

Konishi Satoru
Assistant Secretary General
Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo)

Chairpersons, Dear friends,

Good morning. I am Konishi Satoru, a Hiroshima survivor. On behalf of the Hibakusha across the country, I extend my hearty greetings of solidarity to you all. It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Hiroshima.

Last year, from this podium, I addressed the audience and said: "Hiroshima is the most appropriate place to be when considering the questions of peace". Today, I have to repeat the same words because the danger of nuclear weapons being used again has become even more real and imminent.

On August 6th, 58 years ago, around this place where we are now sitting, several hundreds of thousands of people were killed or injured in the cruelest way, surpassing any picture of hell ever drawn. Most of them were children and elderly people.

All human beings, regardless of whether they were killed or whether they survived, were merely reduced to "things".

I was 16 years old and was working as a conscript student in a shipyard located at about 4.5 km south of ground zero, building transport vessels for the military. By spring of that year, iron plates, the main material for making ships, had become scarce and that morning, having no work to do as usual, we conscript students in some tens had gathered in a shabby hut we called "the classroom" and each of us had just began reading whatever book we liked.

All of a sudden, a bluish-white flash ran through the air, as if a massive quantity of magnesium had been burnt. I was sitting at the window and felt heat rays burn my head and the right side of my face. "Ouch!" I cried and covered my face with my hands. I shouted, "Let's hide!" and I hid myself under a desk.

A few seconds later, a shock wave assaulted us with a terrible sound of explosion. Pieces of window pane, debris of wood as well as shattered slate roofs showered onto the desk. Today, I can hardly recall what happened then, because I have only fragmentary memories of the moments that followed.

All I recall is the flash, the blast and the mushroom cloud. And the sea of flames that continued to blaze in the sky endlessly through the night. I cannot forget the immense fear that struck me at their sight. However, young and green I was, I could not realize that countless mothers and young children were being burnt, desperately calling for help under the flames.

The next day, my field of vision suddenly opened up onto a Hiroshima in ruins. "Gone, all gone!" I felt like I was dreaming. As I wandered around staggering like a sleepwalker, I heard a voice calling, "Give me water!" I looked around and saw a human shape. But its face looked like nothing but a boiled "Tofu (bean curd)", white and soggy. It must have been near the hypocenter. My memory fades there and there is no way of tracing it back further.

I know that I walked around with two classmates in the burned ruins the whole day. I must have witnessed all the atrocious things that had never happened in the world before. Did I make my way beating away the hands of heavily injured people reaching out for help, like many Hibakusha have testified they did? Did I rove around aimlessly trampling on the dead bodies? I cannot remember at all what I did or what I saw. The only thing I remember is that "Tofu face".

The memory of that face, I kept it buried deep in my brain for a long time and almost forgotten about it. Six years after the atomic bombing, I began suffering from various A-bomb disorders: bleeding from the gums, pain in my whole body and extreme weariness. I strayed between life and death for 5 or 6 years. The Hibakusha, even if they look healthy, have many health problems.

In 1964, when the war in Vietnam was escalating, U.S. nuclear submarines often called in at the port of Yokosuka and went on to attack Vietnam. There, countless napalm shells, ball bombs and defoliant agent showered on Vietnamese mothers and children. My country, the country that suffered the atomic bombing, was made an accomplice to that sinister crime. I saw again that face in my mind's eye. "Hey, you, what are you doing here!" I heard the scolding of that "Tofu face".

Even now, that face appears and speaks to me from behind my neck: "Look what has happened to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Okinawa, to Yokosuka!" And I find myself again feeling guilty and blaming myself for not having given him the water he wanted so badly.

This "nuclear hell": it should never be allowed to recur on earth, but it is likely to happen again in the Middle East or in Asia. Every hour, every minute, 6 billion human lives are threatened with annihilation.

What is worse is that the Japanese government is rendering the most generous support for this outrageous U.S. nuclear menace. Japan, the country that killed 20 million fellow Asians like worms, the country that experienced the hell of nuclear war in Hiroshima and Nagasaki will again be waging war and creating victims. Okinawa, Yokosuka, Sasebo, Yokota, Misawa and eventually the whole country will be transformed into a sortie base, maybe for a nuclear attack. We must not allow this to happen.

The Hibakusha appeal: "Bush and Koizumi, look at what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki! Listen to the voices of the dead who lie under the ground in these two martyr cities! Do not make war! Abolish nuclear weapons!"

This year, Nihon Hidankyo launched 3 major campaigns.

First is the collective lawsuits for obtaining recognition for A-bomb disease sufferers. The Japanese government, which is trying to minimize the A-bomb damage and to force the Hibakusha to "accept and endure" that damage, to acknowledge that certain diseases such as cancer and liver disorders were caused by the atomic bombing. Already 80 Hibakusha have joined in these lawsuits and their number is increasing at such a rate that it will exceed 100 before the end of this year.

Second is the campaign to convene an international meeting entitled "No more Hiroshima and Nagasaki International Citizens' Conference" by 2005 in Japan with the aim of denouncing all the crimes involving nuclear weapons committed by the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states since 1945 and to demand reparation for the damage caused, relief of the victims and elimination of their nuclear arsenals. We call on the victims of nuclear weapons around the world to take part in this campaign.

Third is the "A-bomb exhibition" at the U.N. Headquarters that is to be held next spring.

The Hibakusha have grown old. But we will continue to struggle so long as we live. We will struggle together with hundreds of thousands of people who have died, with you and with all peace-loving people.

Thank you.