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World Conference against A & H Bombs

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International Meeting - Workshop 1: A-bomb damage of Hiroshima/Nagasaki; Struggle of the Hibakusha

Yamamoto Yoshiko
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions.  


Four people served as chairpersons of this workshop: Mr. Kalyanadurgam R Nagaraj of Nagpur Institute of Human Rights, India; Ms. Irene De Vera of Pangasinan State University, the Philippines; Ms. Yamada Hiroko of Democratic Women’s Club, Japan and myself.

Workshop 1 began with testimony by an 86-year-old Hibakusha, who said it took 70 years for her to decide to talk about her A-bomb experience.  “I could not talk about what I experienced without losing my calm. But realized that little time is left for me to leave my testimony and that only Hibakusha can do it,” she said.

A number of other Hibakusha spoke about their A-bomb experience.  “When I came back to consciousness, I found myself crushed under the house and saw my mother alive.  But as flames were spreading, she told me to run.  So, I fled the house shouting ‘Sorry, Mom’,” said Sawada Shoji.

Kayashige Junko from the Hiroshima Federation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo) said that she has had to live whole her life with burns on her face, neck, and hands.  She also said, “Hibakusha decided to stand up to never repeat the same suffering and the same mistake to happen anywhere in the world.”

Takato Seiji is a member of a group called the Black Rain Association in Hiroshima.  He spoke about radioactive fallout or “black rain”.  He said, “I saw a black mushroom cloud rising and pieces of burned-paper falling from the sky.”  He said a friend of his, his neighbor, and his brother were amused to pick them up.  Then, sticky black rain fell.  After drinking water from an open well and eating vegetables, they felt sick and fatigued. Years later the friend knew that he was suffering from a chronic fatigue syndrome known as the ‘bura bura disease’.”  Takato said that this Hibakusha died last year, his last words being that he wanted to donate his body for a study of internal exposure to radiation.

Yamada, a member of the local Hidankyo spoke about health care services for Hibakusha.  She complained about the health care program for Hibakusha being inadequate, as Hibakusha are excluded from free medical services if they live outside Japan or if their illnesses are not included in the list of free treatment, What’s more, those Hibakusha living outside Japan have difficulty applying for “Hibakusha health book” in the first place.  Hibakusha were denied the health program for 32 years since August 1945.  It was only 51 years later, in 1996, that income restrictions for Hibakusha allowances were listed.  Yamada said many Hibakusha are working hard on lawsuits demanding the government recognize them as Hibakusha with illnesses caused by A-bomb radiation exposure. They are calling for “No more Hibakusha lawsuits”.

Second- and third-generation Hibakusha spoke about their efforts to pass the tragic history of their parents/grandparents down to next generations.  Mr. Yoneshige is a second generation Hibakusha whose mother was exposed to radiation by entering Hiroshima City after the bombing.  Yoneshige stressed the need to organize more gatherings to convey Hibakusha stories.  Another second-generation Hibakusha, Shimehashi, from Hiroshima, said she didn’t know that she was a second generation Hibakusha until she got married.  Her mother kept the fact secret, worrying that being a Hibakusha would militate against her daughter’s marriage or job.  She choked up with tears when she talked about the memory of her mother singing, “Never Again the A Bomb” many times to little Shimehashi.

On education and the effort to tell about Hibakusha’s experience, a report on a panel discussion hosted by Nagasaki Hidankyo and a group of Nagasaki second generation Hibakusha was presented.  

Okoshi from Hiroshima Hidankyo told us that he speaks about his A-bomb experience to about 5000 junior high school students each year on such occasions as students’ peace monument tours.  Okoshi said that the percentage of people who know the  dates of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki is only 30 percent, according to a survey.  Even among peace education conscious schools, only 20-30 percent of them organize school excursions to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.  He also reported on the recent increase in young people’s movements in Hiroshima against the controversial war bills.  This shows that Hibakusha storytelling effort has not been futile, he said.

A manga series “Barefoot Gen” is published in 23 languages.  Doctor Osamu Saito suggested that we should convey Gen’s vigorous energy to all children of the world so they will join hands, saying, “Barefoot Gen gives the best account of how children at that time survived after August 6.”

A participant from Fukushima reported that 12 Fukushima people participated in the New York action on the occasion of the NPT Review Conference in May this year.  In NYC, they called for a world free of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.  Some of them also attended the World Conference against A & H Bombs in hopes that the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will not be forgotten and that a safe environment will be left to the children, though there is still a long way to go to complete the decommissioning of all nuclear reactors.

Regarding health problems of those who work for nuclear power plants, a participant reported that a government special agency is to study cause-and-effect relations between workers’ radiation exposure and the rate of their disease development.  He emphasized the importance of protecting these workers’ fundamental human rights, taking into account the study results.

A new signature collection campaign and the need to broaden the campaign throughout not only Japan but also the world were proposed at the end of workshop 1.  We unanimously confirmed our determination to work even harder to this end.