« 原爆忌 オバマ非核演説をどう生かす | トップページ | 裁判員判決 検証の積み重ねが欠かせない »

2009年8月 6日 (木)


(Mainichi Japan) August 5, 2009
Responsibility of the young to continue hibakusha push for nuclear disarmament

 ◇自ら行動して平和探求を 悲惨さ伝える義務がある
In mid-July, 74-year-old Sakue Shimohira, an adviser of the Association of Bereaved Families of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Victims who has given approximately 10,000 lectures about her A-bomb experiences and is a staunch advocate of nuclear disarmament, suspended her activities due to health concerns. Now that her hip surgery has been successfully completed, she is highly motivated to resume her activities.

It is an undeniable fact, however, that A-bomb survivors are growing old. Throughout my reporting on the A-bomb, I have asked myself how the stories and hopes of this aging population can be passed on to younger generations. Sensing the urgency of this current situation, some survivors in the city of Nagasaki -- which will commemorate the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing on Aug. 9 -- have begun engaging in new efforts to keep their stories alive. It is important that younger generations learn from such efforts to make their own efforts in inheriting their legacy.


Shimohira and a sister two years her junior were holed up in a bomb shelter approximately 800 meters from Ground Zero when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. What they saw when they emerged from the shelter the next day was a scene from hell. Family members who had been at home at the time of the bombing had died, and her sister who'd survived later committed suicide after struggling with illness. Shimohira herself went through trials and tribulations, including uterine and ovarian surgery. She began lecturing about her A-bomb experiences around the age of 40, and as a plaintiff in the Nagasaki lawsuit for A-bomb illness recognition, has engaged in various activities in support of A-bomb survivors. I have been overawed not only by her A-bomb experience, but also in the life she has chosen to live, bringing advocacy for the total abolition of nuclear weapons into the center of her life. "Nuclear weapons and humankind cannot coexist. My hope is that we are the last ones to experience the kind of suffering we did," she says.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, as of late March, there were approximately 235,500 A-bomb survivors nationwide, with an average age of 75.92. As the survivor population grows older and the number of lecturers like Shimohira declines, we rapidly approach a time when those of us who have not experienced the atomic bombings must take the lead in nuclear disarmament. Seeing Shimohira lying in a hospital bed after her operation in late July, I was struck by a renewed sense of responsibility to continue the legacy.

Teruo Ideguchi, 73, a former company employee and a member of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, is one of those who takes an innovative approach to the passing down of A-bomb history. At the time of the atomic bombing, Ideguchi was at home, located 1.4 kilometers from Ground Zero. Having lost consciousness from serious injuries to his back and head, he has very little recollection of the experience.

"I didn't have the type of experience that Ms. Shimohira did," he says. "All I can talk about is what my surroundings were like."

That was why he spent about eight years studying such fields as medicine and physics on his own, eventually compiling what he learned about the A-bomb into a book. When asked to give lectures, Ideguchi talks about both what he has learned from his independent study and his personal experiences.

In May 2008, he began a monthly gathering called Heiwa-juku (Peace school), in which Ideguchi, along with survivors that lead tours of sites affected by the bombing and local citizens, engage in debates on nuclear power and weapons. He has discussed the origins of the code names "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," given to the bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively.

"Young people who have not experienced the atomic bombings tend to think that the elimination of nuclear weapons is impossible," he says. "But I think there must be things that can be done."

Another member of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace and a volunteer guide, 67 year-old Yasujiro Tanaka, was 3 years old when the A-bomb was dropped 3.4 kilometers from his home. While he has no memory of the bombing aside from "a bluish white light that appeared as if tens of thousands of camera strobes had gone off," he wanted to find a way to pass on the history to younger generations through tales that children could relate to, like the famous story of Sadako Sasaki, who experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and died at age 12 from A-bomb related leukemia.

Tanaka was inspired by the story of Kayoko zakura (Kayoko's cherry tree). The tree was donated to Shiroyama Elementary School in Nagasaki, where it still stands today, by the mother of Kayoko Hayashi, who was at the school when she died of the bombing at age 15, in memory of her daughter and others who had perished. Determined to spread the mother's legacy to the rest of the country, since February, Tanaka has raised money to buy cherry tree seedlings, which have been planted in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He explains that it's a way to let younger people know about the horrors of atomic bombs and war. He also talks about the bombings, but supplements certain areas in which he is not knowledgeable.
"With regards to experiences I personally didn't go through, I familiarize myself through photo books and by listening to other people talk about their experiences. Then I throw myself into character and pass their stories on to other people. We do not have memories of the atomic bombings, but we have a responsibility to pass them on."

The efforts of these two people -- who are trying to establish an understanding of what happened by re-examining the history of the bombings and the war -- provide us with hints on how we can inherit and pass on the legacy of the atomic bombings, ways that allow for self-motivated thought, action, and the pursuit of peace.

The hopes of such people are gradually spreading across the country. The 10,000 high school student petition drive begun in Nagasaki in 2001 is one such example. Every year, the signatures of high school students calling for nuclear disarmament are collected and delivered to the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva and other organizations. About 300 high school students have participated in gathering signatures. Meanwhile, students and staff at a junior high school in Yamaguchi Prefecture who were touched by Tanaka's efforts sent him money that they had raised. We must not let the efforts made by survivors in the past 64 years for the realization of peace come to nothing.

There have been signs of change in the global situation regarding nuclear weapons. We have seen the emergence of President Barack Obama, who has called for "a world without nuclear weapons," and who has signed a treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons.

"The reason we continue to talk about our atomic bombing experiences is because we do not want nuclear weapons to be used ever again." As citizens of the only country in the world to have suffered atomic bombings, we must take to heart the meaning of these words Ideguchi has repeated over the years. (By Tomohiro Shimohara, Nagasaki Bureau, Mainichi Shimbun)

毎日新聞 2009年8月4日 東京朝刊


« 原爆忌 オバマ非核演説をどう生かす | トップページ | 裁判員判決 検証の積み重ねが欠かせない »





« 原爆忌 オバマ非核演説をどう生かす | トップページ | 裁判員判決 検証の積み重ねが欠かせない »