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2011年9月14日 (水)


(Mainichi Japan) September 13, 2011
Children's watchful eyes see though prejudice

There is a traffic light for pedestrians just outside one of the exits at Jimbocho Station on the Tokyo Metro subway system.

Even if no cars are seen nearby, most pedestrians strictly observe the signal because of a nearby signboard that says, "Children are watching your behavior." The notice appears to be effective.


It is painful to cover accidents and incidents in which children are victimized.

It would be horrifying to imagine what would happen if children saw adults ignore the traffic lights and themselves did the same thing.

It is important to feel children's watchful eyes in considering the government's slow response to the ongoing crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, as well as over groundless rumors about radiation contamination and some adults' insensitive behavior, such as the former economy, trade and industry minister's nuclear gaffe, which forced him to step down.

The minister's remark reminded me of another gaffe during a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly session in July 1976 when a medical expenses subsidy system for the offspring of hibakusha, or atomic-bombing victims, was up for deliberation.

A member of the assembly asked the metropolitan government if there was any way to "exterminate" hibakusha, which created a stir in the chamber.

A representative from the executive branch of the metropolitan government answered, "We'll continue to work seriously to extend relief to survivors," before closing the session.

In response to questions by reporters, the assembly member said, "If the number of hibakusha continues to increase, it may include those who took over the disease from their parents through heredity or those who falsely reported they are hibakusha," according to news articles at the time.

"For now, hibakusha should be allowed to receive treatment but they should be advised through administrative directives to refrain from having children until they have recovered completely," he said. He explained that such a measure would be good for the fiscal health of the nation.

The number of those who held hibakusha certificates actually increased in the 1970s and 1980s after applicants increased over that period. It has been pointed out that hibakusha became less worried about prejudice because they retired from jobs, their children found jobs or married and overall social prejudice against hibakusha had declined.

I'm the son of a Hiroshima hibakusha and started my career the year before the gaffe at the metropolitan assembly. I was surprised at his remarks, which reminded me that people who thought that way still existed.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha had been forced to live in a gutter between longstanding information control during the U.S.-led post-war occupation and social prejudice.

There had been no organized campaign demanding relief for hibakusha until anti-atomic and hydrogen bomb movements began after crewmembers of the tuna fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) were exposed to nuclear fallout from U.S. hydrogen bomb testing.

There was deep-rooted prejudice that radiation could be infectious. Many hibakusha have been denied entry into public baths because of that prejudice.

The former economy, trade and industry minister apparently did not use the phrase "radiation infection" to that effect. However, his insensitive gaffe has reminded many people of their sad experiences, even if they do not speak out about that.

Simply replacing the minister will not lead to any fundamental solution to the issue. The mental capacity of politicians is being tested.

(By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年9月13日 東京朝刊


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