The Great East Japan Earthquake that hit the region on March 11 last year caused the catastrophic damage, which reminded us of the A-bomb disaster in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that fell upon us Hibakusha. The radiation damage from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, which shook the entire world, has put us into anxiety, distrust and irritation without any perspective for convergence even after a year and half have passed. In the 67th year since the atomic bombing, once again we are facing the terrifying effects of nuclear damage.
The Hibakusha, who have continued to carry on the message “No more Hibakusha,” are filled with pain and anger.
I am a Hibakusha, a victim of the first nuclear war in the history of the world, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. At the time, I was 7 years old, a second grader in primary school.
At 8:15 am on August 6, 1945, I was inside the wooden school building. Suddenly I felt a blinding flash. The next moment, the ceiling of the building collapsed and sharp splinters of windowpanes flew all around. They stuck into the walls, desks and floor of the classroom, and also into my skin. I don’t remember how much time passed before I crawled out of the room to the corridor, leaving behind my classmates trapped between the beams. In the school infirmary I had the glass splinters removed from my skin, but there were no medicines, gauze or bandages to treat my injuries.
My father managed to come to the school to find me. On my way home, carried on my father’s back, I witnessed hell on earth. I saw a man with burned and peeled skin dangling from his body. A mother was carrying a baby, which was burned-black and looked like charcoal. She herself was heavily burned all over her body and was trying to flee from the place, almost crawling on the ground. Others lost their sight, their eyeballs popped out, or ran around trying to escape, while holding their protruding intestines in their hands. More and more people tried to cling on to us, saying, “Give me water, water, water…” Unable to give any kind of help to them, we just left them there and hurried home.
Shortly before the atomic bombing, my house was located near ground zero, and I used to go to school about only 350 meters away. But our family was forced to move away from the city center by order of the government, and I changed school too. If we had stayed in our old place, I would not be alive to tell you the story. Later I learned that about 400 pupils in my old school were burned and killed instantly by the bomb, leaving no traces, not even their ashes.
When I arrived home 3.5 kilometers from the blast center, I found the roof of the house blown away by the blast and fragments of glass scattered all around. “Black Rain” fell into the house, and traces of the “Black Rain” on the wall remained for a long time.
Neighbors of our old house near ground zero and our relatives began to arrive, seeking help and shelter. Among them was my favorite cousin, who was like a big sister for me. She had been mobilized to work around the area 500 meters from the blast center when the bomb exploded. Half of her face, her entire back and her right leg were severely burned, sore and raw. In the intense summer heat, her burns quickly festered. Flies swarmed and laid their eggs in her flesh. Soon maggots bred and crawled around over her body. All I could do for my beloved cousin was to pick these maggots out and wipe her oozing body. She often cried, “Ouch…oh it hurts,” but her voice became lower and lower, and on the morning of the third day — probably it was August 9 — she breathed her last in my arms. She was 14 years old. Another cousin, who was in fifth grade of primary school, was suffering from diarrhea, although he had no injuries or burns. About a week later, he bled from his ears and nose, vomited blood clots from his mouth and died suddenly. One after the other, several of my uncles and aunts followed my cousins within a matter of month.
Their deaths were not caused by any illness. They were killed by the atomic bomb used in the war.
Autumn breezes began to blow and I found my hair starting to fall out. My parents did everything possible to save me, using folk medicines and other means. They later died of cancer. I am so grateful to my parents. I believe I have been able to survive to this day thanks to their love.
However, the atomic bomb continued to afflict me in my later life. Whenever I tried to get a job or get married, I suffered from prejudice and discrimination just because I was a Hibakusha. When I became pregnant, I was tremendously worried, wondering if I would give birth to a baby who would be seen as a Hibakusha’s child. Around that period, many Hibakusha could not get married, or gave up hope of getting married. Even after marriage, they often suffered repeated stillbirths and miscarriages, or lost their children prematurely due to illness.
One of my close Hibakusha friends went through 6 stillbirths and miscarriages. Her husband beat her, saying that it was because she was a Hibakusha that they could not have children. She used to say she had a racking pain in her hip, and eventually she died.
The atomic bomb completely deprived us of ordinary daily lives for human beings.
It is most painful for me now to speak about my daughter. She was suddenly taken with cancer. She made a tearful and difficult decision to take a major operation, believing that it would make her healthy again. After the 13-hour operation, in fear of the recurrence or metastasis of cancer, she was going through the treatment and rehabilitation, despite great physical and mental pains. But she died abruptly, only 4 months after she was first diagnosed.
When I got pregnant with her, after much wavering over the possible radiation effect on the baby, I finally decided to give birth to her. So her death has given me deep sorrow and vexation. But now, a year after her death, I am determined to go forward, as I believe she is always with me, encouraging and supporting me.
It is still not proven whether a second generation Hibakusha is more likely to suffer cancer or not. But it is clear that radiation would affect the human genes, which is a cause for big anxiety among second and third generation Hibakusha.
The Hibakusha are, even without any physical problems, doomed to suffer, to be distressed, to moan and get angry at every important junction in their lives. The aftereffects of the atomic bomb continue to bring hardships to the survivors across the board throughout their lives, physically, mentally and in their living conditions.
Such experiences as ours should never be inflicted on any of you, nor on anyone in the world. It is inevitable that nuclear bombs would cause untold damage to human beings if they would ever be used again whether on purpose or by accident.
We now demand of the leaders of the nuclear weapons states that they should see with their own eyes the reality of the damage caused on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They claim that they are for deterrence. However, deterrence means a threat based on the possible actual use of these weapons. We the Hibakusha refuse to accept any threat or use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are clearly inhumane weapons. Nuclear weapons are weapons of the devil, which cannot coexist with humanity.
The world is still loaded with more than 20,000 nuclear warheads. Each one of them is said to be dozens of times of more destructive than the Hiroshima-type bomb.
That nuclear weapons exist on earth should not be allowed from the humanitarian point of view.
Dear friends, the Hibakusha do not have much time left. Thank you for listening today. Let us work hard together to realize a world without nuclear weapons, with “No more Hibakusha” as the goal. In particular, we have a high expectation for young people.
We hope that the 2015 NPT Review Conference will achieve significant results. On my part, I will also continue to tell about the damage caused by nuclear weapons as long as I live.
No More Hiroshimas. No More Nagasakis. No More War.