Column: Matashichi Oishi passes from the scene

In a series of paintings titled “The Hiroshima Panels,” created by the couple Iri and Toshi Maruki, some of the images depict not people being incinerated by flames but those standing in opposition to nuclear weapons. Two of the works are titled “Yaizu” and “Petition.” The paintings are based on the theme of a nuclear-testing incident on the Bikini Atoll. That incident involved the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), based out of Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and its exposure to radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb test conducted unilaterally by the United States in the Pacific Ocean.

Iri and Toshi Maruki must have pinned their hopes on people who would stand up. The damage wrought by the hydrogen bomb testing that followed the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki terrified people across Japan and ignited campaigns against atomic and hydrogen bombs. Conversely, many former crew members of the Lucky Dragon No. 5 were subjected to prejudice and learned to keep their mouths shut.

One crew member, however, continued to speak out against the inhumanity of nuclear weapons to younger generations. His name was Matashichi Oishi. We received news of his death yesterday. He previously explained to the Chugoku Shimbun the reason why he refused to stop speaking out. “If a lid is kept on what can be learned from this lesson, the same thing will happen again.”

When I visited the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Tokyo three years ago, I witnessed Mr. Oishi speaking to students despite being in poor health. He said with frustration, “Humans are so forgetful.” He appeared unable to hide his indignation at Japanese society, which jumps at the chance for immediate profit without thoroughly reflecting on its past experiences, even after the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture.

Gazing at the boat, Mr. Oishi said, “Even after I pass from the scene, some things will remain.” One wonders whether he said so because his co-workers had died one by one. Mr. Oishi provided his testimony many times and authored a book about his experiences. He had become a symbol for people who continue to stand in opposition to nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on March, 22, 2021)