Number of A-bomb Survivor’s Certificate holders as of end of March this year falls below 130,000, with average age now 83.94 years

by Koji Higuchi, Staff Writer

On July 1, a report from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare revealed that the number of A-bomb survivors holding an A-Bomb Survivor’s Certificate was 127,755 as of the end of March this year, falling below 130,000 for the first time. Their average age was a record-high 83.94, an increase of 0.63 years from the previous year. Over the past decade, the number of A-bomb survivors with the certificate has been declining at a pace of nearly 10,000 a year. With the number of certificate-holding A-bomb survivors down to one-third its peak, the question of how to pass on their A-bomb memories has become a significant challenge.

The ministry compiled certificate-holder data managed by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as by all prefectures throughout Japan. Over the past 12 months, the number of certificate holders declined by 8,927 from the 136,682 figure of last year. The current number only amounts to 34.3 percent, or about one-third, of the largest-ever number of certificate holders of 372,264, which was recorded at the end of March 1981. Of the current certificate holders, 2,785 live overseas, down 102 from a year ago.

The number of certificate holders that the Hiroshima City government manages decreased by 2,645, to 42,191, with an average age of 83.48, up 0.66 years from the same period a year ago. The number of those managed by the Hiroshima Prefecture government, which does not include Hiroshima City figures, fell by 1,343, to 15,616, with an average age of 85.60, an increase of 0.55 years over the previous year.

Among survivors nationwide, 107,032 are recipients of health care allowances of 34,970 yen per month, which are paid to those with specific diseases or conditions, a drop of 7,276 individuals from last year. At the same time, 6,978 are recipients of special medical subsidies of 142,170 yen per month, which are provided to survivors who are certified as suffering from A-bomb-related diseases, a decline of 45 individuals.

With regard to the special medical subsidies, A-bomb survivors who have not been certified by the ministry as being eligible for the benefit have filed a number of lawsuits nationwide, coming up victorious in many of the cases, and A-bomb survivors’ groups continue their call for the government to fundamentally review the A-bomb disease certification system.

(Originally published on July 2, 2021)