Hiroshima Memo: Japanese government must show greater initiative in conveying the reality of the atomic bombings to the world

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

“Our long-time efforts have finally been rewarded.” With these words, a number of A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) who had shared their experiences of the bombing at home and abroad rejoiced over the outcome of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference of 2000, which promised “an unequivocal undertaking for the abolition of nuclear weapons.” Five years then passed. The next NPT Review Conference in 2005 was unable to produce even a final document of consensus, driving the hibakusha to deep despair.

“We want to see the elimination of nuclear weapons during our lifetimes.” Their wish still unrealized, the hibakusha are now moving into an average age over 75. Still, the A-bomb survivors have never given up. “We have no idea how long our strength will last,” they lament. And yet, while struggling with illness and old age, they remain steadfast in appealing to the people of Japan and around the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the end of war. The hibakusha act with one conviction: “The generations that come after us must never suffer the same tragic experience.”

This conviction rises not only from the fact they suffered the deep sorrow of losing family members and friends and witnessed the “living hell” wrought by the atomic bombing on that day in August 64 years ago. Even after the bombing, they have been tormented by illness and great hardship. Though they may conceal it, most hibakusha live with the constant anxiety that they might succumb to the aftereffects of radiation.

The fact that seven hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including Emiko Okada, a long-time acquaintance, recently went to New York to take part in the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, demonstrates their fervent desire to appeal directly to the people of the world in regard to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

  On April 27, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone proposed new guidelines for Japan’s nuclear policy by issuing a statement titled “Conditions towards Zero: 11 Benchmarks for Global Nuclear Disarmament.”

At the end of the statement, Mr. Nakasone pointed out that the real horror of nuclear weapons has not been adequately conveyed to the international community, saying, “I am convinced that our nation’s mission must be to convey the tragic reality of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the people of the world.”

I myself am not an A-bomb survivor, but I am alarmed by the thought: “More than half a century has passed and this man is still stating the obvious.” Yet I swallow my concern and hope that Japan will truly show initiative, as the A-bombed nation, at both the PrepCom and the NPT Review Conference in 2010.

If the whole picture of the devastation wrought by the bombings could be fully conveyed, I believe people would recognize that “humanity can never coexist with nuclear weapons.”

The government of this A-bombed nation bears a deep responsibility for undertaking such efforts as holding A-bomb exhibitions at home and abroad in collaboration with the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as hibakusha. With the awareness of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation now growing, this opportunity must not be missed.

(Originally published on May 4, 2009)      

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