Hiroshima Memo: Cooperation between citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, past and future

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

Everyone no doubt associates collections of A-bomb writing with accounts of the individual experiences of A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) with a focus on the days when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, the collections of writing that were published by the Nagasaki Testimony Association on its own from 1969 and the collections published by the Hiroshima Testimony Association four times a year for over five years from 1982 in cooperation with the Nagasaki Testimony Association were quite different in substance. It may be appropriate to describe these collections as a "general magazine" on the atomic bombs, peace, and nuclear issues with A-bomb experiences forming the core of this expression.

For instance, in "Hiroshima-Nagasaki no Shogen: 1982 Fuyu go" ("The Winter 1982 Issue of Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki"), the first publication jointly produced by the Nagasaki Testimony Association and the Hiroshima Testimony Association, the section for "A-bomb accounts" made up about 20 pages of the 128 pages, or roughly one-sixth of the issue. The main part of the issue consisted of the two features titled "Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Expanding Anti-nuclear Movement" and "Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Solidarity," to which nearly 60 pages were devoted. These feature articles contained essays by a scholar, an educator, an A-bomb survivor, a doctor, and others, including "The Current Situation Surrounding the Anti-nuclear Movement: Western Europe and Japan" and "The International Trend in Disarmament Education and Its Point of View" for the former feature and "Catholics in Nagasaki and A-bomb Issues" and "What Should a Doctor Do with regard to Nuclear War" for the latter. In addition, a Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables, a poem, and a novel, as well as the critique titled "'A-bomb Poetry': Over the Past Year," were carried in the "Literature" section.

"I sincerely hope that this booklet will serve as a driving force to move the world." Written by Seiji Imabori, then president of Hiroshima Prefectural Women's University, this preface exemplified the enthusiasm of those involved in the publication.

Akihiro Takahashi, then director of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, wrote about his own resolution as an A-bomb survivor in this first jointly-published issue as follows: "Hiroshima and Nagasaki shared the same fate. Let those known as hibakusha remove the hardened ideology, fortify peace in our minds, rise above bitterness toward the United States, overcome pain and sorrow caused by the atomic bombings, appeal enduringly for nuclear abolition and total disarmament in a more forceful voice, and continue to take action, even if we have a long and difficult way to go."

The editing stance of universalizing and conceptualizing the meaning of the A-bomb experience was consistently adopted for all these collections of A-bomb accounts with a view to the world's sufferers of radiation and gaps in perception between Japan and the United States with regard to the atomic bombings and Japan's war responsibility. This stance also constituted efforts to convey the spirit of war renunciation and nuclear abolition from the A-bombed cities to people in Japan as well as around the world, thereby expanding the circle.

At the time, Akira Ishida, chair of the A-bombed Teachers Association of Japan, Naomi Shono, a professor of Hiroshima Jogakuin University, and poet Sadako Kurihara were among about the 30 people who actively engaged themselves in the publication from the Hiroshima side. Caseworkers and journalists also joined the project as members of the editorial board. I wonder how much time and labor were needed for them, serving as volunteers, to continue to publish the magazine. I cannot help but again take off my hat to their efforts, as well as to the substantial contents of the collections.

A quarter of a century has passed since then. Both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many of those who took an active part in these efforts have passed away. To my regret, the Hiroshima Testimony Association has disbanded. However, their messages to us, which were woven through the cooperation of citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have been condensed into the 21 collections of A-bomb testimonies.

The A-bomb cities have continued to work together at the administrative level, including Mayors for Peace. However, there is no denying that the cooperative relationship has weakened at the grassroots level, compared to the 1980s. It does not have to take the same form of publishing a magazine, but I hope that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will strengthen their power to convey their messages by increasing the opportunities for citizens' exchange activities that can involve young people as well.

(Originally published on October 4, 2010)

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