Column: Caroline Kennedy’s first visit to Hiroshima

by Noritaka Egusa, Chief Editorial Writer

“A girl wearing a maroon overcoat, navy blue corduroys, and canvas shoes” is how the evening edition of the Chugoku Shimbun described the girl from the United States on her first visit to the A-bombed city of Hiroshima some 35 years ago. The article also noted her long hair and said that she remains a symbol of innocence.

That girl was Caroline Kennedy, at the age of 20. Today, she is set to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Back then, she stepped into Peace Memorial Museum in her sneakers and lingered at the exhibits, even falling behind the others in her group, which included her uncle, Ted Kennedy, who was a U.S. senator at the time.

Her visit to Hiroshima lasted only six hours. To the reporters who pursued her, she said with a smile that circumstances prevented her from responding to questions. But at hearings now taking place at the U.S. Senate, she said, “I first visited in 1978 with my uncle, Senator Kennedy, and was deeply affected by our visit to Hiroshima.”

Curious, I searched for other articles and found one in the morning edition of the newspaper. After touring the museum, Ms. Kennedy and others, including Senator Kennedy, visited a hospital to see A-bomb survivors. When she saw the keloid afflicting a survivor, her face was somber. My hope is that the shock she experienced back then has remained to this day.

After being confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Kennedy is expected to assume the post as early as next month. I hope that she will make another, longer visit to Hiroshima and speak candidly about the atomic bombing and her view of a world without nuclear weapons. Naturally, I hope, too, that she will invite President Obama to join her. And, as before, sneakers will be just fine.

(Originally published on September 21, 2013)