A-bomb survivors’ group holds 60th anniversary ceremony and pledges to continue efforts for nuclear abolition

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

On January 27, the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi) held a ceremony in Naka Ward to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its establishment this May. About 100 people, including A-bomb survivors and their supporters, took part in the ceremony. They looked back at the history of the group’s activities, led by A-bomb survivors, and pledged to continue their efforts to help realize the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Sunao Tsuboi, 90, the chairperson of the group, referred to a series of recent terrorist attacks and North Korea’s nuclear testing in his remarks and expressed his resolve, saying, “Together, we still have hard work to do.” Mikiso Iwasa, 87, a resident of Funabashi, Chiba and chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), delivered a speech to commemorate the occasion and appealed to the participants with the words, “Most people today haven’t experienced war first-hand. Our role is to encourage others to feel strongly that there must be no more victims of nuclear arms.”

Seventeen board members (including 15 now deceased) and 31 members (including 4 now deceased), nominated by the group’s local organizations, were given the distinguished service award. Haruko Moritaki, 77, a resident of Saiki Ward and the daughter of the late Ichiro Moritaki, who served as the first chairperson of the group, received a letter of thanks from Mr. Tsuboi. “I will seek the abolition of nuclear arms with our predecessor’s message in mind, that the human race cannot coexist with nuclear weapons or nuclear energy,” Ms. Moritaki vowed.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations was established on May 27, 1956. Due to a split in the national movement opposed to atomic and hydrogen bombs, over differences of opinion concerning the nuclear testing carried out by the former Soviet Union and China, another Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, chaired by Kunihiko Sakuma, has been operating separately since 1964.

A-bomb survivors seek cooperation with second-generation survivors at 60th anniversary ceremony

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writers

For 60 years, the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi) has tied the A-bombed survivors in Hiroshima together, sought compensation from the central government for the A-bomb damage they suffered, and taken the initiative in efforts to promote the abolition of nuclear arms. With local survivors’ groups deciding to disband one after another due to the advancing age of their members, it is now time to explore future directions for their work which involve second-generation A-bomb survivors.

“For 10 years after the atomic bombing, I lost hope for living. But when the A-bomb survivors banded together, I felt new courage to go on,” said Shizuko Abe, 88, a resident of Kaita Town who was given a distinguished service award at the group’s commemorative ceremony on January 27. Still, as she reflected on the days she endured some 60 years ago, she lowered her voice and said, “But I feel a sense of crisis because our membership is dwindling, year by year.”

Ms. Abe was an 18-year-old newlywed when she experienced the atomic bombing in Hiratsuka-cho (now part of Naka Ward) and suffered injuries to her face. After enduring the difficult conditions of “the lost decade,” when virtually no assistance or organization for the A-bomb survivors was available, she joined the confederation’s work as a housewife “in desperation.” When the group petitioned the Diet, conveying the hardships of the survivors and appealing for support, Ms. Abe, with a small child in tow, was part of the petitioning group.

At the A-bomb survivors’ association in Kaita-cho, which was formed in the same year as the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, Ms. Abe continued to contribute to its efforts, such as editing a collection of written accounts about the bombing. In 1995, she became the chairperson of the association, but the group disbanded in 2007 because the members had aged, and their memorial service came to an end, too. “I wish I could at least continue sharing my A-bomb account with others, but my health now prevents this,” she said. “The efforts being made by other survivors’ groups in various places are the heart of this movement. I hope they can sustain their activities.”

Last year, which marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, also saw the association of A-bomb survivors in Saijo-cho, part of Shobara City, and other groups disband. In March, the association of A-bomb survivors in Takamiya-cho will dissolve as well, dropping the number of local A-bomb survivors’ organizations in Hiroshima Prefecture to fewer than 40.

Takuji Tokimaru, 84, the chairperson of the Miyoshi City Confederation of Atomic Bomb Sufferers, said, “Even when the number of A-bomb survivors dwindles to zero, the horror of the atomic bombings must continue to be conveyed to people all over the world.” Mr. Tokimaru received an award for distinguished service to local survivors’ organizations. He said he now puts his hope in second-generation survivors. Currently, his organization has about 500 A-bomb survivors and about 600 second-generation survivors. The second-generation members have assumed some of the group’s work, such as producing its twice-yearly newsletter.

Satoru Fujii, 69, the child of an A-bomb survivor and the chairperson of the Friends of Fukuyama Atomic Bomb Survivors Association, took part in the ceremony, too. The new organization he heads was formed by survivors, children of survivors, and others last April in response to the closing of the Fukuyama Atomic Bomb Survivors Association. After listening to remarks made by the award recipients, including Ms. Abe and Mr. Tokimaru, Mr. Fujii said with conviction, “Taking up the wishes of those who came before us, the A-bomb survivors who led this movement, I’d like my organization to help unite many people and pursue a peaceful world.”

(Originally published on January 28, 2016)