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We must not forget the Hibakusha

Ground Zero Nagasaki: Living the nuclear past – and future, Asia Times, By SUSAN SOUTHARD JANUARY 18, 2019  “…………….Hibakusha stories

It’s essential for us to remember such grim details, not just for the sake of history, but for our future, because nuclear weapons far more powerful and devastating than the Nagasaki bomb are now commonplace.

In a small area of Nagasaki that includes Hypocenter Park, the  Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, and Peace Park, dedicated teams of Japanese men and women still work tirelessly to counter the world’s inclination to forget what happened. For the past 35 years, one organization, the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, has assembled cadres of hibakusha speakers – typically about 40 at any time – willing to tell their stories. They are now aging women and men with unique memories of the day of that bombing and the weeks, months and years that followed.

Sixteen-year-old Taniguchi Sumiteru was delivering mail on his bicycle about a kilometer and a half from the hypocenter when, a split-second after the bomb detonated, its tremendous force and searing heat blew him off his bicycle and slammed him face-down on to the road. His entire back was burned off. By all rights, he should never have survived. Three months later, he finally received medical treatment. Still in constant pain 10 years after the bombing, he became one of Nagasaki’s earliest anti-nuclear activists.

Wada Koichi, an 18-year-old streetcar driver at the time of the bombing, decided to speak out when he held his first grandchild and flashed back to the charred corpse of a baby he’d stepped over as he searched for his missing colleagues.

Do-oh Mineko, then 15, suffered critical injuries to her head and lingered near death for months. Though those injuries eventually healed, radiation exposure had caused all her hair to fall out. For nearly a decade, she hid in her house until her hair finally grew back. As an adult, she kept her identity as a hibakusha secret until, in her late 60s, she found new meaning for her life by telling her story to schoolchildren.

Yoshida Katsuji, only 13, was looking up in the direction of the bomb at the moment it exploded. His entire face was scorched. Years later, as friends and colleagues told their stories publicly, he remained silent, afraid of looks of disgust from audiences due to his disfigurement. He finally began speaking out in his late 60s after deciding that being shy was not a good reason to keep silent when it came to the terrorizing impact of nuclear weapons.

These four and many others dared to cross boundaries in Japanese culture to tell their personal stories of suffering and help others grasp what nuclear war would mean for the world. Unfortunately, most  hibakusha – at least those who were old enough to have vivid memories of the bombing and its aftermath – have died or are reaching the end of their lives. They are the only people capable of telling us first-hand about the experience of nuclear war, and each year their numbers diminish. ………….. http://www.atimes.com/ground-zero-nagasaki-living-the-nuclear-past-and-future/

January 19, 2019 - Posted by | Japan, PERSONAL STORIES, weapons and war

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