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Call to preserve Japan’s historic “Fukuryu Maru” memorial of atomic bombing

Final mission: Keep anti-nuke message at site of Tsukiji market, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201902130004.html, By NAOMI NISHIMURA/ Staff Writer, February 13, 2019 Busy construction workers and fast-walking passers-by pay little notice to a metal plate that symbolizes one of the darker periods in the postwar history of the now-closed Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

The continuing dismantling work and the future of the iconic former market has gained much of the public’s attention. The plate, measuring 42 centimeters tall and 52 cm wide, will remain on a fence surrounding the site at least until the project is complete.

The plate, marking the fallout of nuclear bomb tests carried out in the 1950s, carries a message that many people hope will remain in one form or another at the site.

“We have set up this plate out of the wish that there will be no suffering again from nuclear weapons,” the plate says in part.

A Tokyo metropolitan government official said “nothing has been decided on what objects will be installed” afterward at the Tsukiji site.

The plate is witness to the “A-bomb tuna” that arrived 65 years ago at the Tsukiji market in the capital’s Chuo Ward.

“Nearly 460 tons of contaminated fish were found from more than 850 fishing boats across Japan … and fish consumption dropped sharply,” another part of the plate’s inscription reads.

The radioactive “A-bomb” fish were actually exposed to radiation from hydrogen-bomb tests.

The text on the plate refers to the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), a fishing vessel caught in the fallout of a U.S. H-bomb test near the Bikini Atoll in March 1954.

Some of the tuna and other fish caught by the Daigo Fukuryu Maru ended up at the Tsukiji market.

“There was a real panic” when the haul tested positive for radiation, said Takuji Adachi, 92, who was a metropolitan government official at the time in charge of hygiene on the market grounds.

Radiation was also found in other tuna hauls that arrived later from different parts of the country.

Workers sat up all night testing fish with radiation detectors borrowed from a university lab and elsewhere before their early-morning auctions, sources said.

Tuna lost half to two-thirds of their prices, and the values of other fish species also dropped. The radiation tests continued through the year-end, with 3,000 tuna going to waste.

The names of 856 Japanese fishing boats were identified as having been contaminated by radioactive fallout from a series of hydrogen-bomb tests conducted between March and May 1954, according to officials of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.

The plate was installed at the Tsukiji fish market 45 years later.

PETITION FOR RELOCATING STONE MONUMENT

Matashichi Oishi, who was a crew member on the Fukuryu Maru involved in freezing the catch, wanted to set up a physical testimony to peace.

The now 85-year-old had asked the Tokyo metropolitan government to allow the installation at Tsukiji of a stone monument engraved with “Maguro Zuka” (tuna memorial).

He called for donations in units of 10 yen ($0.09) each time he gave a public speech. He ended up collecting 3 million yen, and the stone monument was completed.

However, opinion was divided at the time over whether the Tsukiji market should be relocated or redeveloped on the same site. Authorities said there was no space available for the stone monument, but they allowed the plate to be attached by the side of the main gate.

The stone monument currently stands in an open space on the grounds of the exhibition hall in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, where the hull of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru remains preserved.

The plate has since served as a memento for about two decades, but the Tsukiji market was relocated to the Toyosu district of Koto Ward in October last year.

With the future of the plate unknown, Oishi has collected 5,622 signatures over three years for a petition to have the stone monument relocated to a corner of the former Tsukiji market.

“Words engraved in stone will stay 50 years and 100 years down the road,” Oishi said last September during a meeting on the possible uses of the stone monument. “History could be repeated unless someone keeps talking about the horror of nuclear weapons.”

He said he hopes to hand the signatures to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to coincide with the March 1 Bikini Day, the anniversary of the Fukuryu Maru’s nuclear exposure.

Oishi said setting a path for the stone monument’s relocation is his “final mission in life.”

“The Fukuryu Maru later symbolized calls for eliminating nuclear weapons,” he said. “Tsukiji must also have the role of being a witness to the nuclear exposure incident.”

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February 14, 2019 - Posted by | Japan, weapons and war

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