For a Peaceful Future without Nuclear Weapons and Wars

For a Peaceful Future without Nuclear Weapons and Wars

— On behalf of the A-Bomb Survivors in Japan —

Mikiso Iwasa

Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture


May 2010

Dear friends,

I feel honored and pleased to be together with you, who have come to New York to achieve a successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and who are earnestly hoping and working for a world set free of the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear war. Let us work together to abolish nuclear weapons without any further delay. Representing the Hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors of Japan, I have come here today to work for our common goal. Allow me to share with you my A-bomb experience and my appeal as a Hibakusha.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945 and on August 9, 1945 respectively turned the two cities into rubble in instants through the enormous, combined destructive power of blast waves, heat rays, and radiation. The citizens there were thrown into infernos of fire and devastation contaminated with radioactivity.

At that time, I was a sixteen-year-old middle school student. As the factory at which I was mobilized to work was closed on that day due to a power shortage, I did not go to work. I was in the yard of my house, which was located 1.2 kilometers from what would be ground zero. Soon after I heard the roar of planes flying over, I felt the impact of a strong blast, and my body was smashed to the ground. I was not particularly injured, as the ground was soft soil. If I had stood about half a meter to the right, I might have been killed instantly, smashed on a garden rock. Miraculously, I suffered no burns, as I was in the shade of a neighbor’s house standing opposite mine across the street.

In the ominous silence, it suddenly dawned on me that my mother was under the collapsed house. I cried out, “Mom!” And I heard her reply, “I’m here,” from under the fallen roof. I was relieved to know that she was alive, but my joy was short-lived. When I managed to lift the roof sheet and to thrust my head under, I saw the fragments of the collapsed support pillars scattered over the foundation of the house. Through narrow slits between them, I saw my mother lying on her back about a meter away. She was bleeding from her closed eyes. “I cannot get in from here. Can you move out from there?” I asked. She said, “I cannot move unless you remove the beam lying on my left shoulder.” I tried to remove the debris, attacking it from another side, but I could not make my way any closer to her. After some time, a fierce firestorm approached, and I worked desperately in a shower of falling sparks. There was no one to help me. Feeling powerless, I became nearly frantic and cried, “Mom, there’s no way I can move it. The fire is coming. Can’t you make it through somehow?” I had no idea what was happening in Hiroshima beyond the confines of my collapsed house. My mother must have been full of fear, not able to see anything around her, trapped under the fallen house. But she seemed to have accepted death and said to me, “Then you must escape quickly!” And she began to recite a Buddhist prayer. Hearing her prayer, I ran away. I left my mother to be burnt alive in raging flames.

At that time, all around me was a sea of fire. I struggled through and managed to reach the swimming pool of a junior high school located behind our house. I jumped into the water and eventually escaped from the fire. But I saw a man, who was also trying to flee from the fire, reach the edge of the schoolyard a little later. He was enveloped in flames and burnt to death. Like him, many people were burnt to death after narrowly escaping their fallen houses. Losing their way in firestorms, they swarmed to a small water tank and died altogether. Similar dreadful scenes were seen everywhere in Hiroshima and Nagasaki right after the atomic bombings. It was literally a hell on earth.

A couple of days later, I dug out what looked like my mother’s body from the ruins of our house. It was a greasy and slimy object, like a mannequin painted with coal tar and burned. I could not believe that it was my mother’s body. She was killed mercilessly, not as a human being but as an object. The deaths of A-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki could not possibly be described as human deaths.

My younger sister, then aged 12 and a first grader in a girls’ middle school, had been mobilized by the military and was working near ground zero when the bomb was dropped. To this day, she is still unaccounted for. We do not know where or how she died. As my father had died from an illness in May that year, I became an A-bomb orphan. Looking for my sister around the city center, I fell ill, suffering the acute symptoms of radiation poisoning. Scarlet spots developed all over my body. I could not swallow due to a sore throat. I bled from my nose and from my gums. I lost my hair. Thanks to the devoted care of my aunt, who lost her husband to the A-bomb, I survived. But since then, I have suffered many different illnesses and health conditions related to radiation poisoning. Recently, I developed cancer caused by the delayed effects of A-bomb radiation. I continue my Hibakusha activities while battling my cancer.

Please remember that my experience is only one of the several hundred thousand victims who went through the A-bombings. Not all of the Hibakusha were under the mushroom cloud. Many more people who later came into the city looking for their families or engaging in rescue work were also exposed to residual radiation, inhaling radioactive dust and air and drinking or eating contaminated water and food, irradiated not only externally but also internally. Even after sixty-five years, many Hibakusha still suffer from the dreadful consequences of the A-bombs, many worse off than I, but they still struggle to survive. We want to make sure that we stop repeating such atrocities. No one should have to experience such atrocities.

The harmful effects of nuclear weapons are not limited to the damage done to the bodies of their victims. Survivors continue to suffer in their everyday lives and from psychological wounds that will never heal as long as they live. Many of the Hibakusha have had chronic health problems, have lost family members, have experienced family break-ups, and have not been able to rebuild their lives, facing various kinds of social discrimination, giving up thoughts of marriage and children. In the cases of those who were exposed to the A-bombs in utero and were born with microcephaly, their parents continue to bear unimaginable burden and suffering, not only as Hibakusha themselves, but as parents of Hibakusha. While we know of many cases of second-generation A-bomb victims who have died from leukemia or cancers, the mechanism of the genetic effects of the A-bombs remains unstudied.

Thus, the A-bombs continue to inflict serious damage on the survivors to the extent that they are not allowed to die as human beings nor live as human beings. We, the Hibakusha, are living witnesses of one of the worst human disasters in history.

But we have never called for retaliation. The A-bomb damage was too grave and too destructive to consider retaliation. Instead, we have promoted our movement to ensure that such tragedies should not be repeated. We have worked to prevent nuclear war and to abolish nuclear weapons. We have also worked to achieve state compensation for the A-bomb damage. We speak about our A-bomb experiences both in Japan and internationally. We are confident that our activities have contributed to preventing the outbreak of nuclear war in a number of crises.

Now, we are at a very important juncture in our history.

On April 5, 2009, U.S. President Obama in his speech in Prague, Czech Republic, expressed his strong determination to achieve a “world without nuclear weapons”, acknowledging for the first time the moral responsibility of the country that has used nuclear weapons to act for that goal. We the Hibakusha pay tribute to him for his statement. We sincerely hope that during this NPT Review Conference his determination will be translated into real action. Discussions should start immediately to set out a concrete path for international negotiations for and realization of the abolition of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we are aware of the significance of our own task. Currently, in the Main Gallery of the Visitors Lobby of the U.N. building, we are holding an A-bomb exhibition entitled “A Message to the World from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” There, our delegation members are also giving witness to their atomic bomb experiences. Please come and visit our exhibition. We earnestly hope to achieve our goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, and for this, we continue to work together with you. Thank you.





















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