2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs
Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations
Friends from all over the world, I am honored to be able to make a report
on behalf of Hibakusha to the first World Conference against A&H Bombs in
the 21st century.
In the August of 56 years ago, U.S. bombers abruptly appeared in the
airspace over Hiroshima and Nakasaki and without warning dropped atomic
bombs which had until then been unknown to human kind. The bombs exploded
with a flash at the altitude of about 500 meters. As a result of the blast
people were flung to the ground and houses were blown to pieces. This was
followed by heat rays which burnt people who were outdoors at the time and
set fire the houses. People who could not escape from collapsed houses were
burnt alive and invisible radiation was destroyed human cells and genes.
Even those who were fortunate enough to survive the initial stage suffered
high fever, bleeding, diarrhea, and hair loss and died one after another.
Just two atom bombs were powerful enough to take the lives of 210 thousand
people within five month of the bombing. Such was the brutality of bomb.
Nuclear weapons are nothing less than the devil's weapon of mass
I was 13 years old at the time of the atomic bombing. I was fortunate to
survive because my house was at the back of a mountain which rose as a
barrier, about 3.2 kilometers from ground zero. Three days later, I had to
cremate my grandmother, who had been burnt to death in a field near ground
zero. The atomic bomb took the lives of my grandfather and four other
relatives at the same time.
Today, 56 years later, what I witnessed at the age of 13 remains in memory:
Smoking ruins stretched several kilometers; dozens of bodies, naked and
swelling like balloons were floating in the reservoir; there were bodies of
children who had apparently been burnt to death when their house was flung
against a stone wall; hundreds of bodies of women and children were
waiting for someone to collect them; and many injured people with maggots
crawling over their bodies with no hope of remaining medical attention.
Hibakusha who barely survived also suffered from mysterious delayed
disorders, apparently caused by radiation, such as fatigue for no apparent
reason, liver disorders, and numerous "cancers" including leukemia. I was
stricken by the thought that I may be the next one to die. Many Hibakusha,
who could have survived if they had received medical treatment, died and
hundreds of thousands of other people died a delayed A-bomb death."
The Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bombs Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo)
was established by Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) who gathered from all over
the country to attend the 2nd World Conference against A & H Bombs in
August 1956. Hibakusha who had been suffering in isolation now found that
life was worth living. Since then they have developed a major movement
calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as the government
aid and compensation for Hibakusha. They joined forces and encouraged each
other in their movement in the firm belief that "their experience must
never be repeated."
A major step forward was made with the enactment of the 1957 Law on the
Medical Treatment of A-bomb Victims , followed by the 1968 Law on the
Special Arrangements for A-bomb Victims. Under these laws the government
was responsible for medical treatment for and the maintenance of
Hibakusha's health. Then, in1994, the two laws were integrated into the
Hibakusha Aid Law. This was a major achievement of the movement of the
Hibakusha as well as the Movement against A & H Bombs.
But the Japanese government until today has been reluctant to fulfill its
responsibility for providing compensation for Hibakusha on the grounds that
"the general cost of the war should be borne equally by all people without
The Japanese government's policy toward Hibakusha has been one of
distinguishing A-bomb victims from other was victims by classifying damage
from radiation as being exceptional. That was how the government was able
to place rigorous restrictions on the recognition of Hibakusha's illnesses
as being caused by the atomic bombings. Hideko Matsuya, a Nagasaki
Hibakusha, waged a 12-year court struggle until July last year, when she
won the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in her favor. In another
lawsuit, a Hibakusha in Kyoto won a similar ruling in the Osaka High Court.
Following these court decisions, the government for the first time drew up
what can be described as "criteria for recognition of Hibakusha's diseases
as having been caused by the atomic bombing," but the criteria completely
disregard the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling.
While struggling to get the government to provide state compensation for
A-bomb survivors, Japanese Hibakusha have always emphasized how important
it is to achieve the immediate elimination of nuclear weapons, so that
there are no more Hibakusha.
Hibakusha believe that the need now is to let the public know as much as
possible about the damage from the atomic bombings in order to build up
public consensus on the demand that nuclear weapons be abolished and to
influence politics to this effect. As part of this effort, we have
attempted to seize every opportunity to reach out to people in Europe, the
Americas, Asia and Africa, as well as in Japan. Using Hibakusha's notes
on their personal experiences, photos and other illustrations, Hibakusha,
as living witnesses of the atomic bombing, related their sufferings and
hardships and called for nuclear weapons to be abolished. In particular we
have been focusing on sending out photo panels entitled "Human Being and
the Atomic Bomb" to many countries so that they will be shown in
However, the problem now is that Hibakusha are aging and losing the
physical and financial strength necessary to travel abroad. We have so far
organized Hibakusha tours of the U.S. East Coast every year using our own
resources. But we now have difficulty organizing a sufficient number of
Hibakusha to participate in such tours. We now need to find some special
way to make it possible for Hibakusha to continue to play role of telling
their story of the atomic bombing.
Nuclear weapons not only sacrificed Pacific islanders through their
atmospheric test explosions on Pacific atolls; they have produced victims
at every stage of nuclear weapon development, including research,
development, testing and stockpiling in the nuclear weapons countries.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the damage done to localities near
testing sites by the former Soviet Union's nuclear tests in Kazakhstan and
other regions has been revealed to be much more enormous than had been
expected. We have stepped up common efforts to establish support and
compensation for all nuclear test victims. Last year, we held a solidarity
meeting with the world's Hibakusha and made a written request in the name
of all participants calling for assistance. The letter was sent to the
United Nations and the nuclear weapons states.
Hidankyo now proposes a movement of international citizens tribunals to
condemn the use of nuclear weapons as a crime, with all Hibakusha as the
plaintiffs. In doing this, we are trying to find a way to create a
groundswell of NGOs toward abolishing nuclear weapons. We would be grateful
if you could provide us with any ideas as well as support for this project.
The development and use of nuclear weapons has been the worst stain left by
the humanity in the 20th century. The desire to achieve the abolition of
nuclear weapons emanates from the belief that human kind cannot coexist
with nuclear weapons, but this desire was not realized by the end of the
last century. But, last year's NPT Review Conference reached a consensus
with nuclear weapon states agreeing on an unequivocal undertaking to
achieve the elimination of nuclear arsenals. The earnest desire of
Hibakusha is to do their utmost in the movement to attain what has been
agreed on. We, Hibakusha are not in despair. We have learned from our
experiences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that despair will only lead to the
end of human kind.
Let me close my speech by making a sincere appeal for increased solidarity
with all Hibakusha and peace-loving people throughout the world.