Blind 65-year-old hibakusha on peace march through Hokkaido, calling 'Abolition Now!'

Matsuda Rumiko, who was atomic bombed in Hiroshima when she was five and later lost her eyesight, is participating in the Hokkaido peace march calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons as part of the nation's peace march toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Peace March will arrive in Hiroshima on the eve of the 2005 World Conference against A and H Bombs in August, marking the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings.

Matsuda, 65, left Nemuro toward Hakodate via Sapporo and Otaru, one of four courses in Hokkaido in northernmost Japan, where spring has just come. Matsuda, a Hiroshima resident, in the past joined the peace march from Hiroshima to Nagasaki in hot weather.

She had a cataract caused by the atomic bombing, and almost lost her eyesight when in her 30s. She had to give up her job at a company transporting rock drills when she was 40.

Most of her hibakusha friends passed away in their youth, and she is the youngest who can remember and testify the damage caused by the vicious weapon, she said.

In 1960 when she was 20, she took part in the anti-Japan-U.S. Security Treaty struggle, but it was when she turned 55 that she took part in the anti-atomic bombs movement, the year marking the 55th anniversary of the atomic bombing.

On May 8, Matsuda, together with 25 peace activists, including 74-year-old Toyota Kazuko, left Nosappu Promontory in Nemuro, where the cold and dry wind made her voiceless for a time.

On May 10, they reached Kushiro City, where about 1,000 marchers called for citizens to support and join the anti-nuclear weapons movement.

Matsuda said, "Whenever I visit, people warmly welcome us. I was attracted by school teachers' efforts in "peace education." When I meet mayors, assembly chairs, and education boards chiefs, I use my energy to tell of my own experience in the atomic bombing, and they offer positive support to us."

Two people who took part in the petition tour in New York for the 2005 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference also joined in the march. "I think that my experience can be passed on to the next generation," she said.

Recalling her experience as a radiation victim, Matsuda said, "Wishing that I want to be the last hibakusha, I want to devote my life to stop the next war."

She is walking in high spirits toward Hakodate in southernmost Hokkaido, the goal of the course on June 4. -Akahata, May 26, 2005

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