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Hiroshima

Emiko Okada: the story of an atomic bombing survivor (Part One)

This is part one of a series in which we will be uploading the English translation of an interview with Emiko Okada, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Her whole story will be told in parts, detailing her early life before the war, her experience in the bombing and its aftermath, her life in the decades following the bombing, and her activism in recent years, in posts over the next few weeks. The interview was conducted in Japanese and has been translated so that her story can be spread around the world, to encourage people to think more deeply about peace and the role of nuclear weapons in the world today. The interview was spoken and has been translated as is, so read it as if somebody was talking to you.

Please click photos to open them bigger and have a closer look. Freshened up photos courtesy of Takeo Nakaoku.

The precious ‘normal’ days I spent in Onagachō

   
Emiko Okada (in her mother’s arms), with her older sister Mieko (middle) and her aunt, pictured on the left. (Photo taken 1937)

The birth of Emiko Okada (née Nakasako)

This is the first time I’ve told this old story like this. Though I am telling people about my experience in the nuclear bombing. It feels like I’m starting to get senile. Whilst I can still remember, I want to tell my story to those I meet. I’m starting to lose confidence in my memory.

I was brought up three doors down from where Setōuchi High School is now, in a place called Onagachō. I was called Nakasako. Emiko Nakasako. My birthday is the first of January, 1937.

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ICAN’s Tim Wright Speaks with Young People in Hiroshima

ICAN Treaty Coordinator Tim Wright visited Hiroshima 20-23 July 2018 at the invitation of the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper, Hiroshima City University, and Nagasaki University’s RECNA as the keynote speaker at their symposium “Opening the Door to Peace: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Beyond.” In addition to the symposium, Tim spoke at an event organized by HANWA and ANT-Hiroshima for members of the Hiroshima NGO community, as well as at a casual event for youths titled “What’s ICAN?” And there was another, completely unpublicized event during which Tim gave a handful of Hiroshima’s young people an inside look at ICAN’s campaign. With a focus on the latter, I’d like to expand on some of the lessons Tim shared.

Tim offered no less than 15 examples of actions and campaign methods that ICAN and its partners have implemented over the years. Actions included educating the public on the streets about nuclear weapons, making fun videos, civil disobedience, musical performances, branding, generating one’s own media, and positive messaging through demonstrations thanking supportive governments. In addition to actions that build public attention and support, campaigners employ a number of methods for lobbying politicians, including briefings, asking them to sign ICAN’s Parliamentarian Pledge, meeting with diplomats, and always making sure to speak with people from multiple political parties.

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Book Reviews: Rhodes and Dower

Nonfiction isn’t always gripping — but it can be. Seven months ago, I decided to learn more about nuclear weapons in general, rather than simply focus on a single instance of their use. Your average Google searches led me to the following books; all three are worth a read.

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ANT-Hiroshima’s Hibakusha Study Course

One of ANT-Hiroshima’s newest projects is the Hibakusha Study Course, a 12-session class that took place from April 2017 to March 2018. Former Hiroshima Hibakusha Relief Foundation Director and Hiroshima University Professor Emeritus Dr. Nanao Kamada, a specialist in the biological effects of radiation, collaborated with ANT-Hiroshima to teach the course.

The Hibakusha Study Course aims to give its participants extensive knowledge of the effects of radiation on people, with a focus on hibakusha experiences both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and globally. The second half of the course also delved into local and global disarmament activities. The ability to draw upon such knowledge — to combine facts with personal stories — can be relevant to anyone, but it is particularly essential for those working for nuclear abolition. The course connects scientific and historical facts with the ongoing dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, bridging past and present. Much of its content is the result of years of research by dedicated individuals in ongoing cooperation with hibakusha.

A participant shares her thoughts.

The Hibakusha Study Course is the first project of its kind for ANT-Hiroshima. Staff, volunteers, and partners keenly felt the urgency of the aging hibakusha community and decided to make concrete preparations for the day when Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s hibakusha are no longer with us. To course participants and organizers, gaining a detailed factual understanding of nuclear issues is one way to make the realities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki their own story.

Three of the participants work or are currently being trained as official memory keepers of Hiroshima’s experience; they’re taking part in ANT-Hiroshima’s course in addition to the three years of training they receive from Hiroshima City. Other participants include a Buddhist priest, a teacher, a nurse, a university student, and others who have been involved in ANT-Hiroshima’s activities. ANT-Hiroshima capped eligible participants’ age at 60, as the course is aimed at people without firsthand experience of its subject matter.

Dr. Kamada explains genetic damage.

The group became fast friends who learned from each other over the year-long course. Along with a lecture from Dr. Kamada, each session included time for participants to ask questions, reflect on previous sessions, and share their opinions; members’ diverse backgrounds and experiences contributed to lively discussions with a range of viewpoints. And in their own ways, everyone put what they learned into action outside the course.

The first two sessions focused on the effects of radiation on people. Dr. Kamada introduced major research in the field, then guided participants through an activity in which they cut out 46 paper chromosomes and arranged them by size. Chromosomes’ abnormality can be examined to estimate the amount of radiation they have been exposed to, although in reality one needs to examine about 100 chromosomes before abnormality becomes apparent. The group also got hands-on experience using a scintillation detector, borrowed from the Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-exposed (HICARE). Particpants discussed differences between victims of atomic bombings and victims of radiation exposure through other means, such as nuclear accidents or nuclear testing.

The third and fourth sessions covered data collection methods and differences between visible effects of the atomic bombings and the initially invisible effects of exposure to radiation, respectively. During the latter session, discussion delved into how government policies toward visible and invisible effects vary.

Two participants use the scintillation detector.

The course’s fifth session, held in late August, included an extra assignment for participants to write a reflection about their thoughts on the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that year. Along with sharing their reflections, participants analyzed the messages from representatives of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during that year’s memorial ceremonies.

The seventh session focused on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and 2017’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Participants studied the historical steps that led up to the creation of both treaties and Japan’s position therein, including its refusal to participate in talks for or sign the latter. In a similar vein, the eighth session focused on two organizations that won Nobel Peace Prizes for their work advocating for nuclear disarmament:  International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Following sessions focused on nuclear power and nuclear accidents, as well as the psychological effects of experiencing an atomic bombing or being exposed to radiation. The second to last session covered how Japan is currently reprocessing its nuclear waste. Discussion focused on not only the feasibility of the government’s current plan (or perhaps lack thereof), but also how average citizens can make their voices heard on these issues.

The year-long course came to an end with a final session spent reflecting on how participants’ opinions and attitudes have been changed by what they learned.

Dr. Kamada lectures during the 28 October session.

ANT-Hiroshima is grateful to Dr. Kamada for offering his time and expertise throughout the course. He unfailingly read all of the participants’ written work and would follow up in subsequent sessions if he realized there were points the class hadn’t completely understood.

After reflecting on the 2017-18 course with Dr. Kamada, ANT-Hiroshima staff decided to hold a second cycle for 2018-19. This year’s course will streamline its contents to cover roughly the same amount of material in six sessions instead of 12. Applicants can request specific topics on the course application form. The participant age limit is now capped at 50, and ANT-Hiroshima is specifically hoping that young people, teachers, and individuals working in media apply.

The application deadline for the 2018-19 course is May 12 — so please contact ANT-Hiroshima if you are interested!

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Roundup: ICAN Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo at the Award Ceremony on 10 December. ANT-Hiroshima, a longtime supporter of ICAN, organized or participated in a number of activities over the weekend to celebrate ICAN being awarded the Prize. But more than a celebration, the events were a chance to reflect on the decades of work by hibakusha and others — work that, in partnership with ICAN’s campaign, culminated in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — and to reaffirm our commitment to continuing to work for nuclear abolition.

Messages of support at the Hiroshima Joint Action event (photo by Takao Nakaoku)

The following are resources for those looking to learn more about ICAN and its campaign, as well as a short introduction to the activities of Hiroshima citizens held in conjunction with the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

About ICAN, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

  • ICAN recently released this document, which outlines the history of the organization and the steps leading up to the creation of the Treaty.
  • ICAN’s page on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons outlines the Treaty’s content and provides links to its full text and signatories.
  • Watch ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn’s and anti-nuclear activist and hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow’s speeches at the ceremony.

In Hiroshima

Emiko Okada speaks at the Hibakusha Voices event. (photo by Takeo Nakaoku)

Hibakusha Voices: On 9 December, Hibakusha Voices, an event organized by ANT-Hiroshima and held at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, gave Hiroshima citizens, and youth in particular, an opportunity to hear six hibakusha voice their thoughts on ICAN being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The speakers shared some of their experiences as hibakusha, as well as called on younger generations to take on their stories and continue working for a nuclear-free world. Although they were pleased with ICAN’s Peace Prize and the creation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the majority of the speakers emphasized that the prize and the treaty represent the rebirth of their cause, not its ending.

Candle message to ICAN (photo by Takeo Nakaoku)

Candle Message: People of all ages from various organizations joined forces to send a candle message of support to ICAN. The event organizers, young people of Hiroshima (with financial support from ANT), intended the message of “ICAN with you” to convey both partnership with hibakusha and a call for everyone to join the international anti-nuclear movement. Participants and speakers from the Hibakusha Voices event also took part in the candle message group photo. Photos were shared on social media with the hashtag #YesICAN, and the event was also given both local and national media coverage. NHK World broadcast and posted online a news story about the event.

Hiroshima Joint Action: Representatives from a number of civil society organizations gathered in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome on 10 December to congratulate ICAN on its Peace Prize and affirm their continued support. The group took photos with three banners, which read “United with global people, let’s achieve a nuke-free world with nuclear ban treaty!” “Setsuko Thurlow, many thanks and cheers!” and “Congrats, ICAN, for nuclear ban treaty & receiving Nobel Peace Prize!” Speakers included students and members of civil society organizations.

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