Greenpeace believes that peace is the best self-defense, and that war is the biggest threat to the environment. This story is a call for peace by Daisuke Miyachi of Greenpeace Japan. Daisuke is from Hiroshima and his grandmother was one of the surviving victims of the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945.
The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945.
Sixty-nine years have now passed.
It unleashed a thermonuclear fury of toxic destruction that indiscriminately destroyed everything within a two mile radius. The far-reaching radioactive fallout would also leave its unrelenting and unforgiving scars on the people and natural environment of Hiroshima and surround areas. For the current generation of Japanese and global citizens everywhere, the city’s name has become synonymous with a tale of warning about the wrongs of war.
Coming into effect in 1947, after World War II, Article 9 of the Japan’s National Constitution renounces war and the use of forces as means of settling international disputes. It has meant that Japan has been able to enjoy a rare form of peace and prosperity that has become the envy of the world. Locally it referred to as the ‘Peace Constitution’, and has been an emblem of Japan’s stability and stature. However, in July 2014, the Japanese government approved a reinterpretation of Article 9 which has given more power to its self-defense forces and allowed them to use the “right of collective self-defense” to participate in the wars of allied nations under the pretense of ‘defense of allies’.
Walking down Hiroshima’s streets, one still encounters the scars of the atomic bomb. Scorched buildings, preserved ruble and monuments serve as a constant reminder of the horrific and needlessness of war-time tragedies.
My grandmother is a Hibakusha, one of the surviving victims of the bomb, who has been exposed to radiation from the bombing. The population of Hiroshima was approximately 350,000 when the Atomic Bomb was dropped. By the end of December 1945, estimates roughly 140,000. As of August 2013, the total number of Hibakusha who are to known to have died since the bombing has risen to 286,818.
My grandmother rarely spoke about her experience, a means, I guess, of preserving her own peace of mind in silent solitude. I will always remember the day finally broke her silence about the experience. Her words were simple and powerful like she had been holding in a deep well of stirring sorrow, “Everything collapsed. Every living creature has perished. We should never make such a big mistake again.”
Her words still echo in my mind as a symbol of the cruelty of war and the importance of peace.
The victims of Hiroshima were people just like you and me. They were fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, children and grandchildren. So many families were lost forever, some family lines cut off for eternity.
There were 41,638 children registered in Hiroshima city in May 1945. 25,836 children were evacuated to safer locations in rural areas or remote villages. However, 15,802 children stayed with their families in Hiroshima including those needing medical treatments as well as many elementary school children. Many of the children were severely affected by the A-bomb.
The boy in the photo is Hideaki Suzuki, smiling alongside his beloved dog “Kuma” (‘bear’ in Japanese). Hideaki was twelve years old when the A-bomb hit his home town. He was in school at the time and got exposed to high-level radiation. He tried to run whilst carrying his younger sister who was burnt by the fires as they lost each other in the chaos. He died seven days later as a result of exposure to radiation.
The children who were evacuated to rural areas and survived the war also suffered immensely. Many lost their families and with no one to care for them they became known as the A-bomb orphans. The number of orphans was estimated to be over 6,500 in Hiroshima city alone. The ferocity of damage has left no family in the area untouched.
The Atomic Bomb was sweeping in its violent destruction. No one – big or small – could escape its force. Many family pets like cats and dogs also perished. Well-known cartoonist Keiji Nakazawa, lost his beloved dog “Kuro” (“Black” in Japanese). Author of one of the most popular mangas in Japan ‘Barefoot Gen’, wrote: “Kuro was our family member. We found him in the air-raid shelter near our home. But he was lifeless. We were so sad imagining that Kuro desperately tried to be with us but had to die alone. The A-bomb destroyed all kinds of lives including a small life like Kuro’s.”
People often talk about what peace ought to be like. In this very moment politicians around the world are eloquently justifying their deeds and using their military forces for the sake of what they say is ‘world peace’. But in fact, war can never be justified.
It is estimated that the number of casualties during World War ll was sixty-five million, including forty million un-armed civilians. Coming at the end of the war, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki massacred thousands of innocent civilians and was only the beginning of the suffering for surviving victims. That is the nature of war, and the long lasting effects of radiation damage from nuclear technology.
Japan has been nuclear-free since last September, because its sole operating nuclear reactor shut down for maintenance on the 16th of September 2013 and other plants remained closed, not only for intensified safety checks but also due to strong public opposition following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. We look forward to the day when Japan will be nuclear free forever. That is a legacy to be proud of. That is a story generations after us will tell, not with tears of sadness borne out of war or disaster but tears of joy and hope for humanity.
“Please rest in peace. The tragedy won’t be repeated”.
The words engraved in the Memorial Cenotaph of the A-bomb victims should not be forgotten but remembered as a warning to all of us. No one is immune from the threat of war. As long as there are still atomic weapons in the world – none of us is safe. The words of my grandmother still echo in my head: ‘We should never make such a big mistake again’.
Daisuke Miyachi, is the Action and Volunteer Coordinator for Greenpeace Japan.
Shortly after the accidents of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiich nuclear power plants, he started participating in Greenpeace’s radiation expert team to checking the radiation levels in Fukushima. He has participated in the protests against restarts of nuclear power plants every Friday in front of the official residence of Japan’s Prime Minister.
Original blog (Japanese): http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/blog/staff/blog/49223/
Note: The original authors own copy rights of the images. Therefore it is prohibited to reuse these images and contents.
“A-bomb Disaster in Hiroshima and Nagasaki” published by Iwanami Shoten
The Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The physical, medical, and social effects of the atomic bombings”, 1981, Iwanami Shoten
“A-bomb Disaster Archives in Hiroshima” published by Hiroshima city government.
Hiroshima City, “The Atomic Bomb & Peace”,http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/www/genre/0000000000000/1001000000027/index.html
Keiji Nakazawa , “Kuro was there in the summer”, Kakiuchi Shuppan, 2011