NAGASAKI -- On the late autumn day of Nov. 9, residents gathered in front of the Peace Statue at Nagasaki Peace Park. The residents stage sit-ins on the ninth of every month in memory of the devastating atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Within the ring of residents sat 75-year-old Koichi Kawano, chairman of the Japan Congress against A- and H-Bombs.
With a stern expression, Kawano spoke out against security-related legislation that was recently railroaded into law.
"Let's continue our opposition," Kawano said, clutching a microphone. "We have to raise our voices more." Less than two months after the legislation was passed, topics of conversation and interest in society are turning toward economic policies and other issues. Kawano seemed almost desperate.
Kawano was hit by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki when he was 5 years old. At the time he was on a street near his home 3.1 kilometers from the hypocenter. He spotted a U.S. B-29 bomber flying overhead and right afterwards, when the blast of the bomb hit, it hurled him 10 meters.
Fortunately he was not injured, and the other members of his family were safe. In the bomb shelter, Kawano's grandparents forbade the children from going outside, telling them that there were many people burned so badly one couldn't tell if they were men or women. On a mountainside that evening, as the family headed to a bigger bomb shelter, Kawano saw the city burning red.
Later, when Kawano was in his second year of elementary school, his teacher entered the classroom one day with a happy expression on her face.
"Listen, everybody, Japan has become a country that doesn't wage war," she said. The teacher earnestly taught the students the significance of Japan's new Constitution, which came into effect in May 1947. She focused especially on war-renouncing Article 9.
At the time there wasn't enough food, and there were many war orphans. But when he thought, "So we're going to have peace from now on," Kawano was filled with hope. This marked his encounter with Japan's pacifist Constitution.
After graduating from high school, Kawano began working for the Nagasaki Prefectural Government, and devoted himself to labor union activities. Both as an atomic bomb survivor, or hibakusha, and as chairman of the Japan Congress against A- and H-Bombs, Kawano spoke out against war and nuclear weapons. The day after Japan's security-related legislation was rammed through a special committee of the House of Councillors on Sept. 17, Kawano held a news conference in Nagasaki.
"Do politicians know just how many people suffered in the atomic bombings? This is the worst stain in the history of Constitutional politics," he said.
Being one of the younger hibakusha, Kawano plans to take part in demonstrations and gatherings to call for abolishment of the security legislation. In Nagasaki, young people launched a group opposing the security legislation, and they continue to hold regular demonstrations.
Seeing demonstrators calling out "No more Hiroshimas, no more Nakasakis," Kawano feels he can depend on them.
"Fortunately, the Constitution has not been changed. We must not give up," he said. He repeated his words a second time, and then a third, as if he were speaking to himself. (By Asuka Ohira, Nagasaki Bureau; photo by Toyokazu Tsumura)
(This is the second part of a six-part series.)