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Hibakusha: A-bomb survivor reflects on visit to Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

Emiko Okada is seen in Naka Ward, Hiroshima, on Jan. 28, 2016. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- "Do so many people really die from just one atomic bomb?" So came the question, translated through an interpreter, from a citizen of Oslo. It was December of last year, and survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing Emiko Okada, 79, was in Oslo on an invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony as a representative of the A-bomb survivors.

    It was the day after the ceremony, and following a meeting with the mayor of Oslo, Okada was receiving citizens' questions.

    "Even though this is an international place where the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony is held, regular citizens really don't know anything (about the atomic bomb)," Okada recalls feeling. At the same time, however, she sensed something like determination welling up inside her.

    "Nothing will progress (on the nuclear weapons issue) if I just talk in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have to let the world know," she says.

    The first person ever invited as an A-bomb survivor to the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony, Okada brought with her a message from the mayor of Hiroshima, A-bomb survivor stories translated into English, and drawings of her own experiences that were created by Hiroshima high school students, to present as donations to Oslo.

    "I'm glad that I brought things that would allow people in Oslo to understand the reality of the A-bombs. If the stories of Hiroshima are left in the form of tangible things, people will at least know what happened in Hiroshima," Okada says.

    The award ceremony, Okada says, made her think about the state of the peace movement in Japan. The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, made up of four organizations in Tunisia, was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Okada was greatly moved by their acceptance speech, in which they noted that they couldn't rely on their government to bring back peace to their nation, so they initiated a dialogue and brought forth peace themselves.

    Okada had heard that the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations was also a candidate for the peace prize, but says, "While the various organizations and individuals (in the confederation) are each doing their best to campaign against war and for the elimination of nuclear weapons, I don't sense unity from them. That's even the case with Hiroshima, the site of an atomic bombing." She couldn't help but feel the difference between Japan's peace movement and that of Tunisia, where the people had united as one to make their society peaceful.

    However, Okada has not given up hope. On the flight to Oslo, when she told a Japanese flight attendant that she was an A-bomb survivor, the attendant said, "When a foreign passenger asked me about Hiroshima, I wasn't able to answer anything. I would love to hear your story."

    In Oslo, a Japanese student studying there came to Okada's press conference and listened to what she had to say. "How about providing opportunities to study about peace to people living outside Japan? Then, I think they will pass on our stories to the world," Okada suggested.

    Last year, Okada expressed her determination in this way: "Even after 70 years, nuclear weapons have not disappeared from the world. I want to make this (70th anniversary) not an end, but a new beginning for Hiroshima." Her experience in Oslo made her feel that way all the more. (Story by Norihisa Ueda, Hiroshima Bureau)

    (This is Part 3 of a five-part series)

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