HIROSHIMA -- Atomic bombing survivors and local residents who were at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 11 welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to visit this atomic-bombed city on May 27.
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Seiki Mukogaichi, 46, a counselor at a care home for hibakusha, or atomic-bombing survivors, in Hiroshima, described the first visit by a sitting U.S. president as "historic," and urged Obama to clearly declare in this atomic-bombed city that he will work to get rid of nuclear arms.
"There are high expectations for President Obama. I'd like him to feel the weight of delivering a speech in the atomic-bombed city and declare that he will eliminate nuclear weapons," said Mukogaichi, a resident of the city's Asaminami Ward who commutes to his workplace via the park.
A 75-year-old woman, who learned mathematics from hibakusha and former schoolteacher Sunao Tsuboi, 91, when she was a junior high school student, urged Obama to listen to what hibakusha have to say.
"The activities of Mr. Tsuboi, who has called on Japan and other countries to push for nuclear disarmament despite his poor health have borne fruit. I'd like President Obama to listen to the voices of hibakusha about how they have spent the past 71 years," she said. Tsuboi serves as chairperson of the Hiroshima Prefecture Confederation of Atomic Bomb Sufferers Organizations.
A 75-year-old man who was 5 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, cleans the park twice a week.
"I don't think the president will acknowledge U.S. responsibility for dropping the bomb, but just coming to Hiroshima is enough. I hope the visit will be a turning point toward nuclear disarmament from a long-term perspective," he said.
Shigetoshi Watanabe, 55, a civil servant who moved to Hiroshima's Naka Ward five years ago, said he wants Obama to feel the unique atmosphere in Hiroshima.
"There's an atmosphere in which you can sense the feelings of those who died in the bombing. I'd like President Obama to feel that," he said.
However, a 54-year-old woman from Asaminami Ward, Hiroshima, whose father is a hibakusha, reacted coolly to Obama's upcoming visit.
"I can't expect his upcoming visit to immediately change something. Since he will come to Hiroshima with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I think extremely tight security measures will be taken. I hope that the visit will end peacefully without a terrorist attack," she said.