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Hibakusha: A-bomb survivors reflect on notion of 'amicable settlement'

Terumi Tanaka (Mainichi)

On Jan. 16, 2017, the head of the Tokyo-based Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, Terumi Tanaka, announced his plan to retire later this year.

Tanaka had been talking to those close to him about his intent to retire for about three years, and he finally announced at the first confederation meeting of 2017, "I will resign at the general meeting in June this year. The confederation needs to enter a new phase of activity."

Tanaka, now 84, has more or less dedicated the past two decades of his life to overseeing the confederation. By stepping down from this role, he expects that he will have more freedom to engage in other activities, such as working on an international petition for a nuclear weapons convention, which the confederation initiated. "I want to focus my energy on how to spread our activism to individuals and groups that we've never worked with before."

Five days after Tanaka announced his resignation, Barack Obama stepped down as U.S. president, on Jan. 21 (Japan time). Tanaka is critical of Obama. "Although he called for a 'nuclear-free world' and won the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama did not follow up on the path to abolishing nuclear weapons," comments Tanaka. "It is important to finish off the job properly -- right up until an abolition treaty is signed, and until all nuclear weapons physically disappear off the face of the earth. Obama has a lot more of his life left to live. We don't," says the senior campaigner.

Koko Kondo (Mainichi)

Last year, in 2016, an "amicable settlement" between Japan and U.S. was staged. Then U.S. President Obama visited Hiroshima, where he embraced atomic bomb survivors, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, to commemorate victims of the Pearl Harbor attack.

However, for Tanaka, the term "amicable settlement" means that "the perpetrator and the victim rise above hatred, and achieve equal standing." Tanaka believes that this is not something that is achieved through a display of ceremony between two nations. Given that innocent citizens who were unable to defend themselves were massacred by the "criminal" atomic bombings in 1945, Tanaka thinks that an "amicable settlement" might be out of the question.

Conversely though, if one is asked to show an example of an amicable settlement, Tanaka continues, then it could be said that the story of Koko Kondo, 72, from the city of Miki in Hyogo Prefecture, fits the bill. When Kondo was 10, she observed a copilot of one of the U.S. aircraft that dropped an atomic bomb burst into tears from the weight of what he had taken part in during the war.

"This person has been suffering as well," Kondo realized. Since then, she has spoken both in Japan and overseas about the moment that her hatred disappeared. When confronted by veterans who argue that Japan started everything by attacking Pearl Harbor, instead of criticizing the dropping of the atomic bombs, Kondo expresses sympathy for both sides, saying, "War is something that causes everyone to suffer."

When the "amicable settlement" between Japan and the U.S. took place in 2016, 71 years after the end of World War II, Kondo saw it as a positive step. "As time goes by, people have become more forgiving, and we've moved onto the next chapter in history."

As newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump expresses his support for nuclear reinforcement, Kondo says, "It's no good to just dismiss opinions that are different to your own." She also says, "Trump is the very person whom I'd want to come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and talk directly about the abolition of nuclear weapons." (By Sachi Fukushima, City News Department; and Yusuke Tanabe, Hanshin Bureau)

(This is the last installment of a five-part series.)

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