The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Oct. 6 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was instrumental in the passage this past July of a United Nations treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
Seventy-two years after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was the desperate appeals of atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, that created momentum for the international campaign to ban nuclear weapons.
The elderly hibakusha with whom ICAN chief Beatrice Fihn said she wanted to attend the award ceremony celebrated the news and renewed their resolve to keep pushing to make a world without nuclear weapons a reality.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Japan time on Oct. 6, the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organization held a press conference at their office in Hiroshima's Naka Ward. "I'm happy that an organization that is working to abolish nuclear weapons has been awarded the prize," deputy chairman Tomoyuki Mimaki, 75, said. "We want to pass on our work to them so that they can realize a world without nuclear weapons."
Mimaki was in the gallery when the negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons were held at the U.N. Headquarters in New York in June. "ICAN are our comrades," he said. "The awarding of the Peace Prize to the organization makes a whole lot of sense."
The average age of hibakusha from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is now over 81. Mimaki added, "I hope that ICAN and other organizations whose core members are young people will take over the movement now, and create a peaceful world without nuclear weapons."
Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations chairman Sunao Tsuboi, 92, released a comment reading, "Along with everyone at ICAN and others around the world, I will continue calling for the realization of a peaceful world without nuclear weapons as long as I live."
Responding to the news of ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize victory, 72-year-old Kunihiko Sakuma, chairman of the Hiroshima chapter of the Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), wondered what the Japanese government thought of the news as that of the only country that has been attacked with nuclear weapons. He said, "A global push for a treaty led to its passage. It's time for the Japanese government to change its stance."
Minoru Hataguchi, 71, the last hibakusha to serve as director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, was exposed to radiation from the bomb in utero. He learned that ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on television at his home in the Hiroshima Prefectural city of Hatsukaichi. "I hope that Japan, which is the only atomic-bombed country but did not sign the treaty, will move in a better direction."
Having been exposed to the atomic bomb when he was 4 years old, 76-year-old Yoshihide Yamakawa is calling for the establishment of a group to promote the "Hibakusha Appeal," an international petition calling for the banning of nuclear weapons that is now led by Nihon Hidankyo and others. He is certified as having atomic-bomb disease, and on the very day that ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize, he had gone to the hospital for a regular checkup. Asked about the announcement, he said, "My doctor told me not to exert myself too much, but when, if not now, do we push forward with the petition?"
Koko Kondo, 72, who was exposed to the bomb when she was just 8 months old, said, "Regardless of the fact that Japan is under the nuclear umbrella (of the United States), it should be able to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons with head held high as the country that experienced the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
"ICAN worked as hard as it could toward the passage of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and we worked with them," Terumi Tanaka, the 85-year-old secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, said. "Further global unity will be crucial in actually abolishing nuclear weapons, and this award will give the movement more momentum." On Oct. 6, Tanaka had been watching the announcements of the Nobel Prize online at the Tokyo office of the Nihon Hidankyo with the organization's adviser, Mikiso Iwasa, 88. Addressing the fact that the Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN and not Nihon Hidankyo, Tanaka said, "Having worked so hard for so long, I'm a bit disappointed. I'm feeling a combination of both happiness and disappointment."
Tanaka reflected on the anti-nuke movement thus far and said, "I think ICAN contributed greatly in enlarging the movement on a global scale." As for the impact of ICAN being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after passage of the U.N. treaty, he said, "I think that nuclear nations and their allies, including Japan, are in shock."
Meanwhile, Iwasa said, "We as hibakusha would like to have received the prize, but the Nobel committee likely awarded ICAN in the sense that it made the movement larger." He continued, "For 72 years, I have been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but we hibakusha alone could not have transformed our hopes into a treaty. And now that movement is growing ever larger."