Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Hibakusha: A strong push for a world without nuclear weapons

Sueichi Kido is pictured in Tokyo's Minato Ward. He says it will be possible to eliminate nuclear weapons, as the world had formed a treaty that had not been possible to form for 72 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Mainichi)

Sueichi Kido, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, or the Japan Confederation of A-and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, was in New York on Oct. 6 when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was named winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The day before, he had presented a petition titled "Appeal of the Hibakusha," calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, to the United Nations headquarters. The petition had been signed by 5,154,866 people around the world.

At 5 a.m. on Oct. 6, he was woken up by a phone call from a reporter, and an hour later, he spoke to a group of about 10 media representatives in the lobby of his hotel. At the United Nations in the summer, Nihon Hidankyo had underscored the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons together with ICAN, led mainly by young people, and they had worked toward the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations.

"I felt like my friends had won," 77-year-old Kido said. "I was half filled with happiness, but half with disappointment."

Kido recalled the faces of the people who had worked together with him. "If Nihon Hidankyo had jointly won the prize, it would have been a prize to all the people in the past, present and future whose call is for a world without nuclear weapons," he said. He was disappointed by the lack of a comment from the Japanese government.

"Were they making allowances for the United States? It's bad to ignore it," he said.

Kido was exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, at the age of 5, at a spot about two kilometers away from the hypocenter. Around the same time he sensed a flash of light, the blast sent him flying and he lost consciousness.

When he came to, responding to his mother's voice, half of his face was burned. His mother clutched him and took him to the air raid shelter. He was sitting by his mother, who was lying down with a burned face and chest, and can never forget his father, who had been looking for the family members, coming in and saying, "Good, everyone's safe." But he doesn't remember any of the pain at all.

Kido believes that the people exposed to the atomic bombings at a young age, whose memories are limited, are in a position not only to share their experiences, but to receive the testimonies of other survivors, or hibakusha.

"I became a hibakusha by being taught how to live by the older hibakusha, struggling against the atomic bombings and taking part in movements to achieve a world without nuclear weapons," he said.

Five months have passed since Kido took over from 85-year-old Saitama Prefecture resident Terumi Tanaka as secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo. He travels between Tokyo and Gifu Prefecture practically every week. Soon after he returned from New York, he took part in a news conference in Tokyo with a renewed call for the elimination of nuclear weapons alongside 49-year-old Akira Kawasaki, co-leader of the Japanese NGO Peace Boat and a member of ICAN's International Steering Group.

"From the presentation of the petition to the U.N. to the adoption of the ban treaty and the Nobel Prize, we have to take hold of the largely advanced flow toward a world without nuclear weapons and move forward," he said. (Story by Sachi Fukushima: photo by Yasuo Ota)

(This is the sixth and final part of a series.)

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media