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Nuke ban treaty can unite world opinion against atomic arms: Japanese actor Ishida

Junichi Ishida

HIROSHIMA -- The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will go into effect on Jan. 22. Some critics have said it will have little practical effect as long as the world's nuclear powers do not sign on to the treaty, but veteran actor Junichi Ishida, 67, disagrees.

    "It will substantively shift world opinion to the position that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil," he told the Mainichi Shimbun in a recent interview. His late mother was sent to Hiroshima soon after the Aug. 6, 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city, and he said he hopes to spark a united global movement to rid the world of nuclear arms. The following is a summary of his comments to the Mainichi.

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    I want to be a "peace idiot" (a derogatory term for people who believe they can continue to live in peace) for my entire life. So I am absolutely opposed to war, and believe that nuclear weapons, which are inhumane, should be abolished. I'm not saying that my opinion is absolutely right. But, even if it's just people saying, "What the heck is that actor Junichi Ishida saying?" I hope it becomes an opportunity for young people born after World War II to think about the nuclear weapons problem.

    After my mother turned 60, she developed anaplastic anemia, a chronic disease that lowers bone marrow function, resulting in reduced platelet and white blood cell counts. I remember being surprised and frightened when I saw her gums bleed. "I might have been irradiated," she said. She then told me that, when she was a student, she had been mobilized to help with the cleanup in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.

    Fourteen years ago, my mother died of liver cancer at age 79. It's unclear if her illness was connected to her exposure to bomb radiation, but I think she suspected a link.

    Atomic weapons are absolute evil. They have not one redeeming feature. If used, they cause devastation and obliterate everyone caught beneath them. As a country that has experienced nuclear attack in war, Japan has both the right and the responsibility to speak to the world about the threat presented by nuclear weapons.

    And yet, we remain dependent on the U.S. "nuclear umbrella." Politicians' most important work is to avoid war, and to help their poorest citizens. Is today's Japanese government meeting these responsibilities?

    My preferred thinking on how to banish war is to simply raise our hand first. Would it not be a good idea to let the world know loud and clear that we will not wage war? And to those who believe in the nuclear deterrence theory, that having atomic arms underpins peace and security, I want to ask: Would you actually use them? I think not. That being the case, let's get rid of them.

    Another criticism is that the nuclear weapons ban treaty has no practical effect without the participation of the nuclear powers and the countries under the nuclear umbrella. But I believe that the treaty will bring world public opinion around to the conclusion that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil. To further heighten the momentum, I want to see Japan truly become a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear nations.

    Since I keep saying things like this, people in the TV industry sometimes tell me to "stop talking politics." But even if I talked about issues like nursery schools, and the waiting list for a space in one, wouldn't they all connect to politics? Everyday life is political.

    War is the kind of problem that could result in your own death, and the deaths of people you love. I want young people to study and think about this. Are there not things from the past that should be studied, especially by those of us born after World War II?

    Right now, the human species is locked in battle with the novel coronavirus. Seen from a different perspective, this is a chance for the world to learn to unite behind finding a solution for a common problem. After the coronavirus is defeated, I hope that we will turn our attention to solving climate change, abolishing nuclear weapons, and ending war.

    Let's think together and act together, so that we can keep on being "peace idiots" a century after World War II and beyond. That is the mission I believe all of us alive have today.

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    Junichi Ishida was born in Tokyo in 1954. He has appeared in numerous popular television drama series, including "Dakishimetai!" and "Kimi no Hitomi ni Koishiteru!" In 2015, he publicly opposed a package of national security bills and participated in demonstrations in front of Japan's National Diet. He is married to professional golfer Riko Higashio.

    (Interviewed by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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