NAGASAKI -- A third-generation atomic bombing survivor from Nagasaki is fulfilling a promise he made to A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, who have passed on to continue their work for a world without nuclear weapons.
In anticipation of "an age without hibakusha" where already aging A-bomb survivors will no longer be able to directly pass down their stories, Mitsuhiro Hayashida, 29, has returned to his home city of Nagasaki for the first time in a decade to tell a wide range of generations the reality of atomic bombings. He assumed the position of a specially appointed research fellow at the Nagasaki University Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition on July 1.
When Hayashida was in high school, he took part in the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger program, in which a group of high school students from across Japan visits the United Nations each year to hand over a collection of signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. During his visit to the U.N., Hayashida and fellow teen peace messengers joined a Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Moved by hibakusha who appealed for a world without nuclear arms even though they were sick themselves, Hayashida promised aging A-bomb survivors that he would work with them toward the goal of nuclear abolishment.
He moved to Tokyo when he entered Meiji Gakuin University. Along with his friends, Hayashida established the student activist group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy, or SEALDs, to protest against the enactment of the controversial national security laws which would allow Japan to exercise collective self-defense. He would shout a no-war pledge at protest rallies, quoting hibakusha.
In 2016, he assumed leadership for the International Signature Campaign in Support of the Appeal of the Hibakusha for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, calling for all states to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which bans all forms of nuclear arms activities including the possession and use of such weapons. The movement collected over 13.7 million signatures and the group submitted them to the U.N.
While the nuclear weapons ban treaty came into effect in January 2021, many hibakusha who treated Hayashida like their grandson have passed away. Wanting to keep his promise he made to the A-bomb survivors, Hayashida returned to Nagasaki in June this year.
He still remembers his late grandfather, who was exposed to the radiation approximately 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter in the Nagasaki atomic bombing, telling him tearfully about his experience on that fateful morning on Aug. 9, 1945, right before his death. Going forward, Hayashida will be involved in the digitalization of hibakusha testimonies and atomic bombing-related documents. He also plans to work on finding people who are willing to talk about their experience in the bombing.
"For people to feel what the lives of hibakusha were like, which cannot be conveyed just by numbers, I want to record threads of their stories in ways so that people will be able to see their faces, and pass down intimate hibakusha testimonies to the next generations," Hayashida said.
(Japanese original by In Tanaka, Nagasaki Bureau)