Living with the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age

By Mark Selden; Laura Hein | Go to book overview

an important development, Nagasaki Mayor Motoshima Hitoshi openly laid responsibility for the war on Emperor Showa (Hirohito). Motoshima, who frequently appeared at peace forums all over the world during his time as mayor, in a 1990 interview, explained: "I have always wondered if what we [from Hiroshima and Nagasaki] were saying was being accepted as the truth, and what we should do to make us understood. I think it depends on whether we can honestly search our hearts and face up to our responsibilities for past wars, and if each one of us can live as a 'world citizen.'"

Another example linking hibakusha to contemporary events was the protests against French nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll in the South Pacific during 1995. Hiroshima mayor Hiraoka Takashi stated that the use of nuclear weapons violates international law, which prohibits the deployment of weapons that inflict unnecessary suffering on human beings. He also severely criticized the extension of the Non-proliferation Treaty for leaving nuclear arsenals intact, whereas the goal should be total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Many of those who have kept silent may also be entering a new phase of their life as hibakusha. Some aging hibakusha were prompted to tell young people about the atomic bomb both because they noticed how little these youngsters knew of the past and because the fiftieth anniversary of the war's end led them to think back on their own lives. Propelled by a feeling of duty to add to the knowledge of the consequences of atomic war, and observing the rapid development of nuclear power in Japan and elsewhere, some started to speak. In the 1990s, as in the 1980s, citizens' movements involving hibakusha and others interested in furthering knowledge of the atomic bomb grew rapidly.

Among groups that have broken their silence or begun to find an audience in the 1990s, the foremost is the Koreans. Of an estimated 48,000 Koreans in Hiroshima in 1945, 30,000 are believed to have died as a result of the bomb; of 30,000 in Nagasaki, 12,000 probably died. In 1995, there remain 18,000 Korean hibakusha in Japan and Korea, only 4,300 of whom have received official designation by the Japanese government, giving them the right to medical treatment at state expense. Korean hibakusha have started campaigns for official recognition as hibakusha, contesting the location of the monument to Korean hibakusha, presently located outside the Hiroshima Peace Park, and addressing broad issues of discrimination.10


Conclusion

The silence of hibakusha has been influenced by several factors, beginning with occupation censorship. Another occupation institution, the ABCC, an-

-169-

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