News Archive
Jun 29, 2011 - Peace Boat Hibakusha Meet with Representatives from Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
Peace Boat staff member Kawasaki Akira started off the meeting and presented the MOFA representatives with reports on the Hibakusha Project
Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic-bomb survivors gathered from around Japan this past weekend, coinciding with Nuclear Abolition Day, to reunite and strengthen their voices of commitment towards a nuclear-free world.

On June 24, six Hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) and three Peace Boat representatives met with Deputy Director General Mr Muto Yoshiya and Deputy Director Mr Takeda Yoshinori of the Arms Control and Disarmament Division, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to report on the fourth "Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project." Prior to their departure onboard Peace Boat's 72nd Global Voyage, the Hibakusha were officially designated by the Japanese Government as "Special Communicators for a Nuclear-Free World," with the mission of sharing their testimonies in order to strengthen international momentum for nuclear disarmament.

Mr Muto Yoshiya (far left) and Mr Takeda Yoshinori (second from left) from MOFA listen intently to Nagasaki Hibakusha Mr. Suenaga as he expresses his thoughts on whether the Japanese government can financially assist Hibakusha efforts

During the meeting, the Hibakusha shared personal observations and comments, as well as messages they received during their three-month international Peace Boat voyage which took place from late-January until April this year. Hiroshima survivor Mr Suenaga Hiroshi asked about the possibility of financial assistance and support for the Hibakusha's efforts to share their testimonies both within Japan and abroad. Mr Muto from MOFA replied that he would continue efforts to be able to provide the Hibakusha financial assistance. After expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to be active around the world through Peace Boat, Ms Sakaguchi Hiroko, a Nisei (Second Generation) Hibakusha from Nagasaki, inquired about the possibility of medical treatment benefits for Nisei Hibakusha.

Hiroshima Hibakusha Mr. Hirai Shoso (far left) telling Mr. Muto that support from the government would mean a lot for the Hibakusha, who may only have a few more years to physically travel and provide first hand testimonies to others

Mr Tasaki Noboru communicated the need for production of educational material related to disarmament ??" recommending an educational package which contains the Hibakusha's messages that could also be sent to other countries around the world. Regarding this issue, Deputy Director General Mr Muto agreed on the importance and necessity of disarmament education and announced that they are presently undertaking efforts in creating such education material in various languages. MOFA has information related to the Hibakusha's efforts posted on their website, and plans to also create a link to related United Nations websites. A "Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education" organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan and United Nations University, with Peace Boat as NGO advisor, was to take place in Nagasaki on March 17 and 18 but was postponed indefinitely due to the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami. Mr Muto stated that there are hopes to create another opportunity for such global conference in the future.

Nagasaki Hikabusha Mr Fukahori Akira (far left) did not waste the precious few minutes before leaving the meeting room to converse with Mr Muto.

In light of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, a question which was repeatedly asked of the Hibakusha during their global journey was "Why does Japan, a nation who fell victim to the Atomic Bombing at the end of World War II, have nuclear energy plants?" To the Hibakusha, who have been fighting for an end to nuclear arms, the creation of another generation of nuclear radiation victims in Fukushima was devastating.

Group photograph with MOFA representatives, Hibakusha, and Peace Boat staff. The towel in the photo is treasured by Mr. Hirai ??" he received it from students in Auschwitz who thanked him for sharing his testimony

Lastly, Mr Hirai Shoso from Hiroshima stated that if the Japanese MOFA would contact the Ministries of Foreign affairs in other countries, their future meetings could go very smoothly. It would also show how much the Japanese government is concerned about such issues. Mr Hirai displayed a cloth he received with signatures from several grateful students he met in Auschwitz who thanked the Hibakusha for sharing their stories and conversing with the students regarding the responsibilities which their respective nations carry for past actions. "Such interactions and discussions create the seeds for true peace." In Germany, students are taught about the Holocaust and seriously consider the actions and misjudgment of the past. Mr Hirai noted that the education in Japan should also be reconsidered, including a recognition of Japan's past role as aggressor in the Asia Pacific region.

Hibakusha and Peace Boat staff in front of the Japanese MOFA building

Support from the Japanese government in various ways would be encouraging for the survivors of the atomic bombs and the affected subsequent generations. The average age of the Hibakusha is now more than 76 years old. The Hibakusha declared that they want to do the best they can until the end of their days to fight for the cause of nuclear disarmament and to provide first account testimonies of their experiences ??" however, one Hibakusha noted that after four or five years, there may be no one left that can fulfill this role. Two Hibakusha from Hiroshima who intended to come to Tokyo to join the day's activities, Mr Tsuboi Susumu and Ms Yamanaka Emiko, were not able to travel due to poor physical condition. Now in the planning stage for the 5th Hibakusha Project, one staff member stated that three participating Hibakusha have already passed away since the beginning of the project.

Hibakusha and Peace Boat staff interact at a Hibakusha Project networking event

After the visit to MOFA and a final group photograph, numerous Hibakusha gathered for a Hibakusha networking event later in the afternoon. Thirteen Hiroshima and Nagasaki Hibakusha who had joined previous Peace Boat voyages gathered for an early dinner in Shinbashi, Tokyo to network and mingle peacefully and in solidarity towards a world of no nuclear weapons. It will be interesting to follow the actions of the Japanese government, as it continues to be in the international spotlight after the Fukushima Nuclear Powerplant disaster.

Documents for download
Global Hibakusha Forum Statement for a Nuclear-Free World (English)Global Hibakusha Forum Statement for a Nuclear-Free World (Japanese)