It’s been a half century – but the survivors of Nuclear War are still suffering from strange and painful ailments.
Activists like Sunao Tsuboi talk about their experiences in the hope that such a war never happens again.
on Lecture Tour
by Akiko Shiozaki
HIROSHIMA–Sunao Tsuboi needs daily doses of medicine and weekly drip transfusions to maintain his health, but that doesn’t stop him from hopping across Japan to give a couple of lectures a day, retelling the tragedy of the nuclear bomb explosion he experienced 53 years ago.
The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, left him with an irrecoverable defect in blood formation that has caused him to lapse into critical condition several times in the past half century.
To various kinds of people, ranging from children to students and lawyers, Tsuboi, secretary-general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organization, recalls the terror of nuclear weapons and the survivors’ suffering that would linger for the rest of their lives.
Contrary to the vitality he shows while talking, the 73-year-old man finds himself exhausted at home everyday after completing his schedule, he said.
“I may die anytime, maybe next week,” said Tsuboi, showing a smile on his face with scars of burns.
“So I should talk (about the terror) as much as possible while I’m alive,” said Tsuboi, giving a reason for his pushing his weak bones hard.
Tsuboi was 20 years old and on a road about 1 kilometer from ground zero the day the bomb exploded. He was blown back about 10 meters from the impact and found himself in the dark. He understood later that he was in the mushroom cloud that time.
Because of the shock, he was unaware of the burns and injuries he suffered all over his body until minutes after the bombing, he said. After receiving minimal treatment, he lost consciousness and remained unconscious for 40 days, unaware of Japan’s defeat.
He finally recovered and served as a mathematics teacher at a junior high school. While teaching, he also promoted peace education as a leader of the local education board. He retired seven years ago and took his present position at the A-bomb survivors group.
Tsuboi has talked to both Japanese people and foreigners. He has spoken in Nevada, where a U.S. nuclear testing site is located, and at U.N. headquarters in New York. He also visited France, China and India.
Many people overseas do not know about the cruel effects of nuclear radiation, he said.
“Even intellectual people think they are just powerful bombs. They don’t care about how the weapons affect human beings,” he said.
As a leading member of the Hiroshima Citizens Group for Promoting Peace with People of India and Pakistan, he went to New Delhi and Bombay in India in November. He gave lectures to the public and government and military officials.
“They understood that nuclear weapons should be eliminated. They said, however, that they could not stop developing nuclear weapons.
“They blamed the United States for failing to draft a clear schedule for abolishing their weapons. They said they have to develop nuclear bombs to protect themselves in the midst of the nuclear development competition with such neighboring countries as China and Pakistan,” Tsuboi recalled.
His visit inspired Indian activists to host Hiroshima City’s exhibition on atomic bombing, held in April and May, as India conducted its nuclear bomb tests.
The weapons have not been abolished, of course, and are still being developed because “human beings are so stupid,” Tsuboi said, as his facial expression suddenly became severe. “It is completely wrong to think that you can survive while attacking others.”
He managed to fight off pessimism, however.
“Every time I give a lecture, I am encouraged to keep talking,” he said, adding that audience reaction and boxes of thank-you letters give him the energy to soldier on.
“I do not intend to complete the task to abolish nuclear weapons myself. I carry it over to those who listen to me,” he said.
“I want to give talks until my last day. I probably say `Stop nuclear weapons!’ on my deathbed,” he laughed.