On Thursday the 30th of March 2017, Faslane Peace Camp (the worlds longest running active protest site and a frontline in the fight against nuclear weapons of mass destruction), was honoured to host a visit by the Hibakusha Reiko Yamada and Midori Yamada together with their translator and fellow anti-nuclear activist Shigeo Kobayashi (a member of Japanese Against Nuclear – JAN) and many visitors from SCND (Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).
It seems almost unthinkable that any living thing could survive the blast of the atomic bomb, “Little Boy”, that was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15am, August 6th, 1945. 80,000 – 140,000 people were killed instantly and a further 100,000 seriously injured. In less than a second, “the fireball had expanded to 900 feet. The blast wave shattered windows for a distance of ten miles and was felt as far away as 37 miles. Over two-thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings were demolished. The hundreds of fires, ignited by the thermal pulse, combined to produce a firestorm that had incinerated everything within about 4.4 miles of ground zero.”
Half an hour later, a “black rain“, full of dirt, dust, soot and highly radioactive particles began falling in areas northwest of the city. Hiroshima was in ruins. Familiar landmarks were gone or unrecognizable. Buildings – even strong modern structures – had suffered significant damage, some pushed off their foundations, some gutted by fire, others utterly destroyed.
Incredibly some people did endure the blast. These survivors, (known as Hibakusha) sought relief from their dreadful injuries. But, “90 percent of all medical personnel were killed or disabled, and the remaining medical supplies quickly ran out. Many survivors began to notice the effects of exposure to the bomb’s radiation. Their symptoms ranged from nausea, bleeding and loss of hair, to death. Flash burns, a susceptibility to leukemia, cataracts and malignant tumors were some of the other effects.”
The visit by the Hibakusha to Faslane Peace Camp was part of a busy one week trip to the UK, with many meetings including a trip to both the English and Scottish parliaments. Their tour coincides with the current Nuclear ban treaty negotiations (boycotted by the English, US, French, Japanese, etc.). Reiko and Midori met with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday who stated that she is “totally against nuclear weapons” – a very important consideration to remember when the vote for Scottish Independence takes place between late 2018 and early 2019.
After a few introductory words by Arthur West (Chair of SCND) Reiko and Midori told their story.
Reiko Yamada started by saying that she respects Faslane Peace Camper’s continuous efforts against nuclear weapons and that she “feels so strong having seen that we actively stand against them”.
Reiko says – “I was bombed and irradiated when I was 11 years old at primary school. When the bomb dropped so many people were injured and died that you couldn’t walk through the streets because there were bodies everywhere. There were so many injured, with burnt skin dropping off and trapped beneath buildings – too many people to do anything but look.
For three days the fire raged. The people close to the epicentre were terribly burned and then came the “black rain”. People were desperate to get out, but they couldn’t.
I saw the flash, then came the blast. When I came to I didn’t know what had happened.
My father managed to stand up but he’d been cut to pieces by broken glass. My sister was really badly burned. There was no medication available so my father and sister really suffered. They were really fortunate that they could make it home – many people just disappeared and never made it home. Still, to this day, many people cannot know what happened to their family and friends who disappeared.
Any bodies that could be collected were brought to the school field and cremated – many bodies. These people suffered a lot of burns and were probably conscious for quite some time. Bodies were cremated en masse.
So we say nuclear weapons are inhuman and evil, they kill indiscriminately and make everyone collapse and die.
For the last 60 years we Hibakusha have been telling the world that nuclear weapons are evil and should not exist. But we must admit, over 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist and the nuclear nations like to make more. We keep telling them our message, that these things are terrible but the nation states are not listening, including the UK. However, we must make the effort.
Of course we like to continue to raise our voices, particularly whilst the important nuclear ban treaty discussions take place – we would like to shout out with you “NO MORE NUCLEAR WEAPONS”.
I say again that I respect your efforts – please continue hand in hand with us – please get rid of all nuclear weapons. We will go back to Tokyo and tell others about your efforts here at Faslane Peace Camp.”
Midori Yamada, 2nd generation Hibakusha had this to say:
“I also respect the people staying here at Faslane Peace Camp and keeping an eye on the submarines. My father was Hibakusha and I am the second generation. I was born in a small town on the outskirts of Hiroshima. It was a very quiet, peaceful town. I was born in 1949 but still now, I am affected by the scar of the atom-bomb – it is very deep in people’s minds. I particularly respect Reiko for visiting and spreading the Hibakusha message.
Thankfully a third atom-bomb has not been used yet. The efforts of the Hibakusha is to say never again. However, we must admit that the Hibakusha are getting older and dieing and their numbers are decreasing. So the second generation must continue to make extra effort to bring our message to the world.
Last year on August 6th, I published a book called “Jiro-chan – Story of a Hiroshima Boy” (ISBN 978-4-434-222-52-8). Jiro-chan was 13 years old when the atom-bomb was dropped. He was bright and cheerful, a bit like a clown – he would often do a funny dance when his sisters sang for example.
On August 6th 1945, Jiro-chan and his classmates were working demolishing houses (boys and girls were often involved in such work because of the war – creating fire-breaks and the like) when they saw the detonation of the atom-bomb. After the roll call he and his classmates had just started work – then there was a strong flash of light and the following percussion wave knocked Jiro-chan unconscious.
When he came to, he found himself trapped under rubble. Fire was approaching but the boys and girls trapped under the rubble couldn’t move. They encouraged each other to try to escape and cried for help – “Help us, help us please!” – but their voices weren’t heard.
Desperately struggling he finally got loose and managed to escape. The next moment the flames reared up like a giant monster and killed all his friends.
For 3 days Jiro-chan talked incessantly about the hell he’d witnessed, then he fell into a long and deep sleep.
After 3 months he regained his senses but was no longer happy and cheerful – it was as if he’d changed into someone else.
All his classmates were burned and he felt guilty that he’d survived. He had a deep scar inside.
On March 11th 2011, in the aftermath of an earthquake, was a big accident at Fukushima. Japan suffered damage from nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki but now it was nuclear power that had caused the problem and Jiro-chan felt bad that he hadn’t yet spoken out – “I should have informed many people about the atrocity of the atom-bombs and consoled the memory of my friends who died that day”, he said.
At 80 years old he started to talk about what happened on August 6th 1945 – he talks as if he offers prayers for his deceased friends.
Jiro-chan is my dear big brother.”
Obviously, its been an exceptionally emotional day for us all here at Peace Camp and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Reiko Yamada, Midori Yamada, Shigeo Kobayashi and SCND – to hear these stories first hand revivified our spirits and makes us even more determined to help rid Scotland and the world of the monstrous threat of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Also we would like to thank Midori Yamada for her gift to Faslane Peace Camp – a copy of her book “Jiro-chan – Story of a Hiroshima Boy” – even though we can’t read it without crying.
It seems somewhat ironic that a Vanguard class submarine berthed at HMNB Clyde the previous day as part of the current “Joint Warrior” exercise. The aftermath of the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is burned deep into the psyche of many Japanese people and the sheer horror of it lurks just beneath the surface of consciousness in all of us that have, at the very least, heard of this despicable act of indiscriminate mass murder – just like the Vanguard submarines malevolently lurking beneath the waves in anticipation of delivering their catastrophic payload.
As Reiko Yamada says – “Even 64 years after the bombing, we survivors still vividly remember those who desperately cried for help: their cries and memories are not gone; we are still tormented with remorse that we could not help them. Many of us also are suffering from the after-effects of radiation and from the fear of death.
I sincerely hope that people all over the world understand how a single atomic bomb could destroy a city and kill a large number of people indiscriminately and cruelly.
We Hibakusha call the atomic bombs ‘weapons of the devil’. We cannot allow even a single bomb to exist on this planet.
Nuclear weapons should be abolished to ensure a peaceful future.
The damage of atomic bombings should not be repeated.
The pain of the victims of that day must not be forgotten.
We must not allow nuclear weapons to continue to exist.
We call on you: No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No More Hibakusha!”.
(via Faslane Peace Camp)