Japan’s atomic bomb survivors fear their legacy will die with them

By Demofilo Pelaez

Tokyo, May 13 (efe-epa).- For more than half a century, Japan’s Michiko Kodama felt the spirits of Hiroshima blamed her for not having died with them in the days of the atomic bomb. But not anymore.

“I think I am receiving the strength of those people who died then. For 20 years I have been encouraged by them. Now I feel that they ask me to speak about their rage, because fewer and fewer people can talk about it,” said Kodama, who was 7 when the bomb fell in her hometown on Aug. 6, 1945.

Terumi Tanaka, for his part, no longer tries to understand what happened that August day, when he was 13 years old, and they dropped a second atomic bomb on the city in which he lived, Nagasaki.

“Some accept that fact and assume it, but others cannot accept it and are suffering. My position is that nothing can be done even if I do not understand it, like Master Lao Tse,” Tanaka said.

Both managed to survive the atomic bomb when they were children; but, as they get older, they fear their story and their legacy of pacifism against the proliferation of nuclear weapons will die with them, as they said in interviews with EFE on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the attack.

The year 2020 was marked in red on the agenda of “Hidankyo” the Japanese national confederation of “hibakusha” or survivors of the atomic bombs of which Tanaka and Kodama are part.

“We have many events because it is 2020, not for the 75th anniversary. We had the objective of eradicating nuclear weapons towards this year at the time of the new millennium and we have not been able to do it. We want to point out something this year, for example, try to ratify that treaty, ”says Tanaka, 88, who was secretary-general of the association between 2000 and 2017.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have put many of these activities on hold and are expected to limit the capacity of commemorative events during the upcoming Aug. 6 and 9.

“We have been saying for more than 60 years that nuclear weapons should be abolished, but there are still more than 10,000 atomic bombs. This produces an unbearable feeling for us, “said Tanaka, who added that “the only consolation “is that they have not been used again against human beings.

The veteran activist, who estimates that in about 10 years there will be no direct survivors of the 1945 bombs, believes that the nuclear powers must dispose of their atomic arsenals to be certain that they will not be reused.

In 2016, Barack Obama became the first President of the United States to visit Hiroshima during his tenure, but he did not apologize for the attack and defined it in his speech as “death from heaven.”

“If they can compensate us in any way, it would be with the abolition of nuclear weapons in their country and in the world. That would be compensation for me,” said Michiko Kodama, 83.

Kodama, who wanted to be a teacher to read books to children, told her story for the first time in an activity during one of her daughters’ classes, and since then considers it her responsibility to testify in front of new generations.

“You do not have to copy my words, but you must understand them first and, if there is something that came to you, tell them in your own words and with your opinion. We have little time left, but they have time,” she said.

Kodama does not want to die before seeing a clear path towards denuclearization, so she tries to take maximum care of her health to give more time to her objective.

“What I fear most is that, if the ‘hibakusha’ no longer exists, it may be thought that this did not happen. After 75 years, only the story remains that the atomic bombs fell on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945; but if there is no one who tells what happened under that cloud, it is as if it did not exist,” she said.

In those days of 1945, the young Tanaka was already able to distinguish the number and the different types of American aircraft by the noise they made while flying over Nagasaki, so he did not expect an attack when he heard the engine of a single B29 bomber.

Suddenly a light appeared, an enveloping glow, and he realized that he was in danger.

He ran downstairs to his house and, as he had been taught in the event of an attack, lay facedown on the ground. He felt a wind pass over him. The good use he made of those seconds between the vision of the blast from the explosion and the arrival of the shock wave probably saved his life.

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