Medical records of Daigo Fukuryu Maru crew found at Tokyo University Hospital

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

The medical records of two crew members of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (the Lucky Dragon No. 5) have been found at the Tokyo University Hospital in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. The Daigo Fukuryu Maru, a Japanese tuna fishing boat that was based in Yaizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, had 23 fishermen on board when it was exposed to radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb test conducted by the United States in March 1954. The hospital searched for their medical records after a former city councilor in Tokyo requested access to them.

Seven of the 23 crewmen were admitted to the Tokyo University Hospital in the aftermath of this incident and remained hospitalized until May 1955. The hospital has said that the medical records of these two patients are personal information and will not be disclosed. These records, which contain data that includes fluctuations in their leukocyte count and body temperature, were held in booklet form in the vascular surgery department along with those of general patients. The records of the other five crew members that were hospitalized there have likely been destroyed.

The Daigo Fukuryu Maru was exposed to radiation as a result of the hydrogen bomb test carried out at Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The remaining 16 fishermen were admitted to the First National Hospital of Tokyo (now the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Shinjuku City). Copies of their medical records are stored in the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) in Chiba City, which provided medical care to the crew members after they were discharged from the First National Hospital.

This past February, Junichi Hasegawa, 82, the former chair of the Shinjuku City Assembly who now lives in Setagaya City, requested the release of the fishermen’s medical records. All seven people who were treated at the university hospital have already died, and only four of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru crew are still living. The radiation-exposed fishing boat is preserved at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Koto City, Tokyo. Staff at the exhibition hall commented, “The medical records are valuable materials, showing the struggle of the former crew members against disease. The data might also be used to confirm the effects of radiation on the human body. Their records should be permanently preserved.”

The Tokyo University Hospital will consider transferring the medical records to the Tokyo University Archives.

(Originally published on March 28, 2019)