Setsuko Thurlow and Dr. Henry Shibata attend Emperor’s enthronement ceremony, hope A-bomb survivors will be heard

by Yo Kono and Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writers

Setsuko Thurlow, 87, an A-bomb survivor from Toronto, and Henry Shibata, 89, a doctor from Ottawa and an emeritus professor at McGill University, attended the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony held at the Imperial Palace on October 22 as representatives of those of Japanese descent living in Canada. Ms. Thurlow and Mr. Shibata first met when they were both living in Hiroshima when the city was being reconstructed after World War II, and have known each other ever since. They met in Tokyo for the first time in about 15 years and expressed their wish for a peaceful world during the Reiwa era.

Ms. Thurlow said she was very impressed with the Emperor’s wishes for the happiness of the Japanese people and for global peace and she felt his sincerity.

Ms. Thurlow has been appealing for nuclear abolition while based in Canada, where she has lived since she got married. Two years ago, she appeared on the stage of the award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, representing the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization (NGO). She said, “There are many people who were harmed, physically and mentally, by the atomic bombs and by the war and they continue to suffer. I hope that the Emperor will listen to these people and stay in close contact with them while promoting peace in Japan and around the world.”

Mr. Shibata, who was born in Vancouver, said with great pleasure, “The atmosphere at the ceremony was wonderful. I’m so honored to have been invited to come from Canada to attend the ceremony.”

Mr. Shibata’s parents, who were from Nishi Ward, Hiroshima, settled in Canada. One year after the atomic bombing, when he was 16 years old, his whole family returned to Hiroshima out of concern for their relatives.

After graduating from First Hiroshima Prefectural Junior High School (now Kokutaiji High School), Mr. Shibata entered Hiroshima Prefectural Medical University (today’s School of Medicine at Hiroshima University). After that, he worked at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic-bomb Survivors Hospital in Naka Ward and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Minami Ward. Mr. Shibata was also involved in some church activities with Ms. Thurlow at the Hiroshima Nagarekawa Church in Naka Ward.

After living in Hiroshima for 11 years, he went to the United States to undergo medical training and then returned to Canada. He has been involved in breast cancer treatment research at McGill University in Montreal as an oncological surgeon. He also made efforts to promote exchanges between Canada and Hiroshima.

As he watched Hiroshima being reconstructed from the burnt ruins, he came to feel a strong desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He said, “The Emperor said that he will continuously hope for peace in the world. I, too, hope for a world free of nuclear weapons and war.”

(Originally published on October 23, 2019)