A-bomb survivors, community leaders oppose Foreign Ministry’s demand for change to A-bomb exhibit content

by Junji Akechi and Kyoko Niiyama, Staff Writers

On March 3, it was learned that Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called on the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) to make changes to the content of exhibit panels designed to explain damage from nuclear accidents. The panels will be displayed at an A-bomb exhibit held in conjunction with the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), scheduled for late April at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. A-bomb survivors and community leaders in Hiroshima have since continued to voice criticism and doubt about the ministry’s demand.

Toshiyuki Mimaki, 77, acting chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi), is one of the delegates representing Nihon Hidankyo in New York. “People around the world should be informed about the reality of what actually happened at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant.” Mr. Mimaki made his argument from the perspective of the A-bomb survivors who, aiming at elimination of not only nuclear weapons but also nuclear energy, strive to emphasize damage caused to people by such nuclear-based technology.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 75, chair of the other Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations, explained that the significance of the exhibit lies in communicating to delegates from both nuclear and non-nuclear states the sincere desire for “nuclear abolition” held by the A-bomb survivors. “The Foreign Ministry does not understand the thoughts and feelings of the survivors, who consider nuclear power accidents part of the nuclear issue,” he insisted.

According to Nihon Hidankyo, the organization held repeated consultations with the United Nations starting last year and had already received approval on the contents of all exhibit panels to be displayed. The city government of Hiroshima is cooperating by lending A-bomb materials for use in the exhibit. According to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (in the city’s Naka Ward), “The important thing is to hold the A-bomb exhibit and have delegates from different countries experience it. We’ll provide the materials regardless of whether or not there is support from the Foreign Ministry.”

Akihiro Kawakami, a constitutional legal scholar and associate professor at Hiroshima City University’s Hiroshima Peace Institute, called into question the ministry’s handling of the issue. “They should understand that the withdrawal of their support itself could come close to suppression and coercion of expression, even if the ministry does not demand outright cancellation of the exhibit,” he said.

(Originally published on March 4, 2020)