Former students and younger generations attend Sunao Tsuboi’s memorial service, take on his wishes for nuclear weapons abolition

by Taiki Yomura and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

On December 22, a memorial service was held for Sunao Tsuboi, former chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo) who died last October aged 96, at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s Naka Ward. Mr. Tsuboi led the movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons based on his motto “Never give up.” Those who attended the service spent time recalling his character and, in so doing, strengthened their resolve for nuclear abolition.

Seiko Ikeda, 89, a resident of Hiroshima’s Aki Ward and vice chair of Hiroshima Hidankyo who had shared joys and sorrows with Mr. Tsuboi, such as together taking the lead in an anti-nuclear demonstration in New York, attended the service in a wheelchair. She spoke with regret of his passing. “Mr. Tsuboi worked for peace with everything he had. I’m saddened that people who worked so hard together are passing slowly from the scene,” said Ms. Ikeda.

Ms. Ikeda was accompanied by her granddaughter, Kayo, 45, who said in her remarks, “Mr. Tsuboi, who fought together with my grandmother, was like a family member. I’ll never forget their work together.” Kayo is one of the city’s A-bombing “memory keepers,” who make efforts to communicate to the public the experiences of survivors in the atomic bombing. “We’ve lost someone with an unparalleled ability to lead. However, I hope we can work to combine our diminished energies a bit at a time.”

When a junior high school teacher, Mr. Tsuboi shared his A-bomb experiences and was called Mr. “Pika-don,” an expression describing the flash (“pika”) and blast (“don”) from the bombing. The attendees at the ceremony included many of his former students. Misuzu Murakami, 77, a resident of Minami Ward, spoke through tears. “Mr. Tsuboi was an open-minded teacher. He was as important a person to me as my parents, and his death has left a hole in my heart,” said Ms. Murakami.

Mr. Tsuboi’s last wishes have been passed down to younger generations. Sena Hashimoto, 23, a resident and worker in Fukuyama City who heard Mr. Tsuboi’s A-bombing testimony when she was a student at Eishin Senior High School in the same city, remarked, “I will never forget what he described about the reality of the atomic bombing and his wishes for peace. I will convey his thoughts and feelings to future generations.” Ai Shiokawa, 16, a resident of Fukuyama City and a second-year student at Eishin Senior High School, explained that, “The words ‘Never give up,’ which Mr. Tsuboi used to repeat, continue to inspire.” She expressed her desire to take on the wishes of Mr. Tsuboi, who overcame his own anger and hatred and worked to build a peaceful world.

Five years ago, Mr. Tsuboi met with Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Shigeaki Mori, 84, a resident of Nishi Ward who accompanied Mr. Tsuboi in welcoming Mr. Obama, reflected back on that moment and said, “Mr. Tsuboi worked for world peace with selfless devotion. That’s why he had no enemies and many followers.”

(Originally published on December 23, 2021)