Smile of late Mr. Tsuboi renews determination of those who attend farewell service at Peace Memorial Museum to carry on his wishes for nuclear abolition

by Hajime Niiyama, Staff Writer

On December 22, a memorial service for Sunao Tsuboi, former chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo) who died in October last year at the age of 96, was held at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located in the city’s Naka Ward. Approximately 400 people — including members of A-bomb survivors groups, government officials, and acquaintances involved in the peace movement — attended the memorial service. The attendees gathered to remember and celebrate the life of Mr. Tsuboi, who had long continued his call for the abolition of nuclear weapons both in Japan and overseas, and to renew their determination to carry on his legacy.

A photograph of a smiling Mr. Tsuboi adorned the stage at the front of the service. Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, chair of Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, the organizational sponsor of the memorial service, addressed the attendees. Touching on the life of Mr. Tsuboi, who was exposed to the atomic bombing when he was 20 years old and lost consciousness for some time afterward, Mr. Mimaki said in a voice tinged with emotion, “He continued to call for peace based on his belief that no one else should ever again suffer as we did. He was the heart and soul of our organization and movement.”

Sueichi Kido, 81, secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), delivered the memorial address. “Mr. Tsuboi spearheaded the movement as the ‘Face of the Hiroshima A-bomb survivors.’ Today’s gathering is a farewell ceremony, but at the same time it’s a forum where we pledge to continue living with his aim of a world without nuclear weapons or war.” Images and photos of his life had been prepared, and a video was shown that included scenes of Mr. Tsuboi shaking hands with Barack Obama who, in 2016, became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the A-bombed city of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Prefectural Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, and local Diet parliament members paid tribute by laying offerings of flowers. A long line made up of members of the general public formed to offer flowers of their own.

On August 6, 1945, Mr. Tsuboi experienced the atomic bombing in the Fujimi-cho area of Hiroshima (now part of the city’s Naka Ward), about 1.2 kilometers from the hypocenter. In 1947, he became a junior high school teacher and spoke to his students about the importance of peace. After retirement, he became engaged in the A-bomb survivors’ movement. In 2000, he became co-chair of Nihon Hidankyo, and in 2004, chair of Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo.

Masanori Ueda, 89, vice chair of Hiroshima Prefectural Hidankyo, proclaimed vigorously, “So long as I live, I will hold in my soul Mr. Tsuboi’s words encouraging me to work hard (for the aim of abolishing nuclear weapons). It is my intention to give my all toward that end for as long as I am able.”

(Originally published on December 23, 2021)