Hopes fall on world leaders to take concrete action now, when confrontation of A-bombing reality is needed

by Junji Akechi, Taiki Yomura, and Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writers

On May 23, the decision was made for the summit meeting of the G7 (attended by the Group of Seven industrialized nations) to be held in Hiroshima for the first time. As nuclear disarmament faces headwinds, in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that country’s suggestion that it might use nuclear weapons, A-bomb survivors and others involved in peace activities have voiced their expectations and demands. “I hope the leaders will face the reality of the atomic bombing,” said one such individual. Added another, “The leaders have to set the tone for nuclear disarmament.”

“It’s good news for A-bomb survivors that the presidents and prime ministers of major world powers are visiting Hiroshima,” said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 80, chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo). Holding the G7 summit meeting in Hiroshima means that the leaders of England and France, both nuclear weapons states, will visit the A-bombed city for the first time. “By seeing the photographs of children who lost their lives and the charred clothing exhibited at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, they should come away feeling profoundly affected by the experience. In any case, their visit should not end up as mere ceremony,” said Mr. Mimaki, expressing hope that the visit will provide the opportunity for world leaders to come into contact with the reality of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing.

Kunihiko Sakuma, 77, chair of the other Hiroshima Hidankyo organization, expressed his satisfaction with the decision. “It’s because of the growing danger of nuclear weapons’ use that we demanded the summit be held in Hiroshima.” However, during the Japan-U.S. summit meeting on May 23, the leaders of the two countries agreed to enhance what is known as expanded deterrence, which involves defense of Japan based on U.S. nuclear and conventional weapons. Mr. Sakuma explained, “The consequences if nuclear weapons were to be used would be horrific. Leaders of especially nuclear weapon states should confront that reality. They would then understand the importance of resolving conflict through communication rather than resorting to use of nuclear weapons or military force.”

Erika Abiko, 43, owner of Hachidorisha, a café located in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, continues to hold gatherings with A-bomb survivors. She reflected back on the visit to Hiroshima by then U.S. President Barack Obama in 2016. Mr. Obama’s visit to the Peace Memorial Museum was abrupt, with no time set aside for him to listen to testimonies communicated by A-bomb survivors. However, his speech in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park captured the attention of the world. According to Ms. Abiko, “I felt as if the ‘peace’ image of Hiroshima was being used. If leaders of the G7 countries are to visit Hiroshima, they should not only talk about the threat of nuclear weapons and peace, they should also show concrete steps toward advancing the cause of nuclear disarmament, including as the issue pertains to Russia.”

Rina Akahata, 20, a third-year student at Hiroshima City University, hopes that the leaders have the opportunity to meet with young people. When she was a third-year junior high school student, Ms. Akahata, a resident of Hiroshima’s Naka Ward, participated in an event to welcome Mr. Obama to Peace Memorial Park. That experience provided her with the opportunity to view her home of Hiroshima as an A-bombed city from an international perspective. “It is the role of young people to continue communicating to the public the experiences and thoughts of A-bomb survivors. The G7 summit meeting will be an opportunity for the baton to be passed on to the next generation to ensure that the horror of atomic bombings is never repeated,” she said.

(Originally published on May 24, 2022)