Hiroshima Prefectural, City governments accept revised guidelines to quickly provide relief to “black rain” victims—New guidelines to take effect in April 2022

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Kohei Okata, and Koji Higuchi, Staff Writers

On December 24, the Hiroshima Prefectural and City governments announced their decision to accept revised guidelines proposed by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare that will expand the scope of relief to include recognition of those exposed to “black rain” that fell after the Hiroshima atomic bombing as A-bomb survivors. In their respective responses to the ministry, the prefectural government said it would accept the proposed guidelines, while the city government indicated instead that it simply would not oppose them. Although the revised guidelines do not fully reflect all of their demands, the two governments decided to prioritize the speed at which relief is provided. It is expected that the new system for recognition of black rain victims as being A-bomb survivors will start in April 2022.

The revised guidelines proposed by the ministry on December 23 provides recognition as being A-bomb survivors to victims when the possibility they were exposed to black rain cannot be denied, based on their accounts or student registration records from that time. The guidelines will maintain the requirement that the victims suffer from 11 diseases, such as cancer and cataracts. With respect specifically to cataracts, however, those with a history of cataract surgery, even if they do not suffer from cataracts at present, will also receive recognition as being A-bomb survivors.

The prefectural and city governments have for some time requested that the disease requirement for recognition be eliminated. In a press conference held on December 24, Hiroshima Prefectural Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki expressed appreciation for the revised guidelines, indicating they would be accepted by the prefecture. He said, “I recognize that more people will meet the requirements,” given that those with history of cataract surgery will also be eligible for relief. He added that he would persist in calling on the national government to drop the disease requirement from the guidelines.

For his part, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui explained that while he “cannot agree” with the guidelines because of the disease requirement, “A great number of people will be able to obtain their Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificates early in the next fiscal year.” He revealed that he had replied to the ministry that he would not oppose the guidelines. The city will continue to engage in working-level discussions regarding management of the system, which is set to go into effect at the beginning of next fiscal year, beginning April 1.

Based on surveys conducted by the city and prefectural governments, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry estimates about 11,000 people will be newly recognized by the revised guidelines as being A-bomb survivors. An official at the ministry’s A-bomb Survivors Support Office said, “We are grateful that our proposal has been accepted. Because a proposal was also made to the Nagasaki Prefectural and City governments, we will wait to make an official comment on December 27, which is the response deadline.”

The national government provides A-bomb survivor recognition and issues certificates to those exposed to the black rain within a restricted area of relief eligibility who suffer from 11 diseases. In July 2021, the Hiroshima High Court ruled that all the 84 plaintiffs in a court case who were exposed to black rain outside the restricted area must also be provided with such certificates. The national government declined to make a final appeal to Japan’s Supreme Court and announced it would deliberate on measures to provide relief to those in a situation similar to that experienced by the plaintiffs. The ministry has been holding talks on the issue with the Hiroshima Prefectural and City governments, among other entities.

(Originally published on December 25, 2021)