Ambassador Kennedy meets with A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

As the daughter of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy brings strong name recognition and clout to her role as the new U.S. ambassador to Japan. On December 10, A-bomb survivors who came into contact with Ms. Kennedy’s thoughtful nature during her visit to the city, voiced high hopes for her, saying that her presence as ambassador would mark a step forward on the road to nuclear abolition.

The ambassador met with A-bomb survivors at the Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki, including Hideo Tsuchiyama, the former president of Nagasaki University, and Masao Tomonaga, 70, the director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital. They recounted their A-bomb experiences and outlined such information as the effects of the A-bomb radiation on the human body.

“I was impressed that she showed a keen interest and took notes,” Dr. Tsuchiyama said. “I felt a proactive attitude from her, that she will engage squarely with the nuclear issues that her father had confronted as president.”

Ms. Kennedy reportedly asked the two men about the health effects on second-generation A-bomb survivors. Stressing his words, Mr. Tomonaga said, “I told the ambassador that it’s important to study the conditions of the second-generation A-bomb survivors for the next 10 or 20 years. I also told her that some of the A-bomb survivors have continued to suffer from health disorders up to the present. I assume she clearly recognizes that the atomic bombing is not an issue purely of the past.”

Over 100 people, including citizens and tourists, watched Ms. Kennedy as she offered a wreath of flowers in Nagasaki Peace Park. She then approached the crowd and gave handshakes and greetings. Ryoichi Mita, 83, a resident of the town of Togitsu, Nagasaki Prefecture, was exposed to the Nagasaki A-bomb at a distance of 1.2 kilometers from the hypocenter. “I can’t say I don’t hold any bitterness toward the United States,” he said. “But I welcome her here if the power of the ambassador can help bring the world closer to the peace that the A-bomb survivors long for.”

(Originally published on December 11, 2013)