Messages from A-bomb Survivors: Koichi Yasui, Part 2

Koichi Yasui, 77, Kita Ward, Sapporo City, Hokkaido

Living in the countryside is hard for A-bomb survivors

Note: This series first appeared in the Chugoku Shimbun in 2001.

“There’s no such thing as an A-bomb survivor in Hokkaido,” the staff at the village office told me. Living in the countryside, far from Hiroshima, including in Hokkaido, is harder for A-bomb survivors than people in Hiroshima imagine. There was, of course, prejudice and discrimination against A-bomb survivors in these places. And it was difficult to get information. Until 1984, when I obtained the Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate, I knew little about the relief measures, because I was assigned to a junior high school in the countryside.

In 1954, Mr. Yasui became a junior high school teacher, and he began to share his A-bomb experience with his students.

Sharing the A-bomb experience is a duty

When the children urged me to talk about Hiroshima, I would tell them about my experience of the bombing, little by little, during school hours. I would draw a map of Hiroshima on the blackboard and the children listened to me very intently. The Parent-Teacher Association, after hearing that I had talked to the children about my experience, once asked me to share my A-bomb account with them, too. I also solicited donations and sent young people from the town to the World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs.

Many male A-bomb survivors in Hokkaido came here as soldiers, while many female survivors came as members of pioneer groups to work the land. Having talked with former soldiers here who experienced the atomic bombing, I felt fewer of them than I expected actually saw the horrible conditions there. So it’s hard for them to talk about their experience of the bombing, even if they try. Some A-bomb survivors fled to Hokkaido to hide their A-bomb experience.

Though I once compiled a guide to help these survivors relate their experience, many said that they weren’t able to talk about it after all. We can’t force those who want to forget the experience to talk about it.

Mr. Yasui is now the director of the A-bomb survivors’ association in Hokkaido, which has a membership of 220 people. Despite poor health, he continues to offer his A-bomb account.

Four members of our association accept requests to speak about the bombing. To be honest, it’s tough. Though we receive an honorarium for sharing our A-bomb experience, we don’t pocket it. When we were offered 50,000 yen, we declined it, saying the amount was too much. We should speak about our A-bomb experience, you know, only because sharing this experience is our duty and responsibility.

Some people may say that we are doing this because we want to. But it’s not for fun. Peace issues are really important from an international point of view, too. I realized this by participating in a conference of an NGO that lent support to the third U.N. Special Session on Disarmament, held in New York in 1988, and by visiting Sweden in 1987 and interacting with students there.

Handing over responsibility for the No More Hibakusha Hall to the next generation

Because of our patient efforts, our No More Hibakusha Hall has been included even on the itineraries of school trips taken by elementary and junior high schools in Hokkaido. Over 10,000 people have visited the facility.

The Hokkaido No More Hibakusha Hall, located in Sapporo, was completed in 1991. More than 150 A-bomb-related materials are on display there.

Though we’ve been keeping the hall going, we’re now reaching our limits. Before all the A-bomb survivors are gone, we have to find someone who will take over the responsibility of running it. I think we have to decide what we’re going to do as early as this fiscal year.

A-bomb survivors are growing old and we can’t see very far into the future. I imagine the survivors will be active for another five years, at most. So we have to focus on certain goals as we carry out our efforts.

Until the day we die, we have to appeal for “No More Hibakusha” with more pride and determination--determination so strong as to write these words into our wills.

(Originally published on August 4, 2001)