Aging poison gas sufferers ask government to preserve poison gas materials from World War II

by Yu Yamada, Staff Writer

On October 20, a memorial ceremony dedicated to those who suffered from the harmful effects of poison gas was held in front of the cenotaph for the victims on Ohkunoshima Island in the city of Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture. During World War II, a poison gas plant, operated by the former Imperial Japan Army, was located on the island. Due to the sufferers’ advancing age, the confederation of groups which support the sufferers of the poison gas production on Ohkunoshima Island will ask the central government for the first time to preserve materials about this negative legacy on November 10.

About 160 people, including sufferers and members of their families, attended the ceremony. At the ceremony, registers holding the names of 3,797 people, including 67 who died over the past year, were placed in the cenotaph for the victims. The attendees then offered flowers. Masaaki Shinmei, 84, the vice president of the confederation of support groups, which organized the ceremony, declared, “We will appeal strongly to the world for the elimination of nuclear arms and biological and chemical weapons.”

According to an official at the Hiroshima prefectural government, the number of sufferers who hold the health management booklet issued by the government totals 1,901, and their average age is 88.6 (as of October 1). In April, one group of poison gas sufferers disbanded due to the advancing age of its members. Of the remaining eight groups, the Ohkunoshima Setoda Shimboku Group, located in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, will disband at the end of March 2017.

The confederation of groups, composed of the groups of sufferers and neighboring eight cities and one town, will include for the first time “the preservation of materials concerning the remains on the island and the policies to aid sufferers” in the letter of request that will be sent to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. They will urge the ministries to preserve the materials, along with expanding the health care support and other benefits that are provided.

(Originally published on October 21, 2016)