Views on the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty: Toshiyuki Mimaki, 75, vice chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations

by Kyosuke Mizukawa, Staff Writer

Member states that seek to realize a world without nuclear weapons began to add their signatures to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on September 20 at United Nations headquarters in New York. However, international conditions involving nuclear weapons have become increasingly difficult, undercutting this historic step. In this series, the Chugoku Shimbun asks experts and atomic bomb survivors about the significance of the treaty and the role that should be played by the citizens of the A-bombed city.

We would like to see all the nuclear weapons in the world abolished while the A-bomb survivors are still alive. After the failure of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 2015, which is held every five years to discuss nuclear disarmament issues among the U.N. member states, the A-bomb survivors nearly lost hope for achieving a nuclear-free world. But thanks to the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, they can continue to live with hope that a world without nuclear weapons is possible.

On September 20, the first day that the treaty was open for signatures, 50 nations and regions signed it. This is the minimum number of nations and regions required for the treaty to enter into force after it is ratified. As I was worried that the nuclear weapon states were applying pressure on the non-nuclear nations not to sign the treaty, I’m very glad that the number of signatories has already reached 50. If all 122 nations and regions that voted for the nuclear weapons ban treaty actually sign it, then, conversely, greater pressure will instead be put on the nuclear nations and their allies that rely on the nuclear umbrella.

In June, Mr. Mimaki attended the negotiations to establish the nuclear weapons ban treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York, as a visitor in the gallery. He also took part in gatherings and demonstrations calling for the establishment of the treaty.
The negotiations went smoothly and the conference hall was filled with a spirit of unity between the nations there and civil society, which supported the realization of the treaty. They discussed ways to promote peace education and voiced concerns over the modernization of nuclear weapons. Each time representatives from the participating nations made their remarks, I nodded a number of times in agreement. The ongoing threat of North Korea’s nuclear development program strengthened the resolve of the participants to conclude the treaty.

It was noticeable, though, that the media who were reporting on the negotiations were mostly Japanese and there were few reporters from other countries. In fact, the foreign media that interviewed me about my A-bomb experience, and my thoughts and feelings, amounted to only one radio broadcasting company from Sweden. Even our demonstration march in Manhattan was unable to attract much attention.

So the current challenge is how to raise the awareness of the people in the world about the abolition of nuclear weapons as 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, approaches. 2020 will also be the year of the first NPT Review Conference following the probable entry into force of the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Moreover, it is the year that the Mayors for Peace organization has set as the target year for eliminating all nuclear weapons. It will be the final climax toward achieving the goal that the aging A-bomb survivors are able to witness. I plan to do absolutely everything I can so that at least one or two of the nuclear weapon states and their allies shielded by the nuclear umbrella change their minds and join the nuclear weapons ban treaty as soon as possible, and help advance the ultimate goal of achieving a world without nuclear arms.

The Tokyo Olympics will also be held in 2020, which means that year the whole world will focus its attention on Japan. I would therefore like to spread the idea, much more widely, that 2020 is the target year for the world to finally abolish all nuclear weapons and strengthen global public opinion toward this end. So all the international visitors to Hiroshima must be made aware of the existence of the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Because the Japanese government didn’t attend the treaty talks, Mr. Mimaki placed two folded paper cranes on the empty conference room table for the representative from Japan.
The paper cranes were made by officials at the town office in my hometown of Kitahiroshima. A-bomb survivors in the town also donated a substantial amount of money to enable me to travel to the United States. As a significant number of people in Japan sincerely wish for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the Japanese government should take this wish much more seriously.

With regard to the Hibakusha Appeal, a campaign to collect signatures to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth, I’m afraid there are many people who ignore me when I’m trying to collect these signatures on the streets of Hiroshima. And not all the mayors of the local governments in Hiroshima Prefecture have signed the Hibakusha Appeal yet. Now is the time that all the people of Hiroshima Prefecture should unite to ensure that as many nations as possible will join the nuclear weapons ban treaty so that the treaty will have a real impact. Toward that end, we, the A-bomb survivors, will continue to convey to the people of the world how the atomic bombs produced great devastation and that nuclear weapons must be banned.


Toshiyuki Mimaki
Born in Tokyo in 1942. In the wake of the Great Tokyo Air Raids of March 1945, his family moved to the village of Iimuro (now part of Hiroshima’s Asakita Ward) near his father’s parents’ home. After Hiroshima was attacked with the atomic bomb, his mother brought him into the city center to search for his father, who had been working at Hiroshima Station. At that time they were exposed to the bomb’s radioactive fallout. Since 2006, Mr. Mimaki has served as the chair of the A-bomb survivors’ group in Kitahiroshima, and since 2014, he has been the vice chair of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hiroshima Hidankyo, chaired by Sunao Tsuboi). He is also an executive board member of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo).

(Originally published on September 28, 2017)