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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

Towards a Nuclear-Free World
    From Japan:
         Thoughts from a Country Hit by Nuclear Bombs - 2013(No.2-7)

Listening to Each Person's Thoughts
By Kunio Yanagida, Non-fiction writer   (June 8, 2013, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper)


In the summer of my first year at high school, I saw photos of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki published in the magazine Asahi Graph, and I received quite a shock. Later, in 1960, I joined NHK and the first city I was dispatched to was Hiroshima, where I had opportunities to hear about many people's first-hand experiences of the bombing. "To go to the actual place and meet people in person" - this basic rule is what I learned from my experiences in Hiroshima.

I follow this rule when I cover stories about the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Every time I hear stories of those people who've been forced to evacuate from their hometowns, I can't help feeling really angry, wondering who on earth has the right to destroy these people's lives? Some people say nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants are two different things. They really are the same, however, in that both of them deprive people of such things as their natural life span and their way of life for no reason at all.

The Japanese government has been moving towards the position that both the restart of nuclear power plants and the export of related technologies are indispensable to the country and economic development. While stock prices are rising, the voices of people suffering in Fukushima and lessons from their experiences are being overshadowed. The current situation is certainly a test of the dignity of the country.

I've always advocated that in order to grasp the fundamental point of a problem, the important thing is to pay special attention to the personality of each individual involved, that is, to emphasize that an event concerns the life and death of "myself" or of a loved one.

200,000 people lost their lives in the atomic bombings, and 300,000 people have evacuated their homes since the nuclear accident in Fukushima. From these numbers alone you can't get at the real nature of these events. You must imagine the real tragedy that was experienced by each individual involved.

In this respect, more than anything else, the use of nuclear weapons makes us ignore the personality of each individual. That 100,000 lives can be extinguished simply with the press of a button makes it impossible to see those people as human beings. With the number of countries that possess nuclear weapons increasing, the current situation is far more dangerous than it was during the Cold War era.

How can we recover our ability to pay attention to individuals? The only way to do so is to know the horror and cruelty of people's suffering. Atomic-bomb survivors have been raising their voices around the world. One person's voice may not be strong enough in itself, but it is certainly an important step forward.

If a unified voice is raised from all people whose lives have been threatened by atomic bombings, war, accidents or pollution, and if this unified voice communicates the suffering and sorrow to people in society, their efforts will surely lead to a change in humanity's way of thinking.


Kunio Yanagida, non-fiction writer,was born in Tochigi Prefecture in 1936, Yanagida was a correspondent for NHK before becoming a writer. His publications include A Blank in the Weather Map, which he wrote about the 1945 atomic bombing in Hiroshima and the typhoon which hit the city in the same year, and Sacrifice: My Son, 11 Days in Brain Death which commemorates his deceased second son.

(This was compiled through an interview by Yasufumi Kado.)