JAPANESE

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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'(1)

As a Second-Generation A-Bomb Survivor, I Will Speak Out Now
By Michiru Jo, singer   (January 29, 2013, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper)

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I haven't had the chance to discuss this in such a format before, but I am a second-generation A-bomb survivor. My father was a soldier belonging to the Akatsuki Unit, in charge of supply and rescue operations for the army and was in Hijiyama (in present-day Minami-Ward, Hiroshima City) when the atom bomb was dropped.

My father once told me that he was not seriously injured in the bombing, but a few days later he came down with terrible diarrhea. For some time after the bombing, he was on guard duty around Motoyasuhashi, which was near the hypocenter, and he must have been exposed to residual radiation there. Probably due to this, he had long suffered from an unusually low white blood cell count.

My father passed away five years ago at the age of 81 from bile duct cancer. Just before his death, I found in my parents' home a memoir of his A-bomb experience. It is made up of about 20 pages of manuscript paper with 400 character squares per sheet. In his memoir, my father vividly depicts a large number of victims, the burnt-out ruins of Hiroshima, and his movements over several days after the bombing occured. It gave me a lump in my throat.

I made my debut with my first single "Iruka ni Notta Shounen" ("The Boy on a Dolphin") in my late teens. At that time I was busy as a pop-song idol and could not even imagine myself making mention of peace or the atomic bomb. I just got the feeling that Tokyoites knew little about the A-bombings.

My thinking has gradually changed since my father first developed cancer seven years ago. As a volunteer, I started to visit old people's homes all over the country. So far I have given concerts in about 780 nursing homes. It gives me great pleasure to be able to entertain people of my father's generation. I am greatly satisfied with my life as a volunteer now.

It was also after my father's death that I started to join in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6th and offer my prayers there. Every year I feel more strongly that I need to be thinking about what I can do as a second-generation survivor. I am aware that I am getting old.

There are some associations for second-generation A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima, however they are somewhat of a political bent. Fortunately, I am working in the entertainment world and thus have opportunities to speak out freely without becoming a member of any organization. From now on, I want to try to be more proactive as an individual about giving my opinions concerning peace and atomic bombs.

In Hiroshima, they have set up a display known "Chikyu Heiwa Kanshi Dokei (Peace Clock)," which indicates how many days have passed since the last nuclear test was carried out in the world. In recent years, the Peace Clock has had to be reset repeatedly due to the nuclear experiments carried out by the United States. As a native of Hiroshima, I was truly impressed by President Obama's speech embracing a vision of "a world without nuclear weapons." Whenever I see the Peace Clock these days, I cannot help thinking with a sigh of despair, "What on earth was that speech?"

In addition, the issue of nuclear power plants must also be considered. Even though a large number of people were killed by nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the national policy of generating electricity using nuclear energy was pushed forward in postwar Japan. From the present perspective, it certainly was a mistake. As Japan has experienced atomic bombings, people should have thoroughly discussed the matter of nuclear power before the first atomic power plant was constructed in our land. With Japan's high-level technology, electricity could be supplied with alternative energy resources. I believe even a goal of abolishing all the nuclear power plants by the 2030s would be too late.

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Michiru Jo, a singer, was born in Ondocho (in present-day Kure City), Hiroshima in 1957. After winning the championship in the audition TV show, "Star Tanjo!" ("A Star is Born!"), he made his debut in 1973. Jo has also been active as a commentator.

(This was compiled through an interview by Yohei Goto.)