Photo/Illutration Shizue Watanabe, center, with other members of the nationwide association of prenatally exposed atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima City on November 2. (Photo by Rikuri Kuroda)

Ms. Shizue Watanabe, now 77, was exposed to the atomic bomb when she was still in her mother’s womb. She joined a nationwide association of prenatally exposed atomic bomb survivors and has helped compile accounts of experiences written by its members.

Ms. Watanabe felt helpless when she heard the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the use of nuclear weapons. “I felt what I have done so far has flowed off like sand,” she thought.

However, as she watched other association members working as positively as before, she strongly thinks: “We are always in a position to speak out about atomic bomb experiences. I can’t see it as someone else’s business.” She became more engaged and took on the moderator’s role at the general meeting of the association. “Just as I started talking about what happened after 70 years passed, someone may come out with their experiences 80 years later.”

The first collection of members’ accounts was published in 2015 and the second in 2020. Each time, 1,000 copies were donated to libraries and universities. An English translation of the first collection was completed two years after the publication, and members have given copies to participants from overseas at the venue of the Peace Memorial Ceremony held annually in Hiroshima City on August 6. University students are working on an English translation of the second collection. Ms. Watanabe said she believes that their voices will reach the world. “We have to work harder!”

(This article was written by Rikuri Kuroda.)

Visit The Asahi Shimbun’s “Memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Messages from Hibakusha” website to read the original article about Shizue Watanabe, “It is time to speak out about prenatal exposure.”

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Editor’s note: Amid growing concerns that Russia might use nuclear weapons following its invasion of Ukraine, the first meeting of the International Group of Eminent Persons for a World without Nuclear Weapons was held in Hiroshima on December 10 and 11. Experts from both nuclear states and non-nuclear states brought together wisdom beyond their countries’ respective positions.

Hibakusha atomic bomb survivors are deeply troubled by the current severe situation surrounding nuclear weapons. They lost their families and friends in an instant and have suffered from diseases for many years. Based on such experiences, hibakusha are trying to convey the horrors of nuclear weapons.

In “So tell me… about Hiroshima,” a series of stories running in The Asahi Shimbun’s Hiroshima edition, many survivors recount their experiences. Asahi Shimbun reporters recently met with some of them to hear what they think and feel. Their words from the recent interviews are posted along with previous articles.

Shizue Watanabe, front row center, around 1950 when she was 4. Her mother, Mitsue Tamai, is shown at the upper right. (Photo courtesy of Shizue Watanabe)