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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Report: "Determined for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons - an Evening with Sachi Rummel"

Hiroshima Hibakusha (Atomic-bomb survivor) Sachi Rummel told her story of tragedy and survival last night at Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver. The event "Determined for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons - an Evening with Sachi Rummel" sponsored by Vancouver Save Article 9 and Peace Philosophy Centre, was Sachi's first appearance in a public event. We were also fortunate to have Takeo Yamashiro, another Hiroshima Hibakusha and a respected leader of the Japanese-Canadian community in Vancouver, among the forty strong participants who packed the small meeting room.

Sachi was eight years old when the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. She was at her school 3.5 km away from the hypocentre. She was fortunately uninjured, as she thinks it was because she was standing right next to a large tree. On the way to return home, black rain (radiation-contaminated rain) started to fall and Sachi's favourite blouse got all dirty. She made it home safe, and from the garden where she was being washed by her grandmother, she saw the sky over the city of Hiroshima painted a madder red. "That's the town of Hiroshima burning. It's terrible," was the explanation Sachi was given.

Sachi's father was working in an office close to the hypocentre. He made it home, said "Everyone all right," then collapsed. He was burned outside, and heavily affected by radiation inside through his lungs and internal organs. When the Emperor announced Japan's defeat on August 15, "From now on there will be peace on earth. Good. That's truly good," and told family members where he had hidden emergency food supplies and money. He died on August 16th at the age of 46.

Sachi's aunt, who had to go to volunteer at a factory in the city, was never found. A poem by her son Yo-chan, Sachi's cousin, appears in Beneath the Mushroom Cloud, published in 1952 by Aoki Shoten.

A Sad Memory

Each time I see my friends'
Fathers and Mothers
I can't help but think
If there hadn't been a war
If there hadn't been a war
How happy I would be
Father on the right side
Mother on the left side
But my father was killed in a far away battle
My gentle, gentle mother vanished in the atomic bomb
Only I remain all alone
No more war, I've had enough

Thank you Sachi for sharing your story.

This event was also an opportunity to report the NPT Review Conference ju
st completed at United Nations in New York, where I spent a week, being part of different N
GO events and helping as translator for Hibakusha (a-bomb survivor) delegates from Japan. I gave an overview of the current situation surrounding the nuclear disarmament issue, including some positive developments for the past year, such as Obama's Prague Speech, the UN Security Council Resolution 1887, newly released Nuclear Posture Review, and a renewed START commitment by Obama and Medvedev. I reported the outcome of the NPT Review Conference, which had shortcomings but did achieve a final document, which included a plan for a conference to be held in 2012 for establishment of a Middle-East nuclear-free zone.

We had an engaged discussion afterwards with topics ranging from Iran's nuclear development, Hibakusha's medical exams and health care concerns for workers of nuclear power plants, the post-war Press Code in which people in Japan were not allowed to talk about or publish on atomic bombs, cities' initiatives for nuclear-free zones and Mayors for Peace, and Vancouver's efforts for raising awareness and activism, including the annual A-bomb Exhibit at Powell Street Festival.

Thank you Sachi, all the participants, members of VSA9, and all who helped with set-up and clean-up. Thank you Grace Thompson for bringing cookies and fruits. Special thanks also to Roundhouse Community Centre and its staff, as always.

Peace Philosophy Centre will bring Canadian students to Hiroshima and Nagasaki every summer. This year we will bring an undergraduate student from UBC, and a postgraduate student from the University of Toronto.

Satoko Norimatsu

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