Hiroshima survivor invites G8 on tour

by Mie Sakamoto

Kyodo News

HIROSHIMA — Emiko Okada, an atomic-bomb survivor from Hiroshima, sent letters to the governments of the Group of Eight major economies, inviting their leaders to visit the bomb site when they come to Japan to attend the G8 summit in Hokkaido in July.

To her surprise, three of them — Britain, Germany and the United States — responded to her invitation and expressed appreciation for the invitation, although they are not likely to be able to make the trip.

“I was surprised that they actually read letters sent by an individual and replied,” Okada, 71, said. “I want to thank them for taking even just a small amount of time to think about Hiroshima when they wrote back to me.”

The letters, which Okada wrote in Japanese and an acquaintance translated into English, were sent to the United States in February and to the other G8 countries in late March. She hoped the G8 leaders would learn about the effects of atomic bombs so nuclear weapons will never be used again.

In the letters, she wrote, “All of my friends, many of whom are fellow bomb survivors, are waiting to be your guides around Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Memorial Park.

“We are the people who can give you the best perspective on the horrors of nuclear weapons as we have lived through it and many of us have suffered numerous physical ailments over the last 62 years and lost loved ones in the blast,” she wrote.

She also wrote in the letters how she lost her 12-year-old sister in the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945. Although Okada survived, she has suffered from aplastic anemia all her life.

In April, she received a letter from the White House, which said, “Although the president would very much enjoy an occasion of this nature, already established travel schedules and official obligations for this trip preclude us from adding events to his calendar.”

She also received a reply from Hellmut Hoffmann, on behalf of Germany, who expressed “deepest sympathy for the losses” that Okada and her family suffered in the attack on Hiroshima.

Hoffmann also explained the German government’s positive stance toward nuclear disarmament.

“Your letter is an appeal and encouragement to us to press ahead with the vision of a nuclear-weapon free world,” he said.

Okada said she is not seeking to blame others or attribute responsibility for the bombing, but she does not want children to become victims of future wars.

“I want the Japanese government to arrange a plan to have leaders of the G8 countries visit Hiroshima,” she said.

Okada is currently recounting her experiences of the atomic bombing at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Last October, she went to the United States to deliver speeches to university students in Chicago.