On eve of 3/11 anniversary, Japanese victims of Bikini Atoll commemorated

AFP-JIJI

Around 1,800 people marched in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary of a U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, as Japan prepares to commemorate the Fukushima nuclear crisis three years ago.

The 1954 test exposed residents on the Marshall Islands to massive amounts of radiation. The fallout also contaminated the Japanese tuna fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), which was near the atoll when the H-bomb detonated.

The ship’s chief radioman, Aikichi Kuboyama, died of acute organ failure only seven months later at the age of 40, while 15 of the boat’s 23 other crew members later died of cancer and other causes.

While the precise cause of Kuboyama’s death has been disputed, the incident sparked an anti-nuclear movement in Japan nine years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leveled by atomic bombs in the closing days of World War II.

On Saturday, some 1,800 people marched to Kuboyama’s grave in the port city of Yaizu. The city has held similar events to commemorate the incident for three decades, while the boat has been refitted and put on display at a memorial hall in Tokyo since 1976. It draws around 100,000 visitors every year.

“I want to see nuclear power abolished,” Akira Ibi, a 70-year-old Yaizu citizen, said in an interview, adding he also wants to get rid of the nearby Hamaoka atomic plant on the Pacific coast.

Three years after the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami killed or left missing around 18,500 people in Tohoku and sent three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant into core meltdowns, tens of thousands of people remain stuck in temporary housing after fleeing the region.

The nation’s 50 nuclear reactors are all currently offline due to the crisis but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking steps to restart some if they are deemed safe for operation.

“The government is trying to restart reactors by overlooking the danger of nuclear power,” Kimiko Abe, 64, told the Mainichi Shimbun. “Nothing has changed after 60 years.”