At a ceremony Saturday to mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, a 75-year-old woman survivor harshly criticized the Abe administration’s decision to allow Japan to take part in conflicts overseas under the banner of collective self-defense.
Miyako Jodai’s criticism just in front of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expresses a sense of crisis held by many atomic bombing sufferers and ordinary citizens that Japan may again follow the path of war now that the Abe administration has dropped the traditional government interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution, which had precluded Japan from exercising the right to militarily help an ally of Japan under attack even if Japan is not under attack.
Abe, his Cabinet members and all lawmakers should sincerely take heed of her criticism. It can be taken as both anger and a plea directed at politicians who have not personally experienced the horrors of war but are taking steps that shove aside the fundamental principle of postwar Japan that is embodied in Article 9 and the Preamble of the Constitution.
While Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima did not directly mention Abe’s decision to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in the Hiroshima Peace Declaration 2014 on Aug. 6 to mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that city, Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki mentioned it in the Nagasaki Peace Declaration 2014.
“Nagasaki has continued to cry, ‘No more Nagasakis!’ and ‘No more war!’” he said. “The oath prescribed in the Japanese Constitution that Japan shall ‘renounce war’ is the founding principle for postwar Japan and Nagasaki, a country and a city that suffered the effects of the atomic bomb … However, the rushed debate over collective self-defense has given rise to the concern that this principle is wavering. I urgently request that the Japanese government take serious heed of these distressed voices.”
Jodai asked in her speech whether the current Japanese government is fulfilling its duty of playing a leading role in working toward an early conclusion of an international convention to ban nuclear weapons and then criticized Abe’s policy: “The move to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense is an outrageous act of trampling on the Constitution. Are you going trying to make Japan into a country that can wage war and to defend itself by force?”
She went on to criticize specific policies of the Abe administration: “Production and export of weapons is a way toward war. Once a war starts, it brings in another war. History has proven this, hasn’t it?
“Please do not threaten young people and children who bear the future of Japan. Please do not forget and not airbrush out the suffering of hibakusha (atomic bombing victims).”
She also touched on the plight of Fukushima residents who are still living in prefabricated houses in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and the parents and children who fear for the future following diagnoses that the children have pediatric thyroid cancer, adding “Is it right to restart idled nuclear power plants in this situation? The way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel is still unknown. (The government and power industry) should immediately consider appropriate steps including decommissioning of nuclear power plans.”
She also stressed that a nuclear bomb is not just a horrific blast, pointing to the horror of radiation exposure. She mentioned the sudden death of a hibakusha friend after she gave birth, and the death of her granddaughter, which she felt could be related to her being a hibakusha: “I was saddened and agonized,” she said, “thinking that if I had not been a hibakusha, this would not have happened. Humans do not have the power to cope with the dread of radiation brought by an atomic bomb, which is invisible.”
The speech by Jodai, who experienced the dread of war and a nuclear weapon, goes to the crux of the critical situation in which Japan finds itself. She demonstrates that citizens have to stand up and raise their voices when they feel that an unreasonable thing is going on in society.