Voices | VIEWS FROM THE STREET

Views from Hiroshima: What did you make of President Obama's visit?

by John Ashburne

People in Hiroshima offer their views on last week’s historic trip by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Chikako Hama
Student, 21 (Japanese]
It surprised me that the sitting president of the United States actually came here. I was astonished too that he talked face to face with hibakusha. I hope this will lead to the end of nuclear weapons.

Yui Nakajima
Student, 22 (Japanese]
President Obama represents the U.S. He came here and saw in person what has happened. It’s a historic moment and a chance to make sure that the same thing will never happen again.

Gibson Jackson
Student, 35 (American)
I think it’s a great thing that President Obama actually visited here. As for his speech, I thought it was very calculated. Obama is very precise in the words that he uses, and his delivery of them had impact. But from my point of view, I would like him to have made an official apology. That’s my stance.
I think what happened was a terrible thing, and since there is documentation from one of the generals at that time who came and visited and said that he felt the bomb didn’t need to be dropped anyway — that the Japanese people were starving, and that within a week, they would have surrendered.
So when people say the atomic bomb was necessary to bring an end to the war, I think that’s just an excuse that we used — to show we had power, that we had something that we can use.
That’s what I feel about it, and I wish he would apologize for that.

Chisako Torikai
Teacher, 53 (Japanese)
I was very moved. I am so happy that President Obama visited Hiroshima.
As a citizen of Hiroshima, I feel that what he said is wonderful. He described us as citizens of one world.
He saw Hiroshima with his own eyes, and expressed what he truly felt.

Jeff Rowe
Retired, 65 (Australian)
I think the fact that President Obama visited here is a fantastic thing. He’s a great statesman of the world and it probably did a lot for relations with Japan and the rest of the world, in a lot of ways.
As for the question, “Did he go far enough?” why dredge up things from the past? Japan is a totally different country now, as is the rest of the world. It’s all history.
I think that his presence here, as president, and the fact that he hugged an elderly (hibakusha) gentleman and got a response is fantastic. I’d say, well done, President Obama.

Trevor Swan
International relations coordinator, 30 (American)
I think it was a really amazing speech, and a really historic event, but at the same time, I think an apology would have been a very nice touch.
It sounds like the Japanese government didn’t want an apology. Looking at the WikiLeaks cables, there was a refusal by the Japanese government, saying an apology wasn’t necessary.
You hear a lot from Japanese people around here too that an apology isn’t necessary. An expression of regret was made, which I think was great, but I think it would also be nice to know that there was an apology made. I think that’s important, too.

Catherine John
Artist, 50 (Australian)
I think we are fortunate to have such a wise and moral leader come to Hiroshima. He spoke about the destruction that humankind can cause, but also the good that humankind can do, the way we can improve and learn. It was such a great speech. We are so lucky to have such a great leader in this world, speaking for humankind, not just America.

Hiroshi Kataba
Lecturer, 66 (Japanese)
I am delighted about and thankful for President Obama’s visit — finally, after 71 years. His speech was philosophical, and it means a lot.
Given what is happening in America now with the rise in popularity of Donald Trump, it is especially commendable. Well done to President Obama for coming, it is deeply appreciated. I hope both nations do their best to realize his vision of the future.

Mark Felstehausen
Social studies teacher, 51 (American)
I commend President Obama on his visit to Hiroshima. I think it’s very significant that a sitting president came here and gave impetus to the nuclear disarmament movement.
Nobody expected that he was going to be making an apology today, but by his presence and his meeting with hibakusha, who he named as such, he paid homage to the nuclear victims of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tsuyako Tanaka
Homemaker, 36 (Japanese)
The president’s visit to Hiroshima is a good thing, but it’s a pity — I wish he had come closer to ordinary people.

Hatsune Tanaka
Elementary school student, 7 (Japanese)
I saw President Obama’s car and his helicopter, but not for long. I wish I’d seen him putting the flowers down.

Mariko Watanabe
Ikebana and tea ceremony teacher, 64 (Japanese)
I was moved by the president’s speech. He not only talked in country-to-country terms, but also spoke to ordinary people. This will remain in my heart.

Yoshiaki Inahashi
Company worker, 51 (Japanese)
It was a historic day. A new page has been turned in the movement toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Katsuyuki Fukuzumi
Company worker, 46 (Japanese)
Too late, isn’t it? It’s great that Obama came, but I strongly wish it had happened earlier. Oh well. I’d like people to take this opportunity to ponder what peace really means.

Yukako Ishiguchi
Junior high school teacher, 32 (Japanese)
His visit was great. The most important thing is the eradication of nuclear weapons. The simple fact that he came is wonderful.

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