SHIZUOKA – The 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific that showered fallout on the crew of a Japanese trawler had far-reaching effects, a former teacher said Sunday.
The incident severely damaged the fisheries industry in the city of Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, the home port of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, and caused the 23 crew members and their families to become victims of discrimination, Toshihiro Iizuka, 73, said.
“Fish from Yaizu were shunned after the irradiation of the Fukuryu Maru was reported, causing a plunge in marine product prices, while the crew members of the vessel and their families faced prejudice and discrimination as people believed radiation was contagious,” Iizuka said.
He made the remarks during a mock trial in the city of Shizuoka held to look into who was responsible for the Bikini radiation disaster ahead of its 50th anniversary Monday.
“The Fukuryu Maru was considered an ‘angel of death’ by Yaizu residents. Fishermen’s families in the city had to pawn their clothes to live,” said Iizuka, who had just started teaching social science in the city at the time of the disaster.
The crew members of the 140-ton vessel, better known overseas as the Lucky Dragon, were fishing for tuna some 160 km east of the test site when they were showered with radioactive ash from the bomb, code-named Bravo, on March 1, 1954.
After negotiations with the Japanese side, the United States paid each surviving crew member an average of 2 million yen as “sympathy money” in a political settlement.
Because of the political settlement, the Japanese government has not recognized the crew members as nuclear-bomb survivors, or “hibakusha,” unlike people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and has continued to exclude them from relief measures.
The tribunal concluded that the government should request that the U.S. issue an apology to the former crew members and that legislation be enacted providing the survivors with medical treatment through governmental support.