HIROSHIMA – One month after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, canna plants in the city defied all odds and began to bloom.
Yukiharu Yamasaki, the child of a hibakusha fighting to have the government recognize that his generation also suffers from the effects of radiation, is inspired by the picture of a canna plant on display in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
“Whenever I see the picture, I am encouraged. That flower is us,” Yamasaki said.
He became chairman of the National Liaison Council of A-Bomb Survivors Second Generation Organizations in January.
“We, who do not know the war, are asked how we can hand down A-bomb experiences to the next generation,” said Yamasaki, who at 38 is significantly younger than his predecessor, who was in his 50s.
The children of hibakusha living in Japan — estimated to number between 300,000 and 500,000 — are not entitled to much help under the Atomic Bomb Survivors Support Law.
Government support is limited to free basic medical checkups, with no cancer testing. There are no free checkups for the third generation.
The government position is it has no proof that the effects of exposure to radiation is passed down to A-bomb survivors’ children and grandchildren.
The liaison council has received a lot of inquiries from children of hibakusha, and even from their elderly parents, about their health.
Yamasaki says he also is worried about the health of his 5-year-old son. Whenever he has an asthma attack, the thought flashes through his mind, “It may have been caused by the A-bomb.”
When Yamasaki was in elementary school, his father spoke to him only briefly about his experience as a 14-year-old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
Yamasaki said his father told him: “When I saw the B-29, I jumped into the river. When I came out, the city was a sea of fire. Then I walked home.”
He would not talk more about his experiences and, even now, is silent about what happened to him.
Later, Yamasaki learned that many survivors did not want to talk to relatives about what happened to them.
“It may be that they want to forget the past,” he said.
Yamasaki, who works for the Otake Municipal Government in Hiroshima Prefecture, did not realize the significance of being a child of a hibakusha until he started working for his labor union on peace campaigns. He thought there must be a role for the second generation.
The Radiation Effects Research Foundation, jointly operated by Japan and the U.S. in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is carrying out a large-scale study on the health of hibakusha children. The results will be released next year.
Yamasaki hopes the study will force the central government to reconsider its position on the second generation. In addition, his organization is collecting signatures on a petition urging the government to set up a program for the second generation.
Recently, he has begun to so feel strongly about the effects of the A-bomb has had on his life that he plans to ask his father to share more with him and his two sons about his experiences.
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