NAGASAKI — Renowned singer Tokiko Kato, who took part in a recent documentary featuring a survivor of both atomic bombings, believes the United States should admit it “made a big mistake” if it wants to help rid the world of nuclear arms.
Kato, who sang a song and served as a narrator for “Niju Hibaku — Yamaguchi Tsutomu-san no Yuigon” (“Twice Bombed, Twice Survived — The Last Words of Peace Speaker Tsutomu Yamaguchi”), said she believes the atomic bombs were dropped not because the U.S. had no other choice in ending World War II but because it wanted to test its new weapon.
“By observing the history of one’s own country critically, the United States too can change its path,” Kato said in a recent interview.
She spoke of her visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum a few years ago to see the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. When she got there, Kato said she was shocked by the lack of detailed explanations regarding the damage it caused to the city and its people.
Seeing young Americans passing by the aircraft without paying much attention to the exhibit, Kato stopped them to tell them about the tragedy it created, but this made her feel the country has been keeping its dark history sealed.
Kato was also critical of the view that Japan is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. “It’s fiction. Japan is merely conducting its foreign policy under such an assumption,” she said.
Kato started to hold exchanges with Yamaguchi through her narrating work for a different, 2006 film on Yamaguchi, who died in January.
Yamaguchi, who worked as an engineer at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard in Nagasaki, was exposed to the Hiroshima bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, while on a business trip there and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later after returning home.
After losing one of his sons in 2005, Yamaguchi began to actively tell his story under the belief he had been kept alive to share his experience.
“The belief that only he can tell his story had given him the strength to do so,” Kato said.
In the latest film, directed by Hidetaka Inazuka, 59, and first screened late last month in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi is shown talking to high school students in Nagasaki about his experience of the bombings for the first time in 2006. The film also shows him campaigning in front of the United Nations building, asking the international community to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The film, made over a span of five years, features his meeting with American director James Cameron, who is considering making a film about the atomic bombings. The meeting took place two weeks before Yamaguchi’s death. In this footage, Yamaguchi is seen commenting in English: “I have done my duty.”
With the aging of atomic bombing survivors, Kato said she believes younger generations in Japan are also starting to forget the tragedy.
“People must take an interest in various developments regarding nuclear weapons and must recognize that people can do terrible things in war,” she said. “What happened in history will not die out. It is us, who are alive, who need to keep repeating the message.”
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