As the 67th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approach, an American poet and other artists are calling on people to make sure such devastating events never happen again.
The recently interviewed artists are also looking for ways to help those affected by the Fukushima crisis because the nature of the two events lies in the same technology — nuclear power.
Arthur Binard, a poet from the United States, published a Japanese photo book in July featuring keepsakes from the hibakusha from Hiroshima.
The story of Hiroshima is not “something in the past,” Binard, 45, said in Japanese. “It’s a lens through which we can look at today’s world where nuclear damage has been spreading.”
Binard, who grew up with a jawbreaker named the Atomic Fire Ball, formerly believed the bombings hastened the end of World War II, saving the lives of many American soldiers as a result. But in his first visit to Hiroshima in 1995, he realized he had been unaware of the feelings of the victims.
During his stay, he picked up the word “pikadon,” a colloquial expression combining “pika” (flash) with “don” (the sound of an explosion).
The Fukushima accident in March 2011 occurred as he was busy publishing his book.
“The nuclear weapon and nuclear plant are the same essentially. Nuclear fuel is inside, just with different containers,” Binard has said on many occasions since the man-made accident, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Another artist, a singer-songwriter who goes by the name Metis, said, “I want to convey the preciousness of life through my songs. I think it’s my role.”
A passage from one of her songs says: “Born in Hiroshima; Grew up in this town without knowing the war; The mistakes we mustn’t repeat; Never again.”
Metis, 28, grew up listening to stories of the bombing from survivors, including her grandmother, who talked about the black rain tainted with radioactive fallout, walking around with her dead younger sister on her back, and sleeping alongside the body of her mother.
Meanwhile, actress Kii Kitano said she became aware of the difficulty and importance of passing on the history of the attacks while acting in a film about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
“Not being too sure of what to do is the genuine feeling of our generation, I feel, but we need to have an interest in this issue and notice something from it,” she said.
Kitano, 21, who is from Kanagawa Prefecture, said she was shocked when she visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in February. “Deep in my mind I had thought I have nothing to do with them,” she said. “I then realized the fearful nature of radiation which is not immediately visible or recognizable.”
Ryuta Ushiro, 34, leads the artists’ group Chim Pom, which is known for generating artistic expressive acts inspired by A-bomb-related issues. “We want to show (the aspects of) the society we live in seriously and without blurring them,” Ushiro said.
In 2008, the group organized a skywriting stunt in which pika was spelled in katakana above the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. It also added a picture inspired by the Fukushima disaster to a mural by the late Taro Okamoto in Tokyo’s Shibuya Station. “The huge sacrifice (in lives) from the atomic bombs was the basis for peace today, but many Japanese were indifferent to it,” Ushiro said. But the Fukushima nuclear crisis made people aware of the danger of atomic power, he said.
For 91-year-old photographer Kikujiro Fukushima, issues surrounding the hibakusha have always been pivotal to his career.
Expressing his opposition to war, he said lives were sacrificed in the A-bombings because Japan kept on fighting despite knowing it was headed for defeat. Fukushima said that Hiroshima as a city has been rebuilt but “the government did not save the atomic bomb survivors.”