• Kyodo


The mayors, many survivors of the atomic bombings, and many residents of the only two cities ever attacked with nuclear weapons have hailed the decision announced Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima later this month.

But others expressed cynical views of a trip left to the final months of the Obama presidency.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who has long sought a visit by Obama to the city, told reporters on Wednesday he expects Obama to “accept the feelings of hibakusha and reinforce his speech in Prague.”

Matsui said he hoped that Obama will “see the reality of the atomic bombing and share the victims’ experiences and their yearnings for peace” when he visits Hiroshima on May 27.

“I hope (the Obama visit) will serve as a historical starting point that advances the global movement toward the elimination of nuclear weapons,” the mayor of Hiroshima added.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said, “I respect the decision President Obama has made after overcoming many and various difficulties.” Calling the event “a historic step,” the mayor, who also sought Obama’s visit to the atomic-bombed cities, said he hoped that Obama will deliver a strong message toward realizing “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Akinori Okada, 87, who was about 2.7 kilometers from the epicenter in Hiroshima at the time of the explosion, said he wants Obama to “meet with and listen to hibakusha to learn how much anguish the atomic bomb has caused.”

“I want to listen carefully to what President Obama has to say,” said Yuji Egusa, 88, who was a student working on a nearby island when the atomic bomb detonated over the city on Aug. 6, 1945. Egusa, who suffers from a cataract traced to his exposure to radiation, hopes Obama will muster the courage to speak his mind while visiting.

Naoki Takaho, a 42-year-old company employee in Hiroshima, said: “The future will not change by delving into the past. I expect the president to deliver a message for the elimination of nuclear weapons, not an apology.”

Kunihiko Sakuma, the head of a group of hibakusha, said he felt the president’s “determination (to come to the city) as the president of the country that dropped the atomic bomb.”

Yoshiko Hirahara, the 87-year-old leader of a choral group of A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki, said she “did not think Mr. Obama would understand the pains hibakusha felt more than 70 years ago.”

But she added: “I hope he is able to imagine it by meeting with hibakusha and learning firsthand of their experiences.”

In 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his pledge to seek a world free of nuclear weapons. But many citizens in the two atomic-bombed cities do not believe any real progress has been achieved toward that goal during the Obama presidency.

Hiroshi Shimizu, the 73-year-old secretary general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, said Obama “should have come earlier.”

“I can see his political intention to make Hiroshima a stage to top off his career” as the U.S. president, Shimizu said.

“As (he comes from) the country that dropped the atomic bombs, I want him to feel the agony that the hibakusha felt and review what was done 71 years ago,” he added.

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