Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have welcomed the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to an international group campaigning to eliminate nuclear weapons, but voiced frustration that Japan has still not joined an international treaty banning them.
“The young people’s activities have been recognized,” Toshiyuki Mimaki, 75, of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, told fellow member Seiko Ikeda, 85, after the two watched the Nobel broadcast side by side in Hiroshima on Friday.
The award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), follows the adoption in July of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN had worked with hibakusha in its campaign for the treaty.
During the treaty negotiations, Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, recounted before delegates his experience of the “hell on Earth” of the Hiroshima bombing.
He expressed hope the prize will “speed up the flow of countries joining the treaty,” adding that he hopes ICAN can step up its appeals to countries to join the treaty in order to “make it more effective.”
The treaty requires ratification by at least 50 nations to come into force.
Sunao Tsuboi, the 92-year-old Hidankyo chairman, said in a statement that he will “work with ICAN and everyone else as long as I live to realize a world without nuclear weapons.”
The ban treaty was endorsed by more than 50 U.N. members in September, but the world’s nuclear-armed states, Japan and other countries under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, did not participate in the negotiations.
In Nagasaki, upon hearing the Nobel news, members of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council broke into applause, saying the achievement gave them new motivation to continue their work.
The group watched the announcement accompanied by a photograph of Nagasaki hibakusha and longtime campaigner Sumiteru Taniguchi, who died in August at the age of 88.
In Tokyo, senior members of Nihon Hidankyo watched the broadcast in hopes that their group might be chosen.
Terumi Tanaka, who stepped down as the group’s secretary-general earlier this year, was happy for ICAN, while expressing “regret” that Hidankyo was not directly honored.
“We told the world about the inhumanity (of nuclear weapons). We laid the foundations for ICAN to do its work,” Tanaka said.
He said the win will “make an impact” on Japan and other countries absent from the treaty.
The coalition of nongovernmental organizations that make up ICAN includes the Japan-based group Peace Boat. At Peace Boat’s Tokyo office on Friday evening, a crowd of about 70 people shared their joy, with some breaking into tears.
Peace Boat founder Tatsuya Yoshioka said the awarding of the prize to ICAN “has the same value as if it were given to every hibakusha.”
Hiroshima hibakusha Nobuo Miyake, 88, smiled and flashed a peace sign at the assembled press, telling reporters he was “full of emotion.”
“This is a good opportunity to wake up to the importance of the nuclear weapons ban treaty,” Miyake said.
Separately, the older brother of Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia at age 12 a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and whose mission to fold paper cranes made her an iconic figure, said the selection of ICAN for the prize had instilled him with a sense of pride.
“It’s wonderful that these low-profile, often unseen activities have been recognized,” said 76-year-old Masahiro Sasaki.