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Japan's Atomic Bomb Victims Complain that Their Government Still Neglects Them & Refuses to Take Responsibility

Sixty years after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Japanese exhibit on the impact of the bombs has opened at the Chicago Peace Museum. "The A-Bomb: 60 Years Later," presented by the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, is one of many commemorative events taking place in the United States and Japan. The opening on May 6 featured live jazz followed by testimony before a packed hall from Mr. Yoshida Katsuji, a survivor of the bombing at Nagasaki. The exhibition, which runs to August 14, contains over forty panels; the same pictures that hang on the walls of the Peace Museums of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This is the first overseas atomic bomb exhibition to be funded by the Japanese government. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have sponsored overseas exhibitions in twenty-five cities in eleven countries since 1996, none of them supported by the national government. Sixty years after the historical event, for the first time there is a national exhibition. Why now? And what is its message?

The hibakusha (atomic bomb victims) received no recognition directly after the bombings, either by the central government or the U.S. occupation authorities. The wartime military government censored and downplayed the bombings and the scale of its victims. After the surrender, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) enforced censorship on the nature and extent of the damage caused by a-bombs, in particular the human toll of injury and death. At the same time, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Committee (ABCC) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki aggressively collected data on the impact of the bombing on survivors. That data remained classified, neither published nor made available to medical authorities treating the victims during the Occupation and after.

Due to the popular response to a citizen's movement, the central government finally acknowledged its responsibilities for the sufferings of the hibakusha. The first health care law, “A-Bomb Survivors' Medical Care Law” (Genbaku Iryoho), provided a health management allowance and medical care for diseases or injuries caused by the atomic bomb and its radiation effects. This was supplemented by the A-bomb Survivors Special Measures Law” in 1968, which provided financial assistance to the survivors.

The hibakusha and their supporters continue to press the central government not only for financial redress, but above all to insist that the government accept responsibility for having instigated and then prolonged an aggressive war long after Japan's defeat was apparent, resulting in a heavy toll in Japanese, Asian and American lives. Although some hibakusha consider the destruction from the atomic bombings qualitatively different from that of so-called conventional bombing, the fire-bombing that destroyed 64 Japanese cities, they also hope that other civilian war victims will secure compensation once the government accepts its responsibility.

Although the Japanese government recognized and provided treatment for the hibakusha, and although it sponsored this exhibit, it should be plain that the message of the hibakusha differs sharply from that of the Japanese government. Indeed, the hibakusha still struggle to convince the government to accept responsibility for its “erroneous” past. Despite the fact that such an admission and acceptance of responsibility might reduce tensions with China, Korea and others, there is no sign of change on the part of the Japanese government.

Read entire article at Japan Focus