Atomic bomb survivors bring message of peace, hope to Halifax
The journey has covered some 20,000 kilometres. That’s a difficult distance for anyone -- let alone a 74- and a 76-year old.
They’re known as the “Hibakusha” and they are the survivors of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan almost 73 years ago. On a Japanese ship known as the “Peace Boat,” they’re sharing their story at every stop the ship makes.
Terumi Kuramori spoke through translator Daniel Read.
“And so because there are others who aren't able to be heard to tell of what they saw and what they experienced, what I want to do is to pass on that message and to take their thoughts and their memories and to pass that on so that people can hear the story,” she said.
She was just one year old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on her home city of Nagasaki. She survived only because she happened to be in a bomb shelter.
Later, she realized it was something she shouldn't talk about.
“The reason is because there was a lot of discrimination, prejudice against the Hibakusha at that time,” she said. “So you could either be denied a job, or people wouldn't marry you, or someone you were engaged to would then break off the engagement if they found out you were a Hibakusha.”
That happened to Terumi. She was engaged to a man who ended their relationship when he found out she was a Hibakusha. It's a heartache that followed Koji Uedatoo.
“About 400 metres from the epicentre, was where my house was,” he said. “The temperature at that point was about three thousand to four thousand degrees.”
He and his family survived because they were 10 kilometres away from their home, trying to find food.
“I am a Hibakusha and it's actually not really something I want to talk about, it's not something I want to think about, but it's very important to get that message out,” Ueda said. “And so, while I might feel discomfort, it's something I’m willing to overlook for the purpose of sharing this message.”
That message is being shipped around the world, but it's the first time that message has docked at Pier 21 in Halifax
Erin Hunt, the program manager, Mines Action Canada, thinks Halifax will lend the Hibakusha an empathetic ear.
“The people of Halifax have this sort of innate understanding of what the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went through and how they rebuilt their cities,” Hunt said.
Until the atomic explosions in those two Japanese cities, the Halifax Explosion was the largest man-made explosion in history until the atomic bomb attacks on Japan.
Canada hasn't signed on to the nuclear weapon ban treaty and these survivors hope their efforts encourage more countries to consider signing.
“That is, I think, the most important so that you know, Nagasaki is the last place that this type of weapon is used and that this kind of history never repeats itself,” said Ueda.
Their other wish: That they live to see the day it happens.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.