Tsuchida Kazumi was four-years-old when the United States dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. She was playing with a friend at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945 when the uranium-fission bomb “Little Boy” erupted over the city in an enormous blue mushroom of light and smoke. She was 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the explosion’s hypocenter.
They ran as fast as they could — Kazumi was too young to even understand what had happened — but her friend kept crying, yelling, “It hurts! It hurts!.”
She looked back and saw that he had been hit in the back of his neck; his skin was burnt; it began to shrivel up.
Her dad, who was out visiting a doctor on behalf of Kazumi’s older sister who had fallen ill, came home shortly after. He was covered in black soot and dust; she barely recognized him. Blood was falling out of his ears. After a month of intolerable suffering, he died from wounds associated with the nuclear attack.
Kazumi , a petite, energetic woman who sports a stylish grey-haired bob, is one of four Hibakushas (pronounced Hi-BAK-shas) — literally “explosion-covered people” who survived the atomic bombings — who visited Israel this week, for the first time, on behalf of a worldwide nuclear disarmament project, Peaceboat. They spoke at several events, their recollections presented precisely as Israel’s leaders agonize over how to grapple with the Iranian nuclear threat.
Although she doesn’t remember everything about the attack, Kazumi remembers vivid details about certain things — the screaming faces; bodies strewn everywhere, burnt to a crisp; figures that resembled slow-moving mummies. “I couldn’t tell if they were men or women, or young or old,” she told a Tel Aviv audience.
When she turned 13, Kazumi’s best friend died of leukemia caused by radiation from the atomic bomb. “I began to worry about my future all the time,” Kazumi said, pausing for a moment. Like other Hibakushas, Kazumi developed a pervasive anxiety about what would come next and had a feeling of helplessness. She also developed severe back pains, something doctors have been unable to solve.
Some victims died on the day of the bombing, others endured slower suffering. Many women Hibakushas didn’t marry or have children due to fears they would infect others or give birth to babies with defects.
Kazumi’s mother died five years ago, at the age of 95. When she turned 80, her mother — who had never uttered a word about her father, never spoke about the nuclear bomb, and never brought up the war — began finally writing about some of these issues, for the first time, in a small journal. In the process, she sank into a deep depression from which she never recovered.
Since her mother’s death, Kazumi said, “It’s my mission to warn about the spread of nuclear arms. No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki.”
The Hibakushas’ personal stories were particularly poignant for Israeli audiences, given the growing fears and incessant media coverage of Iran’s nuclear program and the Islamic regime’s oft-declared statements about annihilating Israel.
Also speaking at the Tel Aviv event on Wednesday, Nagayama Iwao, who was about 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) from the Hiroshima bomb’s hypocenter, noted: “Through history, there were people that, if they had them [nuclear weapons] or had access to them, they would’ve used them — like Hitler.” His comments were met with a palpably tense silence.
“We shouldn’t create things that we cannot control,” he went on. “That is why we [the Hibakushas] ask that this type of atomic capability not be available.”
While the group’s initial motive was solely nuclear disarmament, they also have concerns about accidental, uncontrollable disasters that can stem from peaceful nuclear programs — as at Fikushima, Japan in 2011.
Sharon Dolev, head of the Israel Disarmament Movement that hosted the Hibakushas, put it this way: “It shouldn’t be possible that with one click of a button, an entire city can be erased; that with one drop of a bomb out of a plane, half a city can be demolished.”
“What if 100 nuclear bombs fall?,” Dolev asked, rhetorically. “If 100 atomic bombs are dropped, and let’s say they are only as strong as the one used in Hiroshima, the result would be millions of deaths. The smoke from the attack would cause a drop in world climate, which would cause nuclear winter and usher in worldwide famine for a billion people. These people wouldn’t die directly from the bomb or its implications, but from the weather change’s impact.”
The estimated 23,000 nuclear warheads that exist around the world are shared between nine countries — the US, Russia, China, England, France, Pakistan, North Korean, India, and also Israel, according to foreign reports.
“Sixty-seven years after Hiroshima, kids are still getting sick… the bomb keeps killing,” Dolev added. In addition to the 250,000 people who died in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, new victims of the two bombings are being discovered today. Iwao is one of them.
After living a relatively healthy life, he was diagnosed with cancer when doctors found a 12-centimeter growth in his liver. The probable cause of his illness, according to the Japanese government, is radiation. Doctors said the tumor had grown, slowly, over a 60-year period.