May 25, 2014
For today’s course we finished a short route in Shizuoka City. After our first break, we made our way to the nearby bridge that crosses the Abe River or Abekawa. Today’s weather was somewhat gloomy. After marching for about an hour and half or so, we made our way to Yaizu City where we had lunch at a temple at Yaizu. There I met with Kasuya-san who has helped me so much along the way and has been an excellent translator. During our lunch, one of the local teachers gave a brief presentation about the tragedy of the Lucky Dragon 5 boat that was a tuna fishing boat. In Japanese is it is referred to as Daigo Fukuryu Maru. Luckily, Kasuya-san was there to translate his presentation.
The Lucky Dragon 5 was exposed to the radiation from the nuclear testing that occurred on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. The Lucky Dragon 5 crew were fishing outside of the danger zone as declared by the U.S. It is reported however that the atomic bomb that fell on Bikini was a thousand times stronger than the ones that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Several after hours after the testing occurred, they were exposed to falling ash that was highly radioactive. Keep in mind they had no idea what exactly was happening. There was also internal exposure since the food they ate was also contaminated by the radioactive ash. Sadly, their catch of tuna was contaminated as well. Shortly after their return home, the crew exhibited symptoms of acute radiation syndrome. Visible symptoms were hair loss, burnt skin, bleeding gums, etc. Aichi Kuboyama is considered the first Japanese victim from the hydrogen bomb that fell on Bikini. He died on September 23, 1954. Thereafter, many members of the crew died from cancer as a result of the radiation poisoning. To commemorate this tragedy, there is march in Yaizu that occurs every March 1st. This year, I was told that more then 2,000 people attended the march. I felt very honored that I had the chance to visit his tombstone and I bowed to him as a sign of respect and of course to send my condolences. This tragedy along with the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have sparked the anti-nuclear movement as the whole nation has been deeply affected.
After lunch and learning about the Lucky Dragon 5, we marched towards the nearby Yaizu port where the boat launched and docked. We then had a ceremony at the Yaizu City Hall. I can always count on a warm welcome from each city. The Shinfujin of Yaizu again presented me with gifts and donation. It’s such a great feeling to be given such support. This definitely gives me motivation each day to walk such far distances and endure the occasional pain.
Our march was pretty lengthy today and we had one last stop in an area called Ooigawa. This area has a jietai base. The crew members who were exposed to radiation flew from this base in a U.S. helicopter to the city of Tokyo to receive treatment. I was told that the family members of the Lucky Dragon 5 crew were skeptical and feared that the U.S. military at the time would take them from Japan to study them. Our march in Ooigawa lasted for about two hours. As usual we had our ending ceremony and I expressed to the peace marchers that attended today that I was truly sorry for what has happened to their country and their people.
What happened on Bikini Atoll is truly horrific. Too many innocent people throughout the Pacific have been affected by it and it is sad that there seems to be no justice in the matter. It is unfortunate that the people of Bikini were displaced and perhaps will never be able to enjoy their land as they once did. This is a sad sentiment since the people throughout Micronesia are deeply connected to their land. Furthermore, the people of the Marshalls are still fighting for just compensation. I’m sure that the fallout from the nuclear testing on Bikini has also affected the neighboring islands of the Marshalls including Guam since the cancer disparities throughout Micronesia and the U.S. continue to widen. As evidenced by the tragedy of the Lucky Dragon 5, it is ridiculous to think that nuclear testing can be contained and controlled. I will never understand what was the need for such testing as the tragedies in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki made it clear that atomic bombs do nothing but destroy and leave a legacy of pain behind. Taking into account our location, I think it speaks to how the people of Micronesia have been viewed in the context of war by the U.S. military. Had the U.S. military truly valued the people of Bikini and considered them as equals, the atomic tests would have never occurred to begin with.