By Keiji Hirano
SHIZUOKA, Japan, Feb. 29 Kyodo - The 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific, which irradiated 23 crew members of the Japanese trawler Fukuryu Maru No. 5 from Yaizu in Shizuoka Prefecture, severely damaged the fisheries industry of the port city and caused the crew and their families to become victims of discrimination, a former teacher said Sunday.
''Fish from Yaizu were shunned after the irradiation of the Fukuryu Maru was reported, causing a plunge in marine product prices, while the crew members of the vessel and their families faced prejudice and discrimination as people believed radiation was contagious,'' Toshihiro Iizuka, 73, said.
Iizuka made the remarks at a mock trial in the city of Shizuoka, which was held to look into who was responsible for the Bikini radiation disaster ahead of its 50th anniversary Monday.
''The Fukuryu Maru was considered an 'angel of death' by Yaizu residents. Fishermen's families in the city had to pawn their clothes to live,'' said Iizuka, who had just begun teaching social sciences in the city at the time of the disaster.
The crew members of the 140-ton vessel, better known overseas as the Lucky Dragon, were fishing for tuna some 160 kilometers east of the test site when they were showered with radioactive ash from the blast of the U.S. hydrogen bomb, code-named ''Bravo,'' on March 1, 1954.
They underwent medical checkups after returning to Yaizu two weeks later. Aikichi Kuboyama, chief radio operator, died in September of that year, becoming a symbol of the irradiation disaster.
After negotiations with the Japanese side, the United States paid each surviving crew member 2 million yen on average as ''sympathy money'' in a political settlement.
Iizuka said, ''People in Yaizu became jealous of Fukuryu Maru crew members over the sympathy money, and some said, 'I wish my husband had been showered with radioactive ash.'''
Because of the political settlement, the Japanese government has not recognized the crew members as nuclear-bomb survivors, or ''hibakusha,'' unlike atomic-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and has continued to exclude them from relief measures under Japanese law.
Matashichi Oishi, 70, who was a crew member, told the tribunal organized by a local group opposing nuclear weapons, ''We are H-bomb victims, but we are not (recognized as such).''
Of the 23, 12 have died, most after years of treatment for illnesses believed to be linked to radiation exposure. Oishi and the majority of his surviving colleagues also suffered from serious health problems.
The tribunal concluded that the Japanese government should request that the U.S. government issue an apology to the former crew members and the Japanese government should establish new legislation for the survivors so they can receive medical treatment through governmental support.
The hydrogen bomb test also irradiated residents of Rongelap Island, with the Marshall Islands government estimating 840 Bikini Atoll residents have died of health problems caused by nuclear tests in the Pacific from 1946 to 1958.
John Anjain, an 81-year-old community leader of Rongelap Island, said Sunday in Shizuoka that his son died of leukemia at age 19 after being irradiated at the age of 1.
''Our pains have continued during the past 50 years. I hope people around the world will cooperate for the elimination of nuclear arms,'' he told more than 1,000 people at an assembly sponsored by the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo).
Bikini bomb test survivors renew plea to eliminate nukes
By Keiji Hirano and Janice Tang
SHIZUOKA, Japan, Feb. 28 Kyodo - Survivors of the 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll issued a new plea for the elimination of nuclear arms Saturday ahead of the 50th anniversary of the deadly experiment.
On March 1, 1954, the blast from the U.S. hydrogen bomb ''Bravo'' irradiated residents of Rongelap Island near Bikini Atoll as well as 23 crew members of the 140-ton Japanese trawler Fukuryu Maru No. 5, known as the Lucky Dragon, as they were fishing for tuna some 160 kilometers east of the test site.
At a symposium in Shizuoka City on Saturday, John Anjain, a resident of Rongelap Island, stressed the terrors of nuclear bomb experiments, saying, ''Following the hydrogen-bomb test, women on the island started giving birth to malformed or disabled children.''
''Recent U.S. Congress members are so young that they don't know much about the problems Rongelap islanders have faced,'' the 81-year-old former community leader added. ''We need to let the world know how the U.S. government caused us these hardships.''
The Marshall Islands government estimates 840 islanders from Bikini Atoll have died of health problems caused by the nuclear tests in the Pacific from 1946 to 1958. Another 1,000 islanders still suffer from conditions such as leukemia and other types of cancer.
Matashichi Oishi, a former Lucky Dragon crewman, expressed concern over the development of nuclear weapons since the Bikini Incident.
''Nuclear arms, which were in the experimental stage at the time of the Bikini Incident, have become actual weapons,'' said Oishi, 70.
Oishi had been reluctant to talk about his woes after the incident due to fears about social prejudice and discrimination against A-bomb victims.
Of the 23 crew of the trawler from Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, 12 have died, most after years of treatment for illness believed to be linked to their radiation exposure. Oishi has also suffered from health problems.
He describes his hardships particularly to children amid the ongoing strife in the world today, such as conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying, ''Somebody must tell the truth.''
Meanwhile in Tokyo, director Kaneto Shindo spoke at a screening of his 1959 film ''Daigo Fukuryu Maru'' (Lucky Dragon No. 5), emphasizing the need to abolish nuclear weapons and to continue educating youth about the devastation they cause.
''Nuclear arms have been an issue since World War II,'' the 91-year-old told an audience of over 90 people, citing this week's multilateral talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. ''They can wipe out the human race.''
Shindo, whose film is a reconstruction of the events that befell the Lucky Dragon, also criticized nuclear nations who talk about eliminating weapons but do nothing.
In the audience were Yuko Teramura, 56, and her sister Tomoko, 53. They played the young daughters of crewman Aikichi Kuboyama, who died soon after the fallout, in Shindo's film when they were 6 and 3 years old respectively.
''I believe film is the best medium to teach children about the destructiveness of nuclear weapons,'' Tomoko Teramura told Kyodo News. ''It has a greater impact than just spoken or written words.''
The Bikini Atoll hydrogen-bomb test survivors and peace campaigners plan to hold several anniversary events, such as symposiums and a civil tribunal to look into who was responsible for the Bikini Incident, starting Saturday in the cities of Shizuoka and Yaizu.
Other than the Lucky Dragon, more than 850 Japanese fishing boats were confirmed to have been irradiated following the bomb test, and health authorities ordered the disposal of 457 tons of contaminated fish.
The Bravo hydrogen bomb was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Unlike atomic-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government never recognized the Lucky Dragon crew as victims of a nuclear bomb and has continued to exclude them from relief measures under Japanese law.
The Lucky Dragon fishermen underwent medical examinations after returning to Yaizu, but it remains unknown what happened to the crews of the other irradiated vessels.
A-bomb survivor denied stipends under statute of limitations
FUKUOKA, Feb. 27 Kyodo - The Fukuoka High Court on Friday reversed an earlier lower court ruling that ordered the government to pay medical stipends to a Japanese survivor of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki for a period when he lived overseas.
Presiding Judge Takayuki Minoda said the government has no obligation to pay the stipends because the statute of limitations on claims to such stipends has run out.
The plaintiff, Masato Hirose, 73, lost his right to make the claim under the statute of limitations as more than five years had passed since August 1995 when he was still eligible, the court said.
Hirose began to receive stipends in 1973 under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law. The government withheld the payment of some 330,000 yen over 10 months, from October 1994 to August 1995, when he worked as a Japanese language teacher in China.
In its March 2003 ruling last year, the Nagasaki District Court ordered the government to pay the withheld money to Hirose.
At the Fukuoka High Court, the argument focused on the statute of limitations since the government has admitted that Hirose was eligible to receive the stipends while he was abroad.
Hirose filed his suit with the Nagasaki District Court in September 2001 to help atomic bombing survivors living in South Korea get unpaid medical stipends.
Later court rulings have awarded medical stipends to Korean atomic bombing survivors seeking stipends they had been denied since leaving Japan.
The Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry now says it will provide medical stipends to atomic bombing survivors living abroad and pay unpaid stipends for the past five years.