The highlight of my visit to Hiroshima earlier this week was meeting Toshiko Tanaka now 76, a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor. She shared her story with me. Toshiko was 6 years and 10 months old when the bomb fell. She, her mom and her little sister were living 2.3 km from the epicenter and suffered severe burns and radiation sickness, but all survived. Her father was away fighting in the war. In the next generation of her family there are thyroid problems and cancer. Toshiko showed me the scars on her arm that are almost gone and said, “It takes longer to heal inside.”
Expressing her creativity through visual art, as she has done for over 50 years has given Toshiko a way to begin to heal. But it was only at 70, that she began to publicly share her story. She joined Peace Boat and has circumnavigated the world three times already. Peace Boat, a Japanese organization with a global mission offers cruises that provide a dialogue space beyond national borders. They offer educational and other programs dedicated to building cultures of peace that honor human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.
Yumi Kanazaki of the daily Hiroshima paper Chugoku Shimbun introduced me to Toshiko and brought me to her home, along with my friend and travelling companion Noriko Nasu Tidball (則子 那須). Toshiko welcomed us all with tea and treats in a casual, friendly way, as if we were old friends. I was immediately captivated by Toshiko’s dynamic hearty presence and the obvious intelligence in her gaze. Yumi seamlessly dropped pointed questions into our free flowing conversation which continued over dinner. It was pre–arranged to be so, as Kanazaki had asked me for an interview about my Neutron Trail activities.
The restaurant was around the corner from Toshiko’s home and we passed a tiny rice field to get there. We ate okonomiyaki, a savory crepe with a mountain of toppings that is a Hiroshima specialty.
Noriko and Yumi took turns translating, though Toshiko and I seemed to understand each other beyond language. Our life stories are different yet we recognized a similar spirit in each other. Gradually our conversation turned to global issues and humanity’s precarious situation. We reviewed the seeming impossibility of the world situation and the money being made by weapons production.
Spurred on by the energy of our conversation, I found myself sharing an idea I’d had for some time but not voiced openly before. There are literally hundreds of thousands of grass roots organizations lobbying for peace and nuclear disarmament around the world. Peace Boat is an important voice among many. Perhaps a next step is to connect these organizations to increase our power and potency. I spoke about Global Zero, a nuclear disarmament organization populated with world leaders, diplomats and retired high ranking military. Their platform includes detailed policy papers on how to achieve complete planet–wide nuclear disarmament by 2030. I wondered aloud if all the grassroots nuclear disarmament and peace groups banded together with Global Zero what might the impact be?
This afternoon I received an email from Kanazaki that her interview with me will be published tomorrow in Chugoku Shimbun. I am deeply moved. As the granddaughter of one of the key Manhattan Project physicists, being written about in a Hiroshima paper reminds me of our boundless potential for healing.
Next blog post… my visit to Nagasaki.