Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivor Heals Herself by Speaking Out
被爆体験を伝えることの大切さ、そしてヒーリング

Toshiko Tanaka, atomic bomb survivor, and I sharing stories about our lives; thoughts on art, action and healing over tea in her home, Hiroshima, Japan. Photo: © Noriko Nasu Tidball 2014. (被爆者である田中稔子さんの被爆体験、彼女のアートを通しての行動、お互いの人生について話をする二人。田中稔子さんの広島の自宅にて。)

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.

Update: November 17 & 21, 2014: Here is the article Yumi Kanazaki wrote about our meeting: Chugoku Shimbun meeting with Toshiko Tanaka, in English, Japanese next link:
11月17日付 中国新聞掲載記事はこちら

I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. Photo: © Olivia Fermi 2014.

Next blog post… my visit to Nagasaki.

 

 

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Posted in Conversations, Neutron Trail.

4 Responses to Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivor Heals Herself by Speaking Out
被爆体験を伝えることの大切さ、そしてヒーリング

  1. Tina Cordova says:

    Olivia,
    This must be an amazing trip for you. I’m glad you’re having this opportunity. Me and my Mom were interviewed recently by Yumi and we were so impressed by her grace. She has a a beautiful, peaceful soul. the interview was very emotional for me. I felt very linked to Yumi and her people. Enjoy the remainder of your trip and many blessings to you and the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The people of New Mexico are forever linked to them.

  2. Olivia Fermi says:

    Tina,
    Yes it is an amazing trip and Yumi Kanazaki is an extraordinary journalist. She and I met through Jim Doyle, scientist and Santa Fe, New Mexico nuclear disarmament lobbyist. Without my connection with you Tina and many others in New Mexico I doubt I would have met Yumi at this moment. I also felt the profound connection between New Mexico and the Japanese people when I visited Trinity in 2009.

    You are so right. Yumi and I skyped before the meeting with Toshiko and I found myself articulating about the Neutron Trail in new ways. Delightful.

  3. Dear Olivia,

    I am so proud of how you are so open about your legacy to help people heal and learn by sharing their stories. What is especially great is that there is no judgement, just awareness. You are an amazing woman, but I always knew that 🙂 Visiting Hiroshima must be an incredible experience for you. I will write soon to update you soon on what we are up to (hint: tons!!). PS I will never forget eating with the silverware of Enrico and Laura Fermi at your house … they were truly alive with energy!! Thank you for that!! PPS Loved your TEDx Talk, when is the next one??

  4. Nancy Ocampo says:

    What I find most exciting is the idea of grassroots organizations banding together with each other and Global Zero to become one unified, powerful force. It’s the “United we stand, divided we beg” idea that unions use. If we are many, our voice is stronger. Keep doing what you do Olivia. Positive thoughts flowing your way from Chicago.

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