Shizuko Abe

An A-bomb Survivor as a Living Testifier

8. Peace Pilgrimage and Barbara Reynolds

One day in 1964, Mr. Koichi Tanabe, director of the Hiroshima House of Rest and Recreation, said to me, “Why don’t you participate in the Hiroshima・Nagasaki World Peace Pilgrimage?” This pilgrimage was sponsored by Barbara Reynolds, who was a devout American Quaker. Barbara came to Hiroshima in 1951 with her husband, a researcher of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (the present Radiation Effects Research Foundation) and saw the horrible damage of the atomic bomb there. In 1958, she and her husband protested against the H-bomb testing by the US government by entering the prohibited zone in Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. In 1961, she sailed on a yacht with her family near Nakhodka to protest against the Soviet Union restarting nuclear testing. She thought that nuclear weapons could not be abolished if people in the world did not understand the truth of the A-bombing. Therefore, she organized the“Hiroshima Peace Pilgrimage in 1962, taking Hiromasa Hanabusa, an A-bomb orphan, and Miyoko Matsubara, an A-bomb survivor, to 14 countries including the U.S. and the Soviet Union for five months.

Article that the delegation met the Lt. Governor of California (the article mentions that they met the Lt. Governor, not Governor)

For the “Hiroshima・Nagasaki World Peace Pilgrimage in 1964, 27 A-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen. The group included three doctors, three media reporters (from the Chugoku Shimbun, Fukunichi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun), and people with other occupations, like a scholar, a pastor, a farmer and a teacher, all of whom were to speak about their own A-bomb experiences and their viewpoints of their special fields. Most participants could not speak English, so nine student interpreters from International Christian University joined the group. Through her experience of the previous pilgrimage, Barbara keenly realized that without interpreters from Japan, it would be difficult to find interpreters locally who would be able to interpret the local language into Japanese. She strongly believed that at least English translators were required. The group comprised 40 participants, including her daughter and son who went with her. The leader was Takuo Matsumoto, Principal of Shizuoka Eiwa Girls School. When the A-bomb was dropped, he was the principal of Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School and concurrently the president of Hiroshima Jogakuin College. At the time of the bombing, 352 students and 18 teachers of Hiroshima Jogakuin were killed. He himself was exposed to the A-bomb and lost his wife. The Peace Pilgrimage continued for 75 days, stopping at 150 cities in eight countries–the U.S., Canada, England, France, Belgium, West and East Germany, and the Soviet Union.

We left Hiroshima on April, 16, 1964. For four days, we received lectures in Hakone by specialists on the countries we would visit and took a lesson on manners. Then, we traveled to Haneda to fly to Hawaii. After arriving in Oahu Island, we went to Hawaii Island. Staying in a temple there for five days, we talked about our A-bomb experiences. I don’t know what kind of stories the others talked about because each survivor went to a different place with an interpreter.

All of us flew to Los Angeles from Hawaii. In the U.S. mainland, we were divided into three groups to give presentations—-Northern Region, Central Region, and Southern Region. I was in the Southern Region group. On the way to the East Coast, we gathered together in a few places. We traveled by bus or car, and we visited universities, high schools, community centers and churches. Every day, we made presentations in two or three places and were given only one day off a week, Wednesday. We felt so tired that we slept till noon on some days off. Every night, we stayed with a host family, except for one night in a hotel in Los Angeles.

Whenever I talked about my A-bomb experience at a school, young people responded to me, saying, “The A-bomb saved hundreds and thousands of young Americans’lives.” I strongly felt that damage by the A-bombs was thoroughly concealed from them, and only the truth could be taught through education. Under the U.S. military occupation, the description about the damage, testimony or pictures of the A-bomb were subject to censorship and was not allowed to be shown in Japan, either. The actual damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not known to people, not only in Japan but neither throughout the world.

However, harsh words such as,“Remember Pearl Harbor!”were not thrown to us in each meeting. Instead, I felt through their words and deeds that the people who came to listen to me had feelings that their country did something really terrible. It seemed that they had learned that the A-bomb caused little damage, and when they listened to the A-bomb survivors directly, they were surprised at the terrible damage by the A-bomb. Meanwhile, I was so surprised at their warm hospitality. In Japan, some Japanese flung cruel words directly at A-bomb survivors and some stayed away from us. However, in America everyone warmly treated even a disfigured person like me. There, it was the first time for me to be treated as a human after the A-bombing. The emotional hurt I had harbored in Japan gradually healed in the U.S. Seeing Americans’comfortable lives and their consideration for the weak, I remembered an old Chinese saying by Mencius, “A person without a regular occupation can have no stability of mind.”

I came to realize that it was my mission as a living testifier to tell about the A-bombing to people who didn’t know what happened in Hiroshima. I told them that I came to America not to blame the U.S. but to convey how horrible nuclear weapons were, and that I thought that nuclear weapons wouldn’t be abolished unless people knew the truth. Everyone listened to me seriously.