After almost a year researching the world's first atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, 70 years ago this week (August 6 and 9, 1945), I am here in Hiroshima to learn a about some of the women directly affected by the nuclear attack, and its aftermath. Three women and a girl. Three of them Japanese, one American. Two dead, two still alive.
Yesterday I folded paper cranes with Tomoko Watanabe, born to parents who survived the A-bomb, and a mother of three children. Inspired by the A-bomb survivors – known as hibakusha – Tomoko founded ANT-Hiroshima anthiroshima.org an organisation dedicated to conveying the reality of what an atomic bomb can do to people and to life.
For almost thirty years she and her team have worked to advance the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons from the Earth, instigating peace-building activities around the world, and promoting peace education wherever.she can and to anyone who will listen, especially the young and children of many countries. ''In order to find peace in our daily lives, we need to reflect on whether the state of our minds, our behaviour, and our relationships with others are peaceful or not,'' she says.
We folded paper cranes in memory of schoolgirl Sadako Sasaki who died aged 12 in 1955, from leukemia caused as a direct result of radiation poisoning from the atomic bomb. In hospital, Sadako believed that if she folded one thousand paper cranes she would get better. When she died her classmates continued to fold paper cranes. For the next three years they worked to raise enough money to erect The Children's Peace Statue placed in Hiroshima's Peace Park. In remembrance of Sadako and the tens of thousands of children who were incinerated within six seconds of the bomb exploding above their heads, or died of burns and radiation poisoning in the days, weeks, months and years afterwards. It was also their cry for peace.
Tomoko has helped publish books, stories and information about Sadako's story, books that have reached children in many countries in languages including English, Dari, Nepali, Bengali, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Swedish, Chinese, Korean, Mongolian, Arabic, Tajiki, Tagalog, Indonesian, Burmese, Khmer. ''What happened here in Hiroshima is very very sad. But please tell the children 'you have a power, you can change the world for the better. Never give up.''
Images taken on iphone, 70 years this week of the anniversary ceremonies to mark those killed and injured in the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki