U.S. H-bomb Test Victims Remembered 70 Years on

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People pray in front of the tomb of Aikichi Kuboyama in Yaizu, Shizuoka, on Friday.

SHIZUOKA (Jiji Press) — Japanese fishermen who died after being exposed to radiation from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific were remembered in Shizuoka Prefecture on the 70th anniversary of the incident Friday.

In the city of Yaizu, flowers were laid at the tomb of Aikichi Kuboyama, former chief radio operator of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, who died six months after the explosion at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1954. He was among the 23 crew members of the tuna fishing boat exposed to radiation.

Just before his death, Kuboyama, then 40, said he hoped he would be the last victim of atomic and hydrogen bombs.

Before laying flowers, about 900 people walked about 2 kilometers from JR Yaizu Station to the temple where Kuboyama’s tomb stands, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for peace.

“Hopefully this tomb visit will be an opportunity for many people to get to know the incident,” said Keiko Kawamura, a sister-in-law of Matashichi Oishi, a former crew member of the boat who died at age 87 in 2021.

“I hope that Japan will lead efforts to create a world without nuclear weapons for the future of young people,” said Kawamura, 76.

In the city of Shizuoka, a rally to mark the incident took place Friday under the auspices of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, or Gensuikyo, and other organizations.

In the rally, there was a session on a remark by a former Fukuryu Maru No. 5 crew member saying: “We on board brushed our teeth and washed our bodies all with seawater. We suffered internal radiation exposure every day.”

Many of the former crew members of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5 have died because of illnesses including cancer. Only two are still alive.

It is believed that many other Japanese fishing boats were also exposed to radiation from U.S. hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific.

Setsuko Shimomoto, 73, of Kochi Prefecture, lost her father who was a crew member of one such ship. For the rally, she sent a video message from the Marshall Islands, where she was visiting.

In the message, she said she felt anger when she interacted with local residents who had been forced to evacuate due to the experiments.