Hiroshima city is a miracle of reconstruction. Because of the river (an estuary which rises and falls with the ocean's tides), abundant rainfall, and hard work by survivors, the poisoned land was considered habitable by the early 1950's. The residents put fences around the few broken ruins which remained after the bomb, leaving millions of paper crane necklaces which they have made themselves.

I visited Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima at midnight, shortly after I'd arrived, to fulfill a promise I'd made to Native American friends who had given me a vial of ashes collected from a prayer fire at the Nevada Test Site last spring. As I sprinkled the ashes on the river, reflecting city lights at high tide, I thought of the radiation that had flowed from these waters into the Pacific Ocean and thus through all the waters of Earth. I imagined the molecules of ash spreading their prayer in the same way, healing our poor planet.

Prior to the Japan Peace Treaty of 1952, and the subsequent withdrawal of the U.S. occupation government, the Japanese were prohibited from broadcasting or publishing anything about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. People began grassroots organizing to spread the information by word of mouth.

In 1954 a Japanese fishing boat (the Lucky Dragon) was victimized by fallout after the Bikini Atoll nuclear test. Six months later a crew member died. The Japanese people were shocked. A big signature-gathering campaign was launched to ban nuclear weapons. Five million signatures were collected.

In 1955 the first annual A&H Bomb Conference was convened in Hiroshima. The 1,000 participants returned home to educate and mobilize their neighbors all over Japan. Thus the seed of Gensuikyo was planted.

At the 1963 conference, delegates decided to raise money on behalf of those survivors from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs of August 6 and 9, 1945 ("Hibakusha"), most of whom were too ill to work, had no insurance, and were ignored by the government.

The activists started "6th & 9th" activities each month to collect funds and signatures. Over the years they became extremely efficient at achieving significant results.

In 1985, at the 31st Annual A&H Bomb Conference in Hiroshima, the delegates launched a monumental campaign for global nuclear disarmament. Their goal: to collect signatures from more than half Japan's 120-million population on their "Hiroshima Appeal":


(launched in Hiroshima, Japan February 6 & 9, 1985):

"Forty years have passed since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the end of the Second World War.

"In spite of the intense desire of the A-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the people of all the world that such tragedies must never be repeated, nuclear weapons over one million times more destructive than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are now stockpiled, the result of the on-going nuclear arms race.

"The use of nuclear weapons will destroy the whole human race and civilization. It is therefore illegal, immoral and crime against the human community.

"Humans must not coexist with nuclear arms.

"With effective activities for the prevention of nuclear war now developing throughout the world, the elimination of nuclear weapons, as a common international task, has become most urgent and crucial for the very survival of the whole of humanity.

"Along with the survivors and on behalf of those who died and cannot now speak for themselves we appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

"There must never be another Hiroshima anywhere on earth.
"There must never be another Nagasaki anywhere on earth.

"Now is the time to call for the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Let us work together urgently to achieve a total ban on the use, testing, research, development, production, deployment and stockpiling of nuclear weapons."

So far Gensuikyo volunteers have collected 45 MILLION signatures on the Hiroshima Appeal by knocking on doors in all 47 prefectures throughout the country. They still need 16 million signatures by next August, the much-talked-about 50th Anniversary of the atomic bomb.

A delegation will then take all collected signatures to United Nations. Hopefully they will be better received than in 1993, when a delegation from Kobe was turned away at the door by the United States Ambassador -- the only one of fourteen U.N. Ambassadors visited to treat them so shabbily.

How to succeed at this campaign was a major theme of the Peace Conference in Misawa, with young people asking questions and elders making suggestions. One elder advised, "collecting signatures in the subway is a demonstration, not very practical as it's harder to check the validity of signatures, but a good way to recruit new workers. The real success comes from persistent door-knocking. Set yourself goals and live up to them. And don't let it bother you if they call you 'communists' or 'lunatics,' or tell you nuclear weapons are necessary to protect us all from Korea!"

How familiar that sounded!

The organizers seem to think they have a good chance of achieving their goal of 16 million signatures in nine months. After observing their efficiency, I won't be surprised if they do. I don't see how the U.N. or U.S. can fail to take this broad-based grassroots success seriously. For example:

1. Out of some 3,240 local autonomies prefectures, cities, towns and villages), 1,899, or 57.4%, have declared themselves nuclear-weapons free; 2,465, or 74.6%, adopted resolutions promoting the enactment of a law on state compensation for the atom-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the "Hibakusha Act"). There are some 300,000 surviving Hibakusha; the government admits to only 2,000 people having radiation disease, meeting the official "2 kilometer / 2 weeks" definition: they were within two kilometers of the epicenter within two weeks of the explosion. The "Hibakusha Act" passed in the Diet on December 9, 1994. The government doesn't admit responsibility for the bomb victims, but it DOES pay a nominal sum for the first time, say activists who nevertheless continue to press the government to apologize for the war.

2. A campaign was recently launched to pass local resolutions demanding that the national government take the initiative for an international treaty or convention for eliminating nuclear weapons. "The Japanese government is taking no position," Mr. Ide said. "It abstains in the U.N." on a similar annual resolution. "The government says it respects the three principles of Non-Nuclear Government, but it won't ask the U.S. to abide by these principles because it relies on the U.S.-Japan alliance."

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