NAGASAKI — Sumiteru Taniguchi, a survivor of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki and a senior member of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, died of cancer on Aug. 30. He was 88.

谷口稜曄(すみてる)さん死去 長崎被災協


The wake for Taniguchi will be held from 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 and funeral services from 1 p.m. on Sept. 1, both at Heiansha’s Nagasaki funeral hall in the city of Nagasaki.

Taniguchi was exposed to radiation while he was delivering mail items about 1.8 kilometers from the hypocenter in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945 when he was 16. He suffered serious injuries, including severe burns to his entire back caused by heat rays from the atomic bomb.

Taniguchi spent three years and seven months in hospital from shortly after the bombing. During his hospitalization, he was forced to spend a year and nine months lying face-down on his bed because of his back injuries. Subsequently, he was repeatedly hospitalized to undergo treatment for his after-effects.

He subsequently launched an anti-nuclear campaign with other A-bomb survivors, or “hibakusha” in Japanese. Taniguchi participated in the activities of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council since its founding in 1956, contributing to improvement in relief measures for hibakusha and calling for nuclear weapons abolition.

Taniguchi became chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council in May 2006, and was appointed as co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations in June 2010.

Since 2008, Taniguchi had also served as a member of the committee to draft the Peace Declaration read out by the Nagasaki mayor at the annual ceremony to mark the anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 9. On behalf of hibakusha, Taniguchi read aloud the Commitment to Peace during the 1974 and 2015 ceremonies.

Taniguchi proactively talked about his bombing experience until his final years to pass down his memory as a hibakusha to younger generations, appealing for nuclear abolition and a war-free world.

He visited the United States in 2010 when the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was held at the U.N. headquarters in New York. During an NGO session, he showed off a photo showing burns to his entire back and said to the attendees, “Don’t turn your eyes away from this photo and look straight at it.” During the gathering, he emphasized that “nuclear weapons and human beings can’t coexist.”

When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nations in July, he said in a video message that was recorded while he was in hospital, “I’m very glad. I’d like (the countries concerned) to make efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms as early as possible.”

He earnestly expressed hope for the elimination of nuclear weapons and for world peace during interviews with the Mainichi Shimbun for its “Hibakusha” series, which began in October 2006.


‘The face’ of A-bomb survivors dedicated his life to pushing for a nuclear free world

(Mainichi Japan)

Japanese version

Sumiteru Taniguchi, a Nagasaki atomic-bombing survivor who passed away from cancer on Aug. 30, dedicated his life to advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons and peace on Earth. A man of action, he constantly asked himself the role he was to fulfill.

Taniguchi was generally a very calm person and spoke little. But when it came to the topic of peace, his words were many and infused with gravity. Progress toward a world without nuclear weapons had been slowgoing, and a couple of years ago, controversial legislation that would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense were railroaded through the Diet. He wondered how much the admonitions of A-bomb survivors like himself to rid the world of nuclear weapons and war were being heard. He held anger toward the atomic bomb and war, and fear that the experiences and memories of survivors were being forgotten.

At the base of what pushed Taniguchi to continue standing on the front lines of the anti-nuke movement even at the age of 88 was his conviction that the true horrors of atomic bombs could only be communicated by those who’d experienced them firsthand. As the number of survivors dwindled, and some suggested that children of survivors take on the task of passing down stories of the bombing, Taniguchi shot back, “It’s too early. We survivors are still alive.”

He also felt responsible as “the face” of A-bomb survivors. Footage and photos of a young Taniguchi, whose entire back had been burned by the bomb, had been seen around the world. In 2015, 70 years after the bombing, there was talk of Taniguchi being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work talking about his experiences and calling for peace. As his friends passed away one after another, Taniguchi undoubtedly felt even more of a responsibility to remain committed to the cause.

For four years, beginning in the spring of 2013, I followed Taniguchi for my reporting for the “Hibakusha” series. He had been in and out of the hospital, but the sight of him struggling to squeeze out the words he had to say about nuclear weapons, even when he was ill, was impressive. “I pity most the people who died on Aug. 9. I have a duty to do their part, too,” he said. No one could suggest that Taniguchi retire from his activities.

When I spoke to him in January of this year, shortly before his 88th birthday, Taniguchi said, “My lifespan may have grown because I’ve endured a lot of pain and because I’ve worked hard in the anti-nuke movement.” He appeared happy, with a renewed enthusiasm toward speaking about his experiences. He had hoped that he would live long enough to see the moment nuclear weapons disappeared from this world. (By Eisuke Obata, Kagoshima Bureau)

(Quoted from Mainichi)


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