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Japan mourns death of hibakusha leader Tsuboi

Tokyo, Oct. 27 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and hibakusha atomic bomb survivors on Wednesday mourned the death of Sunao Tsuboi, a hibakusha group leader who led campaigns for nuclear disarmament.


“I pay my heartfelt tribute to Tsuboi. We are determined to move forward with his thoughts in our hearts,” Kishida said in a Twitter post.


“Tsuboi cooperated and shared his opinions with us on many occasions in seeking a world without nuclear weapons,” he added, noting that Tsuboi, one of the three co-chairs of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, or Nihon Hidankyo, was in attendance when then U.S. President Barack Obama visited the atomic-bombed western Japan city of Hiroshima in May 2016.


Hiroshima was flattened by a U.S. atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, in the closing days of World War II. The city of Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, suffered the same fate three days later.


Tsuboi died of anemia-caused arrhythmia at a Hiroshima hospital Sunday at the age of 96.


Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, acting director of a hibakusha group in Hiroshima Prefecture worked with Tsuboi for over 15 years.


His death was a “strong shock as if a big tree fell or I lost my parents,” Mimaki said.


Tsuboi was a “calm and gentle pacifist,” he recalled. “I think it was regrettable that he did not see Japan ratify the (U.N.) nuclear weapons ban treaty. We inherit his wishes.”


Koichiro Maeda, the 72-year-old director-general of the group, said that he had understood Tsuboi’s death would come sometime. He said that he cannot forget Tsuboi relating his experience with enthusiastic gestures when his condition was not good.


Tsuboi “was passionate about telling young people his experience,” Maeda said. “His presence was big.”


“I am heartbroken,” Sueichi Kido, 81, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, said. “I want to thank Tsuboi for his hard work,” he said, adding, “We will pass on the movement for nuclear disarmament advanced by Tsuboi to the next generation.”


Kido recalled that Tsuboi would tell him, “Being young is not about age, but about whether you are living with the resolve of not making any more hibakusha.”


Terumi Tanaka, 89, Nihon Hidankyo co-chair who was with Tsuboi during Obama’s Hiroshima visit, described him as a very gentle person who worked hard until his death.


Tsuboi was “at the front line (of the nuclear disarmament movement) and made great contributions even in old age” through his visits abroad, such as attending the quinquennial review conferences of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT, at the U.N. headquarters in New York to spread his message across the world, Tanaka said.


Shigemitsu Tanaka, 80, co-chair of Nihon Hidankyo and head of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, also lamented the loss of Tsuboi, whom he called “a big star.”

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