by Mamoru Shishido, Evening Edition Department, Mainichi Daily News, Mainichi, Japan
February 20, 2012
‘Bikini incident’ survivor’s story relevant today as Fukushima crisis continues
Eleven months since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), with people still living in fear of radiation exposure, I went to hear what a man who was exposed to radiation 58 years ago, had to say.
Matashichi Oishi, 78, was a crew member of the fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru, or “Lucky Dragon 5,” which one day in 1954 found itself covered in the “ashes of death” from a nuclear experiment being conducted in the Pacific by the U.S., off the Bikini Atoll.
“Many people were exposed to blasting winds and extreme heat by the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Oishi said. “As for us, we were covered in radioactive white powder that rained down from the sky, and suffered internal radiation exposure.”
It was Feb. 11, and Oishi was speaking to an audience of about 60 people attending a study session co-hosted by a civic group and the Nishitokyo Municipal Government. He’d shut down the dry cleaning business that he’d run for years in Tokyo at the end of 2010.
“I’d always been trying to share my experiences through spoken and written words, but no one would listen to a mere former fisherman-turned-launderer. But ever since the disaster in Fukushima broke out, what I have to say is no longer ‘someone else’s pitiful story,'” he said.
That Oishi characterized his ordeal — an incident which sparked Japan’s anti-nuclear activist movement — as having been viewed as “someone else’s pitiful story” is testament to the turbulent road he’d been forced to take. Continue reading