21 Germany

The Japanese living in Germany

Mari Yokota-Wüller, who is from Mie Prefecture, is a violinist of the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra. Her husband is a German who comes from an old family. I met her for the first time in 2001, when she helped our peace mission from Hiroshima as a volunteer interpreter.

She had been interested in nuclear issues and sent me a letter inviting me for another visit. The letter said that she was hoping, as a Japanese living in Germany, to pass the message of Hiroshima to the German people.

In order to understand Hiroshima better, she came to Hiroshima on August 6th in 2002, for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony and the international symposium on the abolition of nuclear weapons. I learned that I could include Germany on this trip with a little less expense than a separate trip. The plan moved along steadily.

In November, I visited her in Recklinghausen, a neighboring city of Dusseldorf.

When I visited her for the third time in October 2003, Mari’s husband, Jandirk, had prepared a report about world affairs before and after the dropping of the atomic bombs. Large-sized pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki provided by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum were carefully backed with plywood. They were loaded in a station wagon, waiting to be used.

In the evening, Jandirk and I simulated how to convey the message of Hiroshima again and again in front of the people who had been invited for advice. Since it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for both the audience and us, it was not easy to reach the point where we could be satisfied.

I was still feeling anxious when I gave a presentation at the first high school. My next presentation there had more students than expected. We learned the reason at teatime with the teachers. The students who had heard my first presentation proposed to their teachers that they should hear my second presentation, saying, “We can attend your class tomorrow, but there will be no other chance to hear about Hiroshima. We want to hear Keiko’s story one more time.”

We visited two other schools the following two days. Similar things happened at each school even though nothing had been prearranged.

At the third school, a large entrance area was prepared for the last presentation, so that not only teachers but also staff could hear the presentation, since they would never have another chance to hear a story directly from a survivor.

I planted a pink rose in a flowerbed of the Wüllers’ house as a remembrance. I hope to visit there again in the season when the flowers are in bloom.


(With Mr. and Mrs. Yokota)

22 Sweden 2-1

Hiroshima Has Chosen Peace

Ms. Hjördis Andersson, a missionary, lived near my house in Hiroshima. She had many visitors from her motherland, Sweden. Most of them were people in the medical, educational and political fields. Each time they visited, I helped them study about Hiroshima. Sometimes I cooked Japanese dishes and gave them opportunities to experience kimono dressing, tea ceremony and flower arrangement.

In March, 2001, Ms. Andersson returned home to Sweden after retiring from her work here. I was planning to visit her six months later. As she told the people whom I had met in Hiroshima that I was going to come, various people asked me to tell the story of my A-bomb experience. The program was carefully set by Ms. Andersson.

In the middle of October, I started my bustling journey from Stockholm. During the journey, from the windshield I saw the forests covered with yellow leaves and mirror-like lakes. There was a flock of white swans in every lake. It was just like the world of Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky.

Every place I visited, people entertained me with potato dishes they cooked. They listened to my A-bomb experience and suggestions for peace from Hiroshima. Then, many opinions came up one after another for changing the current world situation in which nuclear weapons exist.

At every meeting I was asked if the A-bomb victims hated the U.S. I answered that most survivors, including me, didn’t harbor hatred of the U.S. anymore. Hearing that, they cross-examined, “What a surprise! Why? You experienced such a tragedy of the A-bombing, not ordinary weapons.”

“It was human beings who started the war and developed the A-bomb,” I said. “Because Hiroshima people know how disastrous the A-bombing was, we promised ourselves never to repeat human beings’ error.” Without exception, I could hear the stir among the audience.

I felt very strange to be asked such a question, as there were so many Christians in Sweden. In the Bible, it is written that thou shalt forgive.


(I gave paper cranes to the children)

23 Sweden 2-2

The Graves of Dead Soldiers

Off Göteborg, on the west coast in Sweden, the sea is dotted with small islands like the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. Ms. Berith Bryngelsson who was in Japan for 35 years, lives in the most southwestern island, Hӧnӧ, so, since my first visit in 1995, I have spent holidays with her every time I visit Sweden. The people with whom I became acquainted tried hard to teach me the right pronunciation of Hӧnӧ, but I’m afraid I cannot satisfy them even now.

In 1995, I told the story of my A-bomb experience for the first time at the church that Ms. Bryngelssseon belonged to and the second time was in 2001. Many people other than church members gathered to listen to my story. After my speech, a party was planned with those who were interested. Nobody seemed to leave. Everybody raised their hands and spoke their opinions. It was like a prestigious congress.

One person said that he was proud of his motherland because they hadn’t been involved in wars for more than 200 years. One tried to remind me that in 1950, awakened citizens released the Stockholm Appeal with the slogan, “Stop the Use of Nuclear Weapons!”, and collected 600 million signatures worldwide. I was overwhelmed by their earnest minds.

Hearing their opinions, I was very moved because I couldn’t find such a small island on my world map where those residents were living.

I served dry Japanese sweets, made in Kyoto, wrapped with small Japanese paper and green tea. For the people who usually drink coffee or tea with a big mug, that bitter tea in a little cup might have been strange. I pretended not to see that they were passing each other the sugar pot on the table.

A few days later, I visited an old church in Ӧckerӧ Island, connected to Hӧnӧ Island by a bridge, where there were graves of the war dead in the churchyard. They said that during the First and the Second World Wars, many corpes of British and German soldiers drifted to the shore. Ms. Bryngelsseon remembered that scene.

I went to the usual memorial concert for the dead soldiers. I listened to solemn music of Bach played on an old pipe organ. They said it was also a ceremony for Swedes to take an antiwar oath.

In August, 2004, I visited there with my grandchild, a seventh grader, and another grandchild, one year younger, in April, 2005. Offering flowers, we bowed our heads and prayed that the world wouldn’t become a land of war and that young people wouldn’t be involved in groups which justify killing people.


(Church graves for soldiers in Ӧckerӧ Island)

24 Sweden 2-3

Rekindle Old Friendships

1 In Ӧrnsköldsvik

Ms. Hélène Strömmer, a history teacher, is an old friend of mine. She had been anxiously waiting for me in order to get me to tell what happened in Hiroshima to her students. It took us more than a half day from Stockholm to Ӧrnsköldsvik by train and bus; about 500 km to the north.

Park High School was located on a low hill. I noticed a Rising Sun flag and the word “Welcome” on TV monitors here and there in the school, which were followed by the message, “Let’s listen to the A-bombing experiences of a Hiroshima survivor, Keiko Murakami.”

The students, who had been taught some by Hélène beforehand, listened to me with intense concentration. They already knew that Hiroshima was not only the matter of the past but also the matter of their future.

2 In Jӧnkӧping

I would name a lot of acquaintances here in this town-- Mr. and Mrs. Annita Westblom, Ms. Marianne Granath, Ms. Lilly Marie Persson and many more. I was busy with their good arrangements, visiting schools in the daytime and having meetings in the evenings. I also performed flower arrangements and kimono-dressing to introduce traditional Japanese culture.

At the last meeting in this town, there came a statement that the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Flushed by the words, I said, “Give us the Prize, please!! We’ve been committed to the cause of peace at our own expense with no aid.”

After the people left, a handsome young reporter came over to me, saying he was from Shinchosha Co. He started shooting questions and showed me a booklet of my A-bombing experiences. I looked at it with confusion. He said, “Keiko, I interviewed you when you told your experience in Jӧnkӧping for the first time. Since then, I have been working on the abolition of nuclear weapons.” Oh, yes! He was the one who listened to me with teary eyes when I spoke in Jӧnkӧping in 1995. He looked quite different from what he used to.

3 In Stockholm

The day before I left for Japan, I had an opportunity to meet Ms. Gunnel Andreasson from the Baptist Union, whom I had met in Hiroshima. She said, “More Swedes should know about Hiroshima. Come back next year when I will have prepared for your visit.”

As early as in the plane on my way back home, I was thinking of the next visit to Sweden.


(A-bomb Exhibition with the students of Park High School)

25 America 2-1

9/11 Ground Zero

Half a year after the 9/11 incident, the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition had a group tour to arouse consciousness in the US. Almost all of our members said that it would be possible for us to solidarize with bereaved families of the 9/11 incident, but I felt that it would be impossible. I thought it might be a good idea to see the site of the historical event, and decided to take part in the tour.

The ground of the 9/11 site was hollowed out, and it looked like potatoes with their buds taken off. Some workers were working there as if at a construction site. Things and messages related to the deceased were tied to the wire fence surrounding the site. It was extremely crowded with grieving people and onlookers.

We were interviewed by reporters just because some A-bomb survivors came to Ground Zero. Their questions were uniform, and they just asked if the site reminded us of the atomic bombing in 1945. Some members answered that it did, but I firmly denied it.

We met a group of bereaved families, Peaceful Tomorrows. The group not only had made a suggestion for the Bush Administration, which launched the attack on Afghanistan, to cut the chain of hatred, but also they had been to Afghanistan during wartime to give humanitarian aid. I wanted to give a high evaluation on their pacifism amidst the public opinion in the US approving the attacks on Afghanistan. However, I felt discomfort deepening when they said that they had suffered the same kind of damage as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the evening a meeting was held at a Buddhist temple. Some bereaved families of the 9/11 incident talked about the deceased and their lonely feelings. The Japanese counterparts also talked about how the Atomic-bombings were disastrous. Both sides actively took the floor to seek the way to peace without war under the same themes such as misery, death, and loneliness, which were shared by both of us in understanding.

I made a remark as follows, “Although I share grief and anger with you, be gratified that the incident was not the one caused by a nuclear weapon. Link your energy appealing for peace with the energy working to abolish nuclear weapons, while protesting against the belligerent Bush administration. Face up to the present situation in your country, which takes it for granted that the US is a superpower. Depleted uranium ammunition, derived from the uranium enrichment process, with Uranium-235 left unused in the process, has been used since the Gulf War in 1991. It scatters radioactive material. The whole world will be soon contaminated with radiation. The world is steadily heading for destruction.”

When the meeting was over, some young people came up to me, saying, “The US should take the initiative in abolishing nuclear weapons. Then, all of us--Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and good US citizens--could work together in solidarity.” Finally I felt we were on a common ground.


(Friendship exchanged with Peaceful Tomorrows members)

26 America 2-2

Washington, D.C.

Ms. Picciotto was sitting-in at the Mall that overlooked the White House. Having emigrated from Spain to the US in the 1960s, she worried about America’s military buildup and its foreign policies and tried lobbying in vain. She thought that “a direct appeal to the President” would be the only way. Disposing of her household goods, she began a sit-in in 1981 with nuclear abolition messages on a standing board. All year around, rain or shine, she never took a day off, they say. She is a symbolic figure to anti-nuclear activists.

There were strict rules and regulations in the Mall, and her place might be removed during her short absence. She needed ideas as well as patience. Supporters came around spontaneously to extend help. Her meals were only something provided by her supporters or leftovers from shops. Her clothes were most likely handed-down from somebody.

Arriving at the Mall, we looked around and located her easily. Surrounded by the media, we walked to her. She came with her hands wide open and hugged us.

The standing board, serving as a windshield for her, had lots of message clips from all over the world. Among them were comments and pictures from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She kept busy, since people who heard about her often visited her.

We said good-bye to her, and joined the march toward the Energy Department to appeal against nuclear weapons. Holding a banner with anti-nuclear messages, we were led by the drums of yellow-clad training monks of “Nihonzan Myohoji” living in America. How many times did we hear “Remember Pearl Harbor” or “Jap, go home” from the people along the street? There were, however, some people who waved to show their support.

The security at the Energy Department was so tight we could not get close. The least we could do was surround it at a distance, shouting anti-nuclear messages. Security guards appeared taking pictures of us. Despite that, we held a sit-in along the sidewalk for a long time.

When I visited again in April, 2005, Ms. Picciotto was not seen any more at the Mall. As she was such a determined person, she was most likely forced to leave. It was about the time the NPT Review Conference was to be held, and the atmosphere was tense everywhere.


(Ms. Picciotto)

27 America 2-3


Atlanta is the birthplace of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the setting of the novel, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. My poor knowledge about Atlanta was limited to that much.

It was May, 2002 when our anti-nuclear peace mission visited Atlanta. Skyscrapers stood in the downtown area and cars sped on the freeway. You could hardly imagine the old days when slaves were picking cotton, but the majority we saw were African Americans, which might stimulate your imagination as a reflection of historical legacy.

Those are the kind of people who will be recruited once war started, and Atlanta is, in a way, a place where such people are living. Therefore, there were teachers who wanted their students to hear about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Taking every opportunity on either TV or radio, each of us spoke to the people to appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons, not to blame the A-bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While on the air, the studio received quite a few calls, saying “Remember Pearl Harbor,” from listeners. As representatives, we had conversations with those callers, which was also broadcasted.

The night before our school visit, we had a phone call when a preparation meeting was going on. It was from a teacher of the school we were to visit. We learned that the Board of Education had told the school not to receive the Hiroshima Nagasaki anti-nuclear peace mission. We were discussing the preparation in details, and our conversation halted at the news.

Conversation with the students was something we most wanted. We had leis made of paper cranes from the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the students in Atlanta. Some of our team members had hastily crammed English, wishing to use it.

The media people accompanying us were watching the process, holding their breaths. Time passed as if clock hands were making a quick move, and the date arrived before we realized it.

The phone rang again. The voice on the other end said that the teachers were prepared for possible punishment from the Board of Education and were willing to facilitate us to tell our stories to their students.

Hearing those words, we made up our mind to go ahead. However, we were afraid if the event were reported could we go back home safely in case some of us were arrested? Might we lose our reentry capacity? Our discussion was endlessly repeated.

The phone rang a third time. It was from a teacher at the school. It was suggested that we wait outside the school gate for students to come out after school, and stop them for a conversation. Since we were thinking the same way, the decision was made right away. It was shortly before dawn.

In the afternoon, we put the leis of paper cranes around students’ necks. They said to us, “We wanted to hear the stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We will try to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”


(With teachers in Atlanta)

28 Sweden 3-1

Eyes on the Conflict Area

As I presumed I would be exhausted mentally and physically due to my long journey for one and half months from October, 2002, I asked two translators who were familiar with Hiroshima to come along with me. Keiko Miyamoto helped me in the first half of the tour, and Kazuko Ichikawa helped in the latter. It is said that most Swedes can speak English, but it is only true with the younger generation.

By car, train and underground, we visited schools, churches and other locations to take part in programs and parties for my mission.

When the radio station in Söderӓlje asked me to join their program, I suddenly got an idea that the Hiroshima song “Hiroshima Sprit as the Life of New World” could be great background music for my talk. So I gave the cassette tape, which was recorded from a live performance on 6th August of that year at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and asked them to play it when I spoke.

I talked about my A-bomb experience and wished for the elimination of nuclear weapons while the music was playing on the studio.

A week later, I moved to Vӓsterås where Ms. Maria Björk was waiting for me. She was a teacher at a Swedish school in Shizuoka around thirty years ago. I expected she could speak Japanese, but she forgot most of it. So she introduced Ms. Ulla Walldén who spoke Japanese fluently as an interpreter. Keiko Miyamoto seemed to be disappointed because of no chance for her to help me as an interpreter. However, in the questions and answer session after I told my experiences, she tried to tell them what she had learned about Hiroshima. I am sure it was a great experience for her and also educational for me.

What was most impressive in the programs was a gathering by a church women’s group.

When I entered the church, I saw them making rolls of bandages with used cotton linen at the table. They said that they would send them to the Medicines Sans Frontiers, which was working in the tribal conflict area of Congo. “We are extending a helping hand to plights on earth. Tonight we are using our hands for them in Congo, but we will pay attention to your story of Hiroshima. Please go ahead, we will listen to you. Nuclear weapons must not be used for any reason.” the representative woman of the group said to us. I told them my experiences of A-bomb as much as I could in such an unusual situation as I had ever had. Keiko joined the group to make bandages as there was no need for interpreting.

They finished their work when I ended my story. The choir came into the room quietly after their practice in the music room and sang a hymn. After that everyone there exchanged nods and went home.


(Telling the A-bomb story to the women busy with handwork)

29 Sweden 3-2

More about Hiroshima

Norrköping is located 120 km to the southwest of Stockholm. Ms. Birgit Fjällgård, a professor of a medical university, invited us to her house. She used to be a missionary in India, so there were a lot of elephant goods in her rooms, such as objects, fabrics and wall decorations. All her visitors looked forward to seeing those goods, she said.

I met a woman student from Iran at her university. She said that though she fled from her war-torn country, she would like to go back to Iran and contribute her medical skills to her own people in the future. She also said that there were many students who fled from Middle Eastern countries around there, but they had no problem being together, even if their countries had an adversarial relationship. She was also familiar with the damage from depleted uranium ammunition. When I presented her with the Takashi Moriizumi photograph collection, she seemed to be convinced of it and turned the pages nodding.

We held a party for antiwar and ant-nuclear activists at Birgit’s house. Some requested us to cook Oden, so we rushed to the market to get the ingredients. Although we couldn’t find proper stuff, we managed to cook Oden. One of the guests who had been to Osaka and Hiroshima said, “I am the one who asked you to cook Oden. The smell reminds me of Japan. .”

Borås is located 250 km more southwest of Norrköping and one of the leading industrial areas in Sweden. Basically Sweden has a small population. They used to rely on immigrants as their work force; therefore, industries were likely to be vulnerable. However, it is said that its economic power revived due to an inflow of a dramatically increasing number of refugees becoming employees after the nation joined the E.U. in 1995.

I heard there were around 300 students from 36 nations in the church-affiliated school I visited. Each student was different in their skin or hair color and physique. So were their stories--how they reached there. They had to learn Swedish language in class, but we found they were speaking English in private. Keiko, my interpreter, joined them at the break time and we talked about Hiroshima eagerly.

This lecture was open to the citizens; so many people occupied the back seats of the class. Mr. Jan Smedmyr, one of the attendees, invited me to dinner. He has been to Japan many times on his trading business. “I do business with Japanese people in hot springs or traditional Japanese restaurants through drinking (“nominications” he said) rather than in the office. The Japanese business style confused me at first, but I got used to it.” he said and made us laugh. But he seriously said, “People in the world must know more about what happened in Hiroshima.”

Two months after we returned to Japan, he asked me to give a lecture at the training session for a thousand young people, which was to be supported by Swedish educational and financial circles, in the following year, 2003.

(Landscape of Norrköping )

( Students eagerly asking questions)

30 Sweden 3-3

Toward the Prevention of Nuclear War

When Dr. Gábor Runkmani and his wife came to Hiroshima from Sweden, I invited them to a Christmas service held in Nagarekawa Church on Christma Eve in 2001. Gábor, who is from the Czech Republic and a Christian, was pleased to spend Christmas in Hiroshima. Although his wife, Tiroler, was a Buddhist, she said, "I would like to go to church if I have a chance."

On stepping into the church, we were surrounded by the solemn tone of a pipe organ. An A-bombed and charred cross was hanged from the ceiling at the front of the chapel. When Gábor and Tiroler looked up at it, they were overwhelmed by the tragic sight and left speechless.

The next year, at the invitation of Gábor and Tiroler, I attended the workshop of SSAMK, Sjuksköterskor Sjukgymnaster och Analytiker Most Kämvapen, a Swedish medical experts group, which protests against nuclear weapons. In November, it is already getting dark after three o'clock in Uppsala, which is famous as a historical seat of learning. Powdery snow like starch enchanted the whole town and made students riding bikes look like figures shown in silhouette.

The workshop discussed nuclear issues not only from a medical perspective, but also from a moral and economic perspective as an EU member. As some materials from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum were displayed in the workshop, attendants paid close attention to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As knowledgeable doctors, they listened attentively to my A-bombing experience. Dr. Runkmani published papers on the aftereffects of the A-bombing after he visited Hiroshima, and he got a deluge of questions in the workshop. I could not fully understand the technical discussions, but I could feel their enthusiasm against war and nuclear weapons. That night, I went to the Uppsala Cathedral to hear "The Creation" composed by Haydn.

Since this visit, whenever I visit Sweden I never fail to see the cityscape of Uppsala out of the train window without remembering spending Christmas Eve with Dr. Runkmani and his wife, meeting with doctors who devoted themselves to abolition of nuclear weapons, and hearing the solemn "The Creation."

SSAMK is a philanthropic institution related to the IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. I will write about the IPPNW that I met in Germany next time.


(SSAMK members enjoying conversation between meetings)