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A victim of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, she suffered severe burns; the pattern on her skin is from the kimono she was wearing at the time of the bombing.

Hibakusha (被爆者?) is the Japanese word for the surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The word literally translates as "explosion-affected people" and is used to refer to people who were exposed to radiation from the bombings.

Official recognition

The Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law defines hibakusha as people who fall into one or more of the following categories: within a few kilometers of the hypocenters of the bombs; within 2 km of the hypocenters within two weeks of the bombings; exposed to radiation from fallout; or not yet born but carried by pregnant women in any of these categories.[1] As of March 31, 2015, 183,519 hibakusha were recognized by the Japanese government, most living in Japan.[2] The government of Japan recognizes about 1% of these as having illnesses caused by radiation.[3]

Hibakusha are entitled to government support. They receive a certain amount of allowance per month. About 1%, certified as suffering from bomb-related diseases, receive a special medical allowance.[4]

The memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain lists of the names of the hibakusha who are known to have died since the bombings. Updated annually on the anniversaries of the bombings, as of August 2015 the memorials record the names of more than 460,000 hibakusha; 297,684 in Hiroshima[5] and 168,767 in Nagasaki.[6]

Panoramic view of the monument marking the hypocenter, or ground zero, of the atomic bomb explosion over Nagasaki.
Citizens of Hiroshima walk by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the closest building to Ground Zero to have survived the city's atomic bombing.
A photograph of Sumiteru Taniguchi's back injuries taken in January 1946 by a U.S. Marine photographer.

In 1957 the Japanese Parliament passed a law providing for free medical care for hibakusha. During the 1970s, non-Japanese hibakusha who suffered from those atomic attacks began to demand the right for free medical care and the right to stay in Japan for that purpose. In 1978 the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that such persons were entitled to free medical care while staying in Japan.[7][8]

Korean survivors

During the war, Japan brought many Korean conscripts to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki to work as slaves. According to recent estimates, about 20,000 Koreans were killed in Hiroshima and about 2,000 died in Nagasaki. It is estimated that one in seven of the Hiroshima victims was of Korean ancestry.[9] For many years, Koreans had a difficult time fighting for recognition as atomic bomb victims and were denied health benefits. However, most issues have been addressed in recent years through lawsuits.[10]

Japanese American survivors

It was a common practice before the war for American Issei, or first-generation immigrants, to send their children on extended trips to Japan to study or visit relatives. More Japanese immigrated to the U.S. from Hiroshima than from any other prefecture, and Nagasaki also sent a high number of immigrants to Hawai'i and the mainland. There was, therefore, a sizable population of American-born Nisei and Kibei living in their parents' hometowns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombings. The actual number of Japanese Americans affected by the bombings is unknown — although estimates put approximately 11,000 in Hiroshima city alone — but some 3,000 of them are known to have survived and returned to the U.S. after the war.[11]

A second group of hibakusha counted among Japanese American survivors are those who came to the U.S. in a later wave of Japanese immigration during the 1950s and 1960s. Most in this group were born in Japan and migrated to the U.S. in search of educational and work opportunities that were scarce in post-war Japan. Many were "war brides," or Japanese women who had married American men related to the U.S. military's occupation of Japan.[11]

As of 2014, there are about 1,000 recorded Japanese American hibakusha living in the United States. They receive monetary support from the Japanese government and biannual medical checkups with Hiroshima and Nagasaki doctors familiar with the particular concerns of atomic bomb survivors. The U.S. government provides no support to Japanese American hibakusha.[11]

Other foreign survivors

While one British Commonwealth citizen[12][13][14][15][16] and seven Dutch POWs (two names known)[17] died in the Nagasaki bombing, at least two POWs reportedly died postwar from cancer thought to have been caused by the atomic bomb.[18][19] One American POW, Joe Kieyoomia, was in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing but survived, reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the bomb by the concrete walls of his cell.[20]

Double survivors

People who suffered the effects of both bombings are known as nijū hibakusha in Japan.

A documentary called Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was produced in 2006. The producers found 165 people who were victims of both bombings, and the production was screened at the United Nations.[21]

On March 24, 2009, the Japanese government officially recognized Tsutomu Yamaguchi (1916–2010) as a double hibakusha. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was confirmed to be 3 kilometers from ground zero in Hiroshima on a business trip when the bomb was detonated. He was seriously burnt on his left side and spent the night in Hiroshima. He got back to his home city of Nagasaki on August 8, a day before the bomb in Nagasaki was dropped, and he was exposed to residual radiation while searching for his relatives. He was the first officially recognized survivor of both bombings.[22] Tsutomu Yamaguchi died at the age of 93 on January 4, 2010 of stomach cancer.[23]


A hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, tells young people about his experience and shows pictures. United Nations building in Vienna, during the NPT PrepCom 2007.

Hibakusha and their children were (and still are) victims of severe discrimination[example needed] due to public ignorance about the consequences of radiation sickness, with much of the public believing it to be hereditary or even contagious.[24] This is despite the fact that no statistically demonstrable increase of birth defects/congenital malformations was found among the later conceived children born to survivors of the nuclear weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or found in the later conceived children of cancer survivors who had previously received radiotherapy.[25][26][27][28] The surviving women of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that could conceive, who were exposed to substantial amounts of radiation, went on and had children with no higher incidence of abnormalities/birth defects than the rate which is observed in the Japanese average.[29][30]

Studs Terkel's book The Good War includes a conversation with two hibakusha. The postscript observes:

There is considerable discrimination in Japan against the hibakusha. It is frequently extended toward their children as well: socially as well as economically. "Not only hibakusha, but their children, are refused employment," says Mr. Kito. "There are many among them who do not want it known that they are hibakusha."

— Studs Terkel (1984), The Good War.[31]

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (日本被団協 Nihon Hidankyō?) is a group formed by hibakusha in 1956 with the goals of pressuring the Japanese government to improve support of the victims and lobbying governments for the abolition of nuclear weapons.[32]




See also


  1. "Overseas Atomic Bomb Survivors Support Program". Atomic Bomb Survivors Affairs Division Health And Welfare Department Nagasaki prefectural Government. Retrieved 2007-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Hiroshima marks 70th anniversary of A-bombing". Yomiuri Shimbun. August 6, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Relief for A-bomb victims". The Japan Times. 2007-08-15. Retrieved 2007-10-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  4. "30 A-bomb survivors apply for radiation illness benefits". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2007-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Yamamoto, Arata (August 5, 2015). "Hiroshima Marks 70th Anniversary of Atom Bomb With Prayers and Tears". NBC News. Retrieved 2015-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Johnston, Eric (August 9, 2015). "Nagasaki bombing remembered, but doubts emerge over anti-war, anti-nuke policy". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2015-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. US diplomatic cable reporting the ruling
  8. My Life: Interview with former Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka, Part 10, Chugoku Shimbun
  9. Mikiso Hane (2001). Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3756-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Hibakusha: A Korean's fight to end discrimination toward foreign A-bomb victims, Mainichi Daily News. May 9, 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Wake, Naoko. "Japanese American Hibakusha," Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved Aug 5, 2014.
  12. "Nagasaki memorial adds British POW as A-bomb victim". The Japan Times. August 9, 1945. Retrieved Jan 9, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. [1] This reference also lists at least three other POWS who died on 9-8-1945
  14. "CWGC :: Casualty Details". Cwgc.org. Retrieved Jan 9, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "CWGC :: Casualty Details". Cwgc.org. Retrieved Jan 9, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. [2] does not tell if these were Nagasaki casualties
  17. "Two Dutch POWs join Nagasaki bomb victim list". The Japan Times. August 9, 1945. Retrieved Jan 9, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. [3][dead link]
  19. It Gave Him Life—It Took It, Too United States Merchant Marine.org website
  20. "How Effective Was Navajo Code? One Former Captive Knows", News from Indian Country, August 1997.
  21. "Twice Bombed, Twice Survived: Film Explores Untold Stories from Hiroshima & Nagasaki". Columbia University. August 2, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Japan Confirms First Double A-Bomb Survivor
  23. "Man who survived two atom bombs dies". CNN. January 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Prejudice haunts atomic bomb survivors". Japan Times. Retrieved 2007-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/78218/1/9789241505130_eng.pdf World Health Organization report. page 23 & 24 internal
  26. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/268/5/661.short The Children of Atomic Bomb Survivors: A Genetic Study. 1992. No differences were found (in frequencies of birth defects, stillbirths, etc), thus allaying the immediate public concern that atomic radiation might spawn an epidemic of malformed children.
  27. Teratology in the Twentieth Century Plus Ten
  28. http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v88/n3/full/6600748a.html
  29. http://www.rerf.jp/radefx/genetics_e/birthdef.html (RERF)Radiation Effects Research Foundation. Formerly known as the (ABCC)Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.
  30. http://www.eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2011/04/11/1
  31. Terkel, Studs (1984). The Good War. Random House. p. 542.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Welcome to HIDANKYO". Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization (Nihon Hidankyo) website. Retrieved 2007-08-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Hibakusha Portraits, The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London, 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Carl Randall Bio, www.carlrandall.com, London, 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Hibakusha, Eastlit, 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Hiroshima's Walking Ghosts, Groove Magazine, Korea, p. 53, 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Stefania Summermatter and Christian Raaflaub (2015-08-13). "Als die Sonne vom Himmel fiel: Hiroshima: "Wer nicht dabei war, wird es nie verstehen können"" (in German). swissinfo.ch. Retrieved 2015-08-14. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links