HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Sixty years after the atomic
bombing that killed thousands in the blink of an eye and
devastated his home city of Hiroshima, Sunao Tsuboi is worried
Japan may again be headed down the path of militarism.
The survivor of the world's first atomic bombing has vowed,
like many other Hiroshima residents, to keep the city a bastion
"Everything I hear these days makes me really upset," said
Tsuboi, 80, who was a university student when the bomb exploded
over Hiroshima on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945.
A Japanese girl waves a flag that reads 'Peace' during an anti-nuclear
demonstration in Hiroshima, western Japan August 4, 2005. Thousands of
demonstrators took to the streets on Thursday ahead of Saturday's 60th
anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing of the city, killing
some 140,000 by the end of 1945 out of the city's estimated population
of 350,000. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
Tsuboi, who was about 1 km (0.6 miles) from ground zero --
the point where the bomb detonated -- was hurled 10 meters (30
feet) through the air and suffered burns over much of his body.
"I get a strong feeling that Japan is leaning to the right,
that we're going down a road that we've been down before," he
said, his face still visibly scarred from the burns.
Japan's ruling party, in its latest call for a more
assertive security stance, this week proposed that the military
should not be limited to a self-defense role but should take
part in international efforts to secure peace overseas.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made annual visits to
Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine for war dead, seen by critics as a
symbol of Japan's past militarism, and a school textbook
written by nationalist historians has stirred criticism of a
Thousands died instantly in the Hiroshima bombing, with the
toll rising to some 140,000 by the end of 1945 out of the
city's estimated population of 350,000. More have succumbed to
cancer and other radiation-related ailments since then.
On Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the Hiroshima attack,
another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, bringing to an end the
military aggression that had culminated in its entry into World
Proposals laid out in a draft for a new constitution by
Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) mark a drastic
departure from the principles of the pacifist constitution,
unchanged since it was drafted by the postwar Occupation
A key section of the constitution, Article 9, renounces the
right to maintain a military or wage war, though Japanese
governments have interpreted it as allowing forces for defense,
the now-240,000 member Self-Defense Forces.
"We must by all means save Article 9. It may be idealistic,
but it's something that the world should strive to achieve,"
said Tsuboi, who heads a group of Hiroshima victims.
Recent administrations have stretched the constraints of
the constitution to allow non-combat support for the U.S.-led
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but many members of the
conservative LDP have long chafed at the limits of the
A DIFFERENT MOOD
Faced with the threat of North Korea's missile and nuclear
programs, Japanese public opinion has shifted away from
once-overwhelming opposition to revising Article 9, although
those backing a change still fall short of a majority.
Some politicians have even broken a decades-old taboo to
suggest Japan should possess nuclear arms.
"Japan is clearly leaning to the right and the trend has
become very strong," said Motofumi Asai, a former diplomat who
is president of the Hiroshima Peace Institute.
In Hiroshima, now a modern, bustling city of 1.2 million,
the mood is different.
"In places like Tokyo, pacifism is no longer 'fashionable'.
But in Hiroshima, it's still very much alive," Asai said.
"In Hiroshima, people have a strong sense of identity as
victims of the A-bomb. They feel they have to be a beacon of
pacifism and of efforts to abolish nuclear weapons."
The Peace Memorial Park and the A-bomb Dome -- the ruined
shell of a building that was near ground zero -- have become
synonymous with the city and serve as reminders of the bombing
60 years ago this week.
Faced with the passing of the generation who experienced
the bombing, most schools in Hiroshima have "peace studies"
courses to keep memories of the tragedy alive.
Students learn about it by listening to survivors'
"We should stick with Article 9," said 16-year-old Madoka
Tamura, a student at the private Notre Dame Seishin High
School. "Someone has to give up weapons, because otherwise
Some of her classmates said Japan may need a military for
self-defense but should keep to its pacifist principles.
"As a country which suffered war and as one of only two
cities to have suffered an atomic bombing, we need to have a
strong desire for peace," said Haruka Daimyoji, 17.
"If the military were to get out of control, we are the
ones to stop it."
Others said debate on the constitution and the military's
role was fine as long as politicians recognized the
consequences of war.
"They should first visit the peace museum, and then think
about it," said Keitaro Nomura, president of Hiroshima Junior
Chamber, an organization of young business executives.
© 2005 Reuters