YOKOHAMA – For aging atomic bomb survivors, it is a matter of grave concern whether their long-running campaign to see the abolition of nuclear weapons will be continued by the next generation, and just as important to them as passing on their memories of the 1945 bombings.
They may have a ray of hope in a 23-year-old descendant of an atomic bomb survivor who is working for a better future through a range of activities, most recently as a member of the student group that spearheaded last year’s protests against the security laws.
Mitsuhiro Hayashida is one of the founding members of SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s), which was launched in May, and has also been deeply committed since his teenage days to the effort to ban nuclear weapons.
“What drives me in my current actions are the words of the hibakusha I have heard all my life,” the senior student at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo told the audience at an event in October to oppose the security laws and nuclear arms.
Born in Nagasaki, Hayashida has been immersed in local peace education since his childhood and grew up listening to the accounts of people who survived the city’s bombing, including his grandfather, who entered the city shortly after the blast and handled dead bodies
His life took another turn following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, which began the day after he moved to Yokohama to enroll in university.
Realizing that civilian use of nuclear power can expose people to radiation just like atomic bombs, Hayashida was drawn to protests in front of the prime minister’s office in 2012. These demonstrations also drew the other youths who would go on to form SEALDs, such as the group’s leading figure, Aki Okuda, who was also attending Meiji Gakuin University.
While Hayashida’s current focus is on repealing the security laws that passed the Diet in September, expanding the role of the Self-Defense Forces overseas, he believes the activities of SEALDs are also connected to his mission to abolish nuclear weapons.
“I think debating national security issues will eventually lead to (the question of whether we need) atomic bombs, so in my mind these two issues are linked,” he said.
As the debate over the security laws heightened awareness among the public about issues of war and peace, it might have been a good chance for the campaign against nuclear weapons to gain steam. Hayashida said that didn’t happen because of deep-seated divisions between the organizations leading the effort for abolishing nuclear arms.
“I have grown up under the influence of existing peace groups and I respect what they have done over the past decades, but I’m also fed up with their ideological conflicts,” he said.