ArticlesAt the Death of Senji Yamaguchi, Hibakusha of Nagasaki and Leader of the Anti-Nuclear Peace Movement
July 8, 2013
Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
Senji Yamaguchi passed away on July 6, 2013 at the age 82. Burned by the Nagasaki atomic bomb in August 1945, he sustained terrible injuries and has suffered never-ending health problems over the years. Overcoming great difficulties, he rallied together the isolated and struggling Hibakusha (A-bomb sufferers) at different parts of Japan and co-founded the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) during the second World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in 1956. Ever since then, he has always been at the front-line of the anti-A and H-bomb movement in Japan, and has worked tirelessly and traveled across the world, sometimes against doctor’s orders, to inform the people of the world of the atrocity of the atomic bombing, and the urgent need to abolish all nuclear weapons, so that no more suffering of the Hibakusha would be repeated on anyone, anywhere on Earth. Notably he was the first Hibakusha who spoke at the Second U.N. Special Session on Disarmament (SSD-II) in 1982 on behalf of the Japanese NGO delegation and appealed “No More Hiroshima, No More Nagasaki, No More War!” He had been Co-Chairperson of Nihon Hidankyo and a member of Chairpersons of Organizing Committee of the World Conference against A and H Bombs.
We in the anti-nuclear peace movement in Japan are shocked and truly saddened by his death. But we are determined to carry on his will and spirit to continue the struggle to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world, together with the peace-loving people around the world.
Set below is Gensuikyo’s message of condolence at Mr. Yamaguchi’s funeral held on July 8 in Nagasaki. The message from Mr. Joseph Gerson, Director of Programs of American Friends Service Committee was also read in the funeral.
Message of Condolence
Senji-san, you have dedicated your life to the struggle to make sure the humans would never again experience the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is painfully regrettable that you have left us without seeing a world set free of nuclear weapons.
Ever since the first World Conference against A and H Bombs convened in August 1955, you have been always with us in the anti-A and H-bomb movement and the World Conference. In your last appearance in the World Conference in 2006, you crawled up to the stage of the Nagasaki Shimin Kaikan Gymnasium and held a microphone to call on the young people to continue to fight against nuclear weapons.
On August 6, 2010 in Hiroshima, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recalled the agreement to “achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” reached in the NPT Review Conference in May the same year. He called on the world to join together with the Hibakusha in 2020 on the 75th anniversary of the bombing to celebrate the end of nuclear weapons.
The power to achieve this goal can be found in the determination and activities of the people in the grass-roots of the world, as Senji Yamaguchi has always told us.
This year again, from August 7 to 9 here in Nagasaki, the 2013 World Conference against A and H Bombs will be held. Many Hibakusha will be joined by the people from all around the world, including grass-roots peace workers and representatives of the U.N., non-nuclear and non-aligned governments, all to renew their determination to abolish nuclear weapons.
There, we can no longer see you physically, but your will and spirit in the anti-A and H-bomb movement will always be with us. The anti-A and H-bomb movement in Japan and the anti-nuclear peace movements of the world will continue to grow the seeds you sowed, make progress and will achieve a nuclear weapon-free world without fail. When that is achieved, people of the world will remember you. Senji-san, thank you so much for your 68 year-long struggle. Please rest in peace.
Co-Chair of the Steering Committee, Organizing Committee of the World Conference against A and H Bombs
Representative Director, Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
Mourning the passing of Yamaguchi-sensei
Yamaguchi Senji was among the most courageous, committed and inspiring people I have been privileged to meet and learn from. Exposed to 3,000 degree heat and horrors of the Nagasaki A-bombing, he suffered excruciating physical and emotional pain and discrimination. Yet, with the encouragement of the first World Conference Against A- & H-Bombs following the 1954 Bikini H-Bomb “test” – at a time when many people feared those exposed to the A-bombs' radiation and discriminated against them – this terribly scarred but courageous man came forward with vision and courage to co-found Nihon Hidankyo, the Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bomb Survivors’ Organizations, and for many years he also played leading roles with Gensuikyo.
Throughout his lifetime, which included at least 20 A-bomb-related hospitalizations, Yamaguchi-sensei’s testimonies and commitments were among the strongest forces pressing for a nuclear weapons-free world. His speeches, autobiography and countless interviews helped us to understand nuclear Hell and illuminated the unimaginable: the deaths, suffering and destruction wrought by the world’s first two atomic bombs. His words shattered the antiseptic but deadly abstractions of nuclearists and arms control advocates and of the governments and societies that create and threaten to use them. This, in addition to what he personally suffered and his exceptional courage simply to live, explain why it was Yamaguchi-sensi who addressed the U.N. General Assembly in 1982 and why he is featured in the Nagasaki A-bomb Museum.
On more than one occasion, against doctors’ orders, Senji escaped from his hospital bed to educate people - from high school and college students to the world's leading peace advocates and diplomats - about the imperative of nuclear weapons abolition. When he implored “No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis, No More Hibakusha,” his voice rang with the most essential truths, anger and compassion that survived the nuclear holocausts.
Through the example of his life, he showed us that Hibakusha must be central to our understandings of the meaning of nuclear weapons, and in the struggle to eliminate them.
In large measure we have Yamaguchi-sensei and other courageous Hibakusha and Japanese activists of his generation to thank for the inspiration that assembled leaders from 127 nations gathered in Oslo last year to explore the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. He courage and that of other Hibakusha played central roles in putting the possibility of a nuclear free world on the world's agenda.
There is a saying that the spirit of a person who has died is present when they are remembered. Yamaguchi-sensei's courage and the ways that he transformed what he experienced and suffered into lessons for us all was a gift of love and a force for human survival that will continue to reverberate across the planet that he traveled. When we finally achieve a nuclear weapons free world, it will be in no small part due to the vision and courage of Yamaguchi-sensei.
Yamaguchi Senji, Presente!
Domo Arrigato for the life you lived and for the gifts you gave us.
Director of Programs, American Friends Service Committee – New England
P.S. For those who want to learn more from Yamaguchi-sensei’s life and the movement he helped to create, get your hands on a copy of his autobiography
Remembering with love and gratitude Senji Yamaguchi
There are realities that we need to face everyday . . . some happy . . . some sad . . . but it is news about the passing of special someone we love and deeply admire that truly penetrate to the core of our being. Senji Yamaguchi is my inspiration and will always occupy a special place in my heart. We will truly miss him during the World Conference. I know that we will continue to hear his voice resonating his unwavering commitment to peace and nuclear abolition. I will continue to feel his loving presence and even during the times that he was no longer physically able to come to the World Conference, his message is like magic that will continues to inspire and strengthen us.
When I got the news from my friend Taka-san, I had no strength to write what I feel deeply in my heart for truly, no words can ever express my gratitude to Senji Yamaguchi for the gift of knowing him, for the privilege of learning about his life and his courage and the chance to see him and laugh with him in rare occasions that I have been privileged to be present. My memory goes back to many occasions but two stands out: The time when a TV camera opted to focus his camera to interview Senji Yamaguchi while the Japan Prime Minister spoke during the Nagasaki memorial some years ago. And the visit we made to his home some years back thoughtfully arranged by Taka-san of Gensuikyo (together with Joseph Gerson and some of his close friends from Nihon Hidankyo). I had a feeling that would be the last time I will see him but my heart was full to see him happy.
Thank you so much for the gift of your life, your courage and your commitment. You will continue to live in our hearts as we continue to honor you with our continuing work for peace and nuclear abolition. God speed my friend and may you continue to smile and guide us in this journey that you and your colleagues have started.
Corazon Valdez Fabros
Secretary General, Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition
Director, Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Deeply saddened by the news of the passing away of Senji-san, a courageous Hibakusha who was in the forefront of the struggle for seeking abolition of nuclear weapons. Senji-sans' invaluable contribution to the cause of peace and disarmament would always be remembered.
On behalf of the Delhi Science Forum, I, hereby, convey to you our heartfelt condolences for the irreparable loss that the peace movement has suffered due to Senji-san's demise. The Delhi Science Forum would also like to reiterate that the contributions of activists like Senji-san would not go in vain and that the Delhi Science Forum would uphold the cause of general and complete disarmament worldwide, especially the abolition of nuclear weapons, with renewed vigour.
Joint Secretary, Delhi Science Forum, India
I am very sorry that Mr. Senji Yamaguchi left us. He will always be in our memories as the man of strong will and love for humanity.
Chelyabinsk Nuclear Victim Organization "Aigul"
Let me add my condolences on learning of the death of Senji Yamaguchi. I am sending this to my international list and am sure many on that list join me.
War Resisters League
Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the sad death of Senji Yamaguchi. I was privileged to meet him and greatly appreciated his contribution to world consciousness about the suffering of the hibakusha and the evil of nuclear weapons. May we dedicate this time of sadness to a stronger commitment to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons on our planet.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Please accept and convey our deepest sympathies to the
movement and his family. He was great hero and leader. We have to
build more youth of his caliber.
Rauf Mohamed Cassim
We mourn Senji Yamaguchi’s death.
My condolences with his family.
Special condolences to Hibakusha and Nihon Hidankyo.
And my condolences also to Gensuikyo.
Do Thi Toan
Hanoi Union of Friendship Organizations
With love and respect for all you do,
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Assam join in offering tribute to the great soul.
Amal Kumar Borpujari
My sincere condolences!!
A strong voice for peace and decency is now silent. A huge loss for his closest and for the anti-nuclear movement. But the memory of the suffering of the Hibakusha and their strong determination that there be no more Hiroshima and Nagasaki will live on.
1199 Service Employees International Union
United Healthcare Workers-East, U.S.A.
Please express condolences to his family on behalf of the Granny Peace Brigade.
Granny Peace Brigade, U.S.A.
It is with great sorrow to hear of Mr. Senji Yamaguchi’s passing away on July 6th, 2013. This is not only a great loss for his family, his relatives and the entire anti-war and anti-nuclear weapon movement but also for the victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam.
Let’s work harder, fight harder and get together with stronger determination. This is indeed the best way for us to show our respect for his dedication to mankind and our sorrow for his death.
Nguyen Van Rinh
President, Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange / Dioxin (VAVA)
Please convey our deepest condolence to his family members as well.
Nihal Dias and Kusuma .S. Dias
figure du mouvement contre les armes nucléaires
C’est avec grande émotion que nous avons appris le décès de Senji YAMAGUCHI ce samedi 6 juillet à l’âge de 82 ans.
Survivant du bombardement atomique de Nagasaki, il était une figure du mouvement japonais pour le désarmement nucléaire. Il participa à la création du Conseil des survivants du bombardement de Nagasaki, fut un des trois porte-parole de l’organisation japonaise Nihon Hidankyo (Confédération japonaise des organisations des victimes des bombardements atomiques) pendant 29 ans.
A ce titre, il prit la parole lors de la Deuxième session spéciale pour le désarmement nucléaire des Nations Unies en 1982. Il montra une photo de lui, célèbre depuis, avec ses terribles blessures. Il exhorta la communauté internationale à tout faire pour que le monde soit libéré des armes nucléaires. Il termina son discours par la célèbre phrase « No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki, no more war, no more hibakusha* ».
En 2005, il avait été candidat pour le Prix Nobel de la Paix. Ce dernier avait finalement été attribué à l’AIEA et son directeur. Senji YAMAGUCHI avait vivement critiqué ce choix qui selon lui servait à ne pas heurter les Etats-Unis. Lors des cérémonies commémoratives de cette même année, les délégués du Mouvement de la paix à Hiroshima et Nagasaki avaient eu l’honneur de le rencontrer et d’écouter cet homme dont le discours restera gravé dans leur mémoire.
La communauté internationale a perdu une âme précieuse. Son désir le plus cher était d’éviter aux générations futures les souffrances dont il a été victime. Aujourd’hui, nous nous devons de redoubler nos efforts pour que ce désir devienne réalité au plus vite.
Les obsèques de Senji YAMAGUCHI auront lieu le lundi 8 juillet 2013 dans la ville de Unzen (préfecture de Nagasaki).
Le Mouvement de la Paix adresse ses sincères condoléances à sa famille.
Saint Ouen, le 7 juillet 2013
I send condolences at the loss of a great man who gave fully of himself in the cause of a nuclear weapons-free world. It is also a wonderful photo of the two of you together at the microphone.
President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, U.S.A.
You have been a major voice and presence for all who have suffered from mans' inhumanity and you have fulfilled that role with the mind, the soul and the spirit that has given millions around the world the courage to join with you in shouldering the task of exposing and confronting the evils which armaments and the violent world created by their progenitors seek to bestow on our world. We thank you for your work, and we pledge to continue the struggle until peace becomes the way of humanity.
President of honour,
Peace Council of Aotearoa New Zealand
It is so sad to not have had the opportunity to see Senji Yamaguchi in person. His spirit will live in us as we continue the peace work we do.
Palau Nuclear Free