It is the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Japan today. We all know that it was not only the quake and the tsunami that followed that caused such devastating destruction, but also the damage to the atomic reactors in Fukushima. Before March 11, 2011, I dare say that no one knew about Fukushima. After that date, it became a household word, unfortunately with the most negative of connotations.
Two years ago, I was in Nagasaki, Japan and, while what happened in Fukushima was of a totally different nature and took place under totally different circumstances, it does show up a common denominator: the consequences of what can happen when the use of atomic power goes wrong.
Of course, I visited the Atomic Bomb Museum. In fact, I sat on the very spot where, on a similarly bright and sunny day, also at 11:02 a.m., on August 9, 1945, the atomic bomb hit Nagasaki. A blinding white flash, all the clocks stopped and devastation hit the city and killed about 74,000 instantly and another 75,000 as a direct result, let alone the tens of thousands that suffered injuries.
The museum is a large complex and I spent a good three hours there. There are technical, political and historical exhibits. For me, the most emotionally charged exhibits were the every-day items that have survived in some shape or other, that had belonged to every-day people. The tags gave just enough identifying information, letting the items themselves speak of their history – the melted rosary (Nagasaki had a Catholic cathedral), the school-girl’s lunch box with charred rice, the photo of the dazed young mother with the dying infant at her breast…. I sat down several times on the benches provided in the half darkness of the exhibits and simply let the involuntary tears run down my cheeks. I noticed I was not the only one. Other visitors, young and old, Japanese and foreigners, male and female, had the same reaction. We were united in our grief and I am sure that all were thinking the same thought – we cannot allow this to happen again.