Share every sharing options for: Hiroshima survivors want Obama come apologize. Yet the Japanese federal government probably doesn"t.


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Survivors that the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, (top indigenous left) Keiko Ogura, Park Nam-Joo, Sunao Tsuboi, and also (bottom native left) Shigeaki Mori, Misako Katani and also Emiko Okada. johannes EISELE/AFP/Getty photos
Terumi Tanaka was 13 when the atom bomb explosive a mile and a half from his Nagasaki home. He to be knocked unconscious however survived, defended by number of hills in between him and the epicenter.

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Five members the his household were not as fortunate. That remembers finding the burned bodies of his aunt and also cousins outside their home; another aunt to be severely burned, and when she passed away several job later, he and also his mommy cremated her themselves in a adjacent field.

Tanaka, like numerous hibakusha, or atom bomb survivors, has strong and complex feelings about President Obama’s historical visit to Hiroshima this week — the an initial by a sitting us president. Speaking to a small group of journalists, Tanaka, currently 84 years old, said he wants the chairman to accomplish with survivors and "acknowledge the the united state committed a crime against humanity and versus international law."

Shizuka Kamei, who lost his sisters in Hiroshima and also went on to come to be a powerful, conservative cabinet member, was much more direct, telling a group of journalists: "If chairman Obama’s not coming with an apology, he should not come in ~ all."

But while many Japanese survivors can want chairman Obama come apologize for the US battle of Hiroshima and also Nagasaki in 1945, the Japanese government might actually prefer that Obama not apologize.

Indeed, Japan’s vice international minister, Mitoji Yabunaka, reportedly told united state Ambassador man Roos the "President Obama visiting Hiroshima come apologize because that the atomic bombing during human being War II is a ‘non starter,’" according to a 2009 State room cable released in 2011 by WikiLeaks.

So why in the people wouldn’t the Japanese federal government want the united state to apologize for inflicting such a horrendous tragedy ~ above Japan? It turns out there room two reasons:

1) It would put pressure on Japan to apologize in kind

An apology from president Obama might make prime Minister Shinzo Abe feel compelled to sell his very own apology for Japan’s wartime atrocities, including the "Rape the Nanking" in China and also massacres of ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore— which, according to Yuki Tanaka, a professor in ~ Hiroshima City university I spoke with, were perpetrated in component by soldiers native Hiroshima.

"Obama apologizing would lug up the issue of Japan apologizing, i m sorry is something Mr. Abe desperately desires to avoid," Michael Cucek, an adjunct professor at holy place University’s Japan campus, called me in an interview.

Already, a team of much more than 300 Hiroshima peace activists space calling on the prime minister to join Obama in apologizing for the "grave war crimes nations committed."

Abe has actually long resisted such mea culpas, speak Japan requirements to end its "masochistic" feeling of guilt. In December, that apologized because that Japan’s usage of oriental "comfort women" together sex slaves throughout the war, but afterward he returned to his "time to move on" refrain, informing reporters, "We should not traction this problem into the following generation."

The same worries are currently surfacing in Hiroshima. When the bomb dropped there, 10s of countless Koreans were working on the soil as required laborers, and an approximated 40,000 to 50,000 to be killed. Critical week, a team representing oriental survivors dubbed on both Obama and also Abe come apologize and wrote to Obama, "We hope her visit come Hiroshima will not be supplied to further the Abe government’s intentionally of paint Japan simply as a victim."

Tanaka, the history professor, stated Japan might avoid together accusations the whitewashing if it followed Germany’s lead and also explored its very own culpability. That country takes the obligation so seriously there’s even a German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, to define coming to terms v one’s past.

"If you walk to the Holocaust museum in Berlin, you always see teams of student engaging in discussions," Tanaka said. "You walk to Hiroshima and also there’s no discussion, only victimization."

2) It could inflame a long-simmering domestic debate over nuclear strength — and nuclear weapons

An apology native Obama for utilizing nuclear weapons on Japan "could open up up a have the right to of worms" around Japan’s very own nuclear program, Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia university in Tokyo, said me once we speak recently.

Since the catastrophe at Japan"s Fukushima nuclear tree in 2011, prime Minister Abe has worked hard to contain a vocal anti-nuclear movement in Japan. ~ above the fifth anniversary that the disaster, that reaffirmed his commitment, speak Japan "cannot carry out without" nuclear power.

Japan now has actually the largest stockpile of be separated plutonium of any kind of country the isn’t a atom power, according to the wall surface Street Journal. And also that’s dip some battle hawks: "If Japan wanted to construct nuclear weapons, it can do it nearly immediately," previous Tokyo governor and military hard-liner Shintaro Ishihara told a team of journalists critical week. "And why shouldn’t Japan have actually its own?"

With phibìc Korea trial and error nuclear weapons simply a few hundred mile away, the view might be gaining traction. In April, quickly after Donald trumped mused in the new York Times around the opportunity of abandoning the united state nuclear commitment to Japan’s security and encouraging Japan to develop its own arsenal instead, Abe authorize a declare saying that the Japanese constitution does, in fact, enable for the advancement and usage of nuclear weapons.

"This is a federal government that is not ruling out owning and also using a atom weapon, for this reason an apology at Hiroshima is going come make points awkward," said Sophia University’s Nakano.

Nakano said Abe additionally sees a political chance in Obama’s visit, i m sorry comes simply ahead the Japan’s summer elections, and doesn’t want to damn that through apologies. Over there is already an upper home election scheduled, but, together the Japan time reports, Abe might get enough of a bang from Obama’s visit the he decides to contact a lower home poll together well.

If his party it s okay a majority in both houses, he is pledged to walk forward with changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Tanaka, the survivor who shed five family members, called reporters he thinks it is the dorn direction because that the country. "Our constitution calls for the peaceful resolution the conflict. This is vital to the survivors, and also I think if we have the right to share this idea v the world, the could end up being the worldwide norm." it’s a blog post he stated he hopes to provide to chairman Obama, even if it is or not the president offers an apology.

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Abigail Leonard is a Tokyo-based reporter and also former producer for Al Jazeera, PBS, CNN and also ABC. Her work has likewise appeared in Newsweek and also Popular Science. Much more details in ~ abigail-leonard.com.