by New Worker correspondent
ON THE evening of the summer solstice, last Thursday, close to the Greenwich Time Meridian and next to the Cutty Sark an amazing troupe of Japanese young men and women drummers and dancers performed to bring a message of peace to this part of the world.
They were from the Japanese Peace Boat, a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organisation that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.
The event was jointly organised by Greenwich CND, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the Peace Boat.
They brought with the two veteran survivors of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki in August 1945 and a young woman from Fukushima – devastated last year by an earthquake and tsunami that ruptured the local nuclear power plant leading to serious radioactive contamination of the region.
After the gathered peace campaigners, a large group from London’s Japanese community and local passers by had enjoyed a magnificent display of drumming and dancing, Inowe Nao from the Peace Boat addressed those present, explaining the role of the Peace Boat to connect with people all over the world and to campaign against the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
He said the boat has visited 80 ports and met 80,000 people – mainly in Asia and the Middle East and now London.
Kitano Shigetaka, aged 77, described how, when he was 10-years-old he lived two kilometres from the epicentre of the Nagasaki blast. “I was in the kitchen with my brother. The first thing was a brilliant white flash followed by a terrific wind that destroyed everything. We were lucky; we were next to a strong wall that protected us.”
After the blast, he said: “Our neighbour was outside screaming the names of her children, they had been playing outside. Everyone who had been outside had perished instantly.”
He said that he was still campaigning to make sure no one ever had to go through that horror again.
Fitano Kuniko, aged 74, had been seven-years-old and she had lived four kilometres from the epicentre. Again, she spoke of the brilliant white light, followed by a big wind that rattled and shattered all the windows. The room she was in was devastated. “I just stayed on the floor, covering my baby brother until our mother came and took us to the shelter. We were so relieved to see her we were in tears,” she said. She lost many relatives not long after from cancer.
Rebecca Johnson, a veteran of Greenham Common and a life-long peace campaigner spoke next. She said that the most recent calculations predict that if just 100 nuclear warheads, less that half of one Trident submarine’s payload, were to be detonated in a densely populated part of the world it would probably kill 17 million people at once – and injure and make sick many more.
“Within 24 hours the dust and debris would be filling the upper atmosphere of this planet and within a week there would be a significant drop in temperatures all around the globe.
“Agriculture all around the world would collapse and it would take up to 10 years for the atmosphere to clear and sunlight to reach the surface of the earth again.”
She said how Africans she had spoken to had been surprised and alarmed that although their countries had no nuclear weapons and were unlikely to be involved in a nuclear war, their continent would nevertheless be devastated and millions would starve.
“That would be the effect of ‘just a small, local nuclear war’,” she said.
She spoke of the need still to campaign to “ban the bomb” and get rid of all nuclear weapons.
The audience was then treated to another session of drumming and dancing, even more spectacular than the first.
Throughout the event an artist from the Peace Boat worked on a banner of the CND symbol portrayed as a wreath of wild flowers and leaves.
Mikami Kaori spoke of her experience of the disaster at Fukushima. Up until then she had little interest in nuclear matters. “We were told there were high levels of radiation but we couldn’t see anything. That is the most worrying aspect of radioactivity. There is no way of knowing how badly you have been affected.”
She is a young woman, in her early 20s and had planned to marry and have a family. Now she is afraid to do so in case she gives birth to seriously damaged babies.
“There are several hot-spots near where my home used to be,” she said. And she spoke of the rice farmers who completely lost their livelihood as their fields were contaminated.
The event was wound up with peace songs, in English and Japanese.