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Antinuke Katsuma Yagasaki

 August 7, 2013

Anti-nuke speaker pledges to continue fight following wife's death


Katsuma Yagasaki, center, is seen with his daughter and grandchild at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on Aug. 6. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- An anti-nuclear speaker and professor emeritus attending the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Aug. 6 vowed to continue his fight, even after the passing of his wife earlier this year.

Katsuma Yagasaki, 69, lost his wife Yaemi, 66, in January this year. Yaemi was an indirect bombing victim, having been exposed to A-bomb radiation while a fetus in her mother's womb.

Yagasaki became an assistant teacher at the University of the Ryukyus after completing graduate school at Hiroshima University in 1974. He specialized in material physics and had learned mostly about things like magnets and superconductors, but he went on to become involved in research on nuclear weapons, depleted uranium bullets and internal radiation exposure. He also appeared as a court witness in a group lawsuit by bombing victims seeking recognition of their illnesses as caused by A-bomb radiation. Yagasaki spoke for the plaintiffs' side and testified about the dangers of internal radiation exposure.

Yagasaki met Yaemi while he was still a graduate student and she was a newspaper reporter. "I was taken in by her rich expressions and energetic manner of speaking," says Yagasaki.

He cannot forget the time when, before their marriage in 1971, Yaemi revealed to him that she had been exposed to radiation while in the womb. As she explained while they sat at a cafe near the university, a tear rolled down her cheek. Yaemi's mother had been exposed to radiation when she entered Hiroshima after the blast. She came down with cancer twice, and died half a year after Yagasaki and Yaemi's marriage.

"Nuclear bombs cause suffering of both mind and body, all throughout life," says Yagasaki. His experiences with the repercussions of radiation later motivated him to help the victims of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. Soon after the disaster struck, he entered the area and began taking environmental radiation measurements. He has also given over 200 speeches warning about the dangers of internal radiation exposure and calling for prevention measures. Yaemi, meanwhile, set up a citizen's group to help disaster refugees who fled to Okinawa, where she and Yagasaki lived.

"Though the fields we acted in were different, we both wanted to help people suffering from radiation exposure," says Yagasaki.

At the ceremony on Aug. 6, Yagasaki, as usual, kept a hand-written note given to him by Yaemi on his 70th birthday last year in his shirt pocket, along with a picture of her.

"At the ceremony, I felt agreement with the criticism of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Japan-India nuclear power agreement negotiations, and then as pigeons flew through the air, feelings of loneliness surged up and tears came to my eyes," says Yagasaki.

The message from Yaemi reads, "Katsuma, keep revealing the dangers of internal radiation exposure! The future of the Earth depends on it. Listen to me and do your best!"

Looking up at the summer sky, Yagasaki said, "I'll do what I can, as much as possible."

Meanwhile, representatives from countries armed with nuclear weapons were also present at the memorial ceremony. British ambassador to Japan Tim Hitchens said at the ceremony that his nation is working to reduce its number of nuclear warheads by 25 percent by 2020.

Israel, which is effectively nuclear-armed but not a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been participating in the memorial ceremony since 2009. At the ceremony, Israeli Ambassador Nissim Ben-Shitrit expressed concern over Iran, which is suspected of nuclear weapons development, and said that his country would consider joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty but the current situation makes doing so difficult.

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