Book review: Why Couldn’t Hiroshima Stop Fukushima?

by Mikiyo Kano

(Translator’s note: Kano was born in Seoul, Korea in 1940. After returning to Japan in 1945, she became a victim of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. She graduated from Kyoto University and worked at Chuo Koron Publishing Company. Currently a scholar in the history of women, Kano publishes books and gives lectures throughout Japan. This review is by Kano of her own book titled Between Hiroshima and Fukushima: From the point of view of gender .)

This question is what drove me to compile the book. Being a survivor of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima, hearing the question, “How did a country that suffered a nuclear attack ended up a nuclear powerhouse?” was painful. I felt that the survivors of the atomic bomb were being condemned for not being active enough. I quickly started a re-examination of postwar history with a focus on the time of the introduction of nuclear power generation in Japan, and the topic that emerged was the issue of gender. After the disaster of March 11, 2011, there has been a rush of publications on nuclear power generation. If there is any significance to adding this book, it would be its focus on gender.

In Hiroshima, people call the period from the atomic bomb attack to about the mid-1950s “the lost ten years.” During this period, the horrific state of Hiroshima was not shared with the outside world, and no relief measures were taken. It has been said that the reason for this state of affairs was mainly the reporting ban on the atomic bomb under the occupation.  But there was information plenty of information about the great powers of nuclear technology and the “bright era of nuclear power.” And all this preceded women’s demands for liberation. 

Gender was at work in the introduction of nuclear power. From 1954 to 55, nuclear power became “national policy” in the name of “peaceful use of nuclear energy.” Meanwhile, the anti-nuclear bomb movement gained a lot of momentum, and it was women who took the lead.

From there arose the “mothers’ movement” with the slogan, “Mothers create life and wish to protect it.” Men took on the role of growing the economy using nuclear power, while women picked up after the war and engaged in the peace movement. Isn’t it this gender-based division of roles that enabled the concurrent development of nuclear power promotion and the anti-nuclear generation movement? This division also matched the gender roles of the contemporary family, which was becoming popularized in Japan at the time.

In the second section, I have included some of my writings on the anti-nuclear movement and motherhood since the 1980s.

Adopted and translated by Naoko Hirose

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