On May 27, 2016, President Barack Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima. In addition to the guests invited by the Japanese government and other local organizations to the ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the U.S. government invited the following atomic bomb survivors and others involved in U.S.-Japan relations as special guests to attend with their families and exchange greetings with the President afterward.
Shigeaki Mori is an atomic bomb survivor who worked tirelessly to ensure that the 12 American POWs killed by the Hiroshima atomic bombing received recognition as victims of the blast. He spent more than 41 years tracking down their stories and helped their American families find closure and solace. He also aided the families in obtaining recognition from the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for these American POWs. See this article for more information on Shigeaki Mori.
Tsugio Ito survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing as a child, but lost his older brother to radiation poisoning. As an adult, he married and raised two children while working for a local bank. On September 11, 2001, Ito’s son, Kazushige, was working at the World Trade Center when it was attacked; Kazushige was first presumed missing and later declared dead. Despite the loss of his own son, Ito has channeled his sorrow into a driving force for a more peaceful world. He has met with several U.S. ambassadors to Japan, including Ambassador Kennedy, and has participated in several 9/11 commemorations at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Yorie Kano was two years old when she, her younger brother, and parents survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima just 0.8 km from the blast. Her brother died six months later from a stomach ailment. Her mother gave birth in March of 1946 to another child, Toshiharu Kano (see below), whom she was carrying at the time of the bombing. The Kano parents were second generation Japanese Americans born in Hawaii, who had returned to Japan before World War II. The Kano family later returned to the United States. Ms. Kano now resides in California. This visit to Hiroshima marked her first return to Japan in 45 years.
Toshiharu “Tosh” Kano was born in Hiroshima in March 1946, six months after his mother survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He has suffered from a number of illnesses he believes are related to radiation exposure. He and his wife reside in Utah and have written a book about his family’s history, entitled “Passport to Hiroshima.” This return to Hiroshima was Kano’s first visit since his family left when he was two years old.
Dr. Ohtsura Niwa has served since June 2015 as Chair of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), funded jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Japanese Ministry of Health. With facilities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, RERF conducts research for peaceful purposes on the medical effects of radiation and associated diseases in humans, with a view to contributing to the maintenance of the health and welfare of atomic bomb survivors. RERF has been involved with scientists and healthcare professionals researching radiation exposure from Chernobyl and Fukushima. The foundation is recognized as a leading world center for the study of long-term and cross-generational effects of radiation on humans. Dr. Niwa was born in Kobe, is a graduate of Kyoto University faculty of science, and obtained a Ph.D in biophysics from Stanford University in 1975.
Emiko Iwatake survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and later married Nobuaki “Warren” Iwatake. Warren Iwatake was an American citizen who was drafted by the Japanese Army after his family moved from Hawaii to Hiroshima following the death of his father. He was serving in the Pacific when his youngest brother died during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In 1944, Iwatake was in Chichijima in the Pacific when he saw a downed U.S. pilot rescued from a life raft by a U.S. submarine. That pilot was George H.W. Bush, who would later become the 41st President of the United States. During his time on Chichijima, Iwatake befriended a U.S. POW named Warren Vaughn. Following the war, Iwatake adopted “Warren” as his own name and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting U.S.-Japan friendship. He worked for 34 years in the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy Tokyo. In 2002, he met with President Bush on Chichijima in a symbolic reunion of war veterans. Warren Iwatake died in 2012.