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The Day the Sun Rose in the West

The Day the Sun Rose in the West: Bikini, the Lucky Dragon, and I

translated by Richard H. Minear
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    The Day the Sun Rose in the West
    Book Description:

    On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded a hydrogen bomb at Bikini in the South Pacific. The fifteen-megaton bomb was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and its fallout spread far beyond the official "no-sail" zone the U.S. had designated. Fishing just outside the zone at the time of the blast, the Lucky Dragon #5 was showered with radioactive ash. Making the difficult voyage back to their home port of Yaizu, twenty-year-old Oishi Matashichi and his shipmates became ill from maladies they could not comprehend. They were all hospitalized with radiation sickness, and one man died within a few months. The Lucky Dragon #5 became the focus of a major international incident, but many years passed before the truth behind U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific emerged. Late in his life, overcoming social and political pressures to remain silent, Oishi began to speak about his experience and what he had since learned about Bikini. His primary audience was schoolchildren; his primary forum, the museum in Tokyo built around the salvaged hull of the Lucky Dragon #5. Oishi's advocacy has helped keep the Lucky Dragon #5 incident in Japan's national consciousness.

    Oishi relates the horrors he and the others underwent following Bikini: the months in hospital; the death of their crew mate; the accusations by the U.S. and even some Japanese that the Lucky Dragon #5 had been spying for the Soviets; the long campaign to win government funding for medical treatment; the enduring stigma of exposure to radiation. The Day the Sun Rose in the West stands as a powerful statement about the Cold War and the U.S.-Japan relationship as it impacted the lives of a handful of fishermen and ultimately all of us who live in the post-nuclear age.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6020-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Richard Falk

    On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama told an enthusiastic audience in Prague, “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Perhaps even more meaningfully, and for the first time by an American president, he added that “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” Heard in its entirety the speech was not so uplifting. It contained some disquieting qualifications that expressed Obama’s realist and pragmatic style of politics—deferring the goal of nuclear abolition beyond his...

  4. preface to the english-language edition
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Ōishi Matashichi
  5. prologue sakura junior high school and i
    (pp. 1-4)

    May 25, 1998: The rain that started the night before had turned into a downpour; there was a strong wind. At 5:00 a.m., leaving myself plenty of time, I dressed and got into my car. In winds this strong, the superhighway scared me. I’d drive carefully on lesser roads. The convenience store at which I often bought food was closed for renovations. And there weren’t similar stores along the way. So I headed straight for my destination, the international convention complex in Chiba. I’d been asked to speak about Bikini to ninth-graders from Sakura Junior High School in Yokkaichi. They...

  6. 1 irradiated!
    (pp. 5-21)

    March 1, 1954: In extreme secrecy, the U.S. military conducted a nuclear test at Bikini in the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific. It was the test of an extraordinarily large, fifteen-megaton bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It scattered massive amounts of “death ash” into the atmosphere and over the ocean and struck terror worldwide. It was ourLucky Dragon #5, fishing for tuna near Bikini, that revealed this huge event to the world.

    Although our ship was all of a hundred miles from the point of the explosion, the pure-white...

  7. 2 return to port, chaotic days
    (pp. 22-74)

    We started exhibiting abnormal symptoms beginning the evening of the day we were covered in ash. Some of us complained of serious pain. Headache, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea. Our eyes turned red and were itchy with mucus. Beginning about the third day, our faces turned unusually dark, and many small blisters appeared on the parts of our bodies—wrists, ankles, waists at belt level—where ash had settled as we worked. It was strange: they looked like burns, but they weren’t very painful. I think it was a week before our hair began to fall out. Pull, and hair would fall...

  8. 3 at death’s door
    (pp. 75-115)

    On May 20, 1955, after fourteen months of hospitalization, twenty-two crewmembers of theLucky Dragon #5—all except Kuboyama—left the hospital. Yet leaving the hospital didn’t mean that we’d regained our health. My liver was still swollen, and I still had slight diarrhea. On May 17, before we left the hospital, city and prefectural authorities had agreed that “discharging the crewmembers from the hospital at this time forms one link in their medical treatment; the authorities will not regard any future re-hospitalization as a separate matter, and all costs will be covered by seamen’s comp.”

    After leaving the hospital,...

  9. 4 the bikini incident isn’t over
    (pp. 116-152)

    On hearing that the engine of theLucky Dragon #5was sunk in the sea off Shichirimi Beach in Wakayama, one of my fellow crewmembers said he’d be happy if the engine served as a shelter for fish. The engine is a ship’s soul. Shichirimi Beach is said to be a home for the spirits of the dead. Seeking safe haven, the engine must have returned to its home waters. I said a prayer: “Thank you for all your labors. May you rest in peace.”

    The engine had traced a sad path, albeit a path different from that of the...

  10. epilogue Two Visits to the Marshall Islands, Home of Bikini
    (pp. 153-158)

    I’ve visited the Marshall Islands twice, once in early 2002, once in mid-2004. The visits fulfilled a dream. Although almost half a century has passed, the contamination of the Marshall Islands is such that the Marshallesehibakushaare still not able to go home; they live a nomad’s life. Once a nuclear bomb is detonated, it causes irrevocable damage; the Marshall Islands are proof of that.

    Seeing this reality for myself turned out to be very meaningful. The U.S. acknowledges only four islands and atolls as having been affected by exposure: Rongelap, Utrik, Bikini, and Eniwetok. When Marshall Islanders are...

  11. index
    (pp. 159-166)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-168)