|Native name 坪井 直|
|Organization Nihon Hidankyo|
Name Sunao Tsuboi
|Born May 5, 1925 (age 90) (1925-05-05) Hiroshima|
Sunao Tsuboi (坪井 直, Tsuboi Sunao, May 5, 1925) is a Japanese anti-nuclear and anti-war activist and former teacher. He is a hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and is the co-chair of Nihon Hidankyo, a Japan-wide organisation of atomic and hydrogen bomb sufferers. In 2011 he was awarded the Kiyoshi Tanimoto peace prize. He lives in Nishi-ku, Hiroshima.
- Early life
- Atomic bombing of Hiroshima
- Postwar medical treatment
- Postwar career
Born and raised in Hiroshima, as a child Tsuboi was interested in maths and science and wished to be an inventor. He was the fourth of five brothers. His two eldest brothers went to war in China and didn't return.
Atomic bombing of Hiroshima
In 1945 he was a student of the Hiroshima Vocational School in Senda-machi. On the morning of August 6 he had just eaten breakfast at a dining hall named "Shima no Kaori" and was invited to have a second breakfast with some other students. He declined as he was concerned that the young woman behind the counter would think him a glutton. When the bomb exploded soon afterwards he was walking to school and he was badly burned. Everyone in the dining room was killed. (Hiroshima: In Memoriam and Today. HIMAT Group. 2000. pp. 39–49. )
The school was abandoned and catching fire, so he went to an aunt's house nearby. He was in shock and belatedly realized he was badly injured and didn't wish to be a burden to her, so he left. He went to the Miyuki bridge where he heard that there was an aid station. But the only assistance there was cooking oil being used to ease the pain from burns. Policemen were pouring it onto the skin of school children.
He was later taken to Ujina (Hiroshima port) by a truck and then to Ninoshima by barge. Only young men were being evacuated, as they were considered valuable for the war effort. He asked a woman visiting to inform his family. He stayed on Ninoshima for several days cared for by a classmate who fed him. His classmate was then sent elsewhere.
His mother and uncle searched among the dead and dying for three days with no success. When her uncle suggested leaving and holding a funeral for him, his mother began running around screaming his name. He heard her and put up his hand and said "Here I am." He was taken to his home in Ando but was not conscious of this. When his aunt first saw him, she said he looked like a ghost. He didn't know the war had ended and didn't believe it had when he was told.
Postwar medical treatment
Tsuboi was cared for by his family. He developed aplastic anaemia. He received many blood transfusions and was hospitalized eleven times. Three times his condition became so bad that he was told he was about to die. He suffers from several illnesses including two cancer diagnoses. He receives intravenous transfusions for anemia every two weeks.
Tsuboi became a teacher as the hours were not so demanding and teachers received a lot of days off. He taught mathematics at a women's college and at other schools including Ondo-Cho Junior High School. Close to August 6 he would tell his story to his students. He was known as "Mr Pika-Don", or "Mr Flash Bang", referring to the atomic bombing. He became the principal of a Junior High School, and retired in 1986 after serving as the principal of the Kamezaki and Jonan Junior High Schools.
When he was 26 years old teaching at a college for women Tsuboi met a student who he later married. Her parents objected as he was an atomic bomb survivor and they thought he would soon die and leave her a widow. They attempted to commit suicide together with sleeping pills, but didn't take a sufficient amount, so they both just went to sleep.
He was active with the Japan Teachers Union during his career as a teacher despite receiving punishments for this. The union has been well known for its critical stance against the government of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party on issues like use of the Japanese flag and national anthem and issues involving censorship of textbooks.
After retirement he became more involved in anti-nuclear and anti-war activism, participating in sit-ins, demonstrations and rallies. He is the co-chair of Nihon Hidankyo, a Japan-wide organisation of atomic and hydrogen bomb sufferers.
In 2011 he was awarded the Kiyoshi Tanimoto peace prize.
He has made many speeches to students on school excursions to Hiroshima, foreign visitors, and many others. He has repeatedly stated that he wants nuclear weapons to be abolished.
He has criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe for attacking Japan's postwar commitment to pacifism. In 2015 he and other atomic bomb survivors asked Abe to drop the unpopular security bills then being passed by Abe's administration.
In May 2016 he met US President Barack Obama, who was the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima.