Hidankyo was founded on August 10, 1956, during the 2nd World Conference against A and H Bombs (see “Message to the World”). The World Conference had been started in 1955 in response to the mounting public opinion against A- and H-bombs after the U.S. hydrogen bomb test on March 1, 1954.
For nearly 10 years after the bombing, the Hibakusha received no help from the U.S. occupation forces which strictly prohibited the people to write or speak about the bombing and damages, including the miserable deaths of 200,000 people, from the Japanese government even after the country regained its sovereignty in 1952. The government had renounced the right to claim damages for the A-bombing from the U.S. when concluding San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951. The Hibakusha had been deprived of their health by the radiation from the bombs, disadvantaged in the society and suffered social discrimination. The rise of the anti-nuclear movement in the country gave the Hibakusha a light of hope to live, for the first time since the bombing, which led to the organizing of Nihon Hidankyo.
For over half a century since its founding, Nihon Hidankyo has sent Hibakusha delegations to many parts of the world in order to give testimonies on the atrocious damage and human sufferings caused by the use of nuclear weapons, and endeavored to ensure no more Hibakusha would be created anywhere in the world, calling for creating a “nuclear weapon-free world”.
From the very beginning of the organization, supported by the nationwide people’s movement for peace and against atomic and hydrogen bombs, Nihon Hidankyo has put great efforts in sending delegations to international conferences and events and in holding speaking tours in different parts of the world. In 1957, one year after its founding, Nihon Hidankyo joined the people’s delegation organized by the Japan Council against A & H Bombs (Japan Gensuikyo) to visit the Soviet Union, China and Mongolia. Hidankyo also carried out active international activities by sending its own delegations for speaking tours to the U.K., France, Germany and Austria.
In 1958, Nihon Hidankyo participated in the 7th World Festival of Youth and Students in Stockholm and the International Conference against nuclear testing by the U.S., U.K. and U.S.S.R. in Geneva, followed by a speaking tour in Switzerland and F.R. Germany.
In 1961, a Hidankyo delegation visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and F.R. Germany and spoke at various events in these countries. Hidankyo also sent a delegation to the Second Asia-Africa Peace Conference, followed by a speaking tour in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Hibakusha’s testimonies and speeches at these occasions contributed greatly to informing the people of the world of the horror of nuclear weapons and the atrocity of their damage inflicted on the people, which had been concealed from the public for more than 10 years after their use.
In 1975, Hidankyo’s Co-Chairperson Yukimune Hajime, as a member of the people’s delegation to the U.N., petitioned the U.N. to conclude an international treaty for a total ban on nuclear weapons. In October 1976, Hidankyo’s Secretary General Ito Takeshi took part in the second people’s delegation to the U.N., along with several Hibakusha representatives from different parts of Japan. The delegation submitted “A Report to the U.N. Secretary General: the Damage and Aftereffects from the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, and requested the U.N. to hold an international symposium in Japan with the participation of experts, to explore the impact of the atomic bombing and the situation of surviving victims. This request was not met by the U.N., but in 1977, the “International Symposium on the Damage and After-effects of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” was held by the U.N. Special NGO Committee for Disarmament. In the process of preparing the symposium, all-out efforts were made by Hidankyo and the NGO Committee and its affiliate organizations to investigate and conduct researches to reveal comprehensively before the international community the real situation of the Hibakusha and the damage and sufferings caused by the A-bombing.
In 1978, the First U.N. Special Session on Disarmament (SSD-I) was held at the U.N. in New York. Forty-one members of Nihon Hidankyo joined the 200-member delegation of the Japanese people, making testimonies on their experiences and petitioned for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The Second U.N. Special Session on Disarmament (SSD-II) was held in 1982, where Hidankyo sent the 41-member delegation. One million people joined the massive demonstration in New York City. On the NGO Day, Hidankyo’s Co-Chairperson Yamaguchi Senji spoke from the podium of the U.N. General Assembly Hall on behalf of the Japanese people’s delegation. Carrying a portrait of himself bearing a keloid scar on the face, he emphatically appealed, “No more Hibakusha! No more war!” and left deep impression on the audience, including official government delegations in the Assembly Hall.
In August 1982, Hidankyo sent the 27-member Peace Pilgrimage to Europe, visiting East Germany, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France, and joined for dialogues with peace movements in each country. In Vatican, the delegation had an audience with Pope John Paulo II, and requested for his effort for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
During those years, with the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the world lurched into crisis. People’s opposition to the missile deployment peaked during the period, when 300,000 to half a million people’s protest rallies were held successively in the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries. Responding to the requests of organizers, Hidankyo representatives flew to Europe to join these demonstrations.
In 1985, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing, Hidankyo sent delegations to the five nuclear weapon states to petition their governments for the elimination of nuclear weapons. After the visit, the reply from Secretary General Gorbachev of the U.S.S.R. was hand-delivered to Co-Chairperson Ito Sakae by a secretary of the Soviet Embassy.
“Atomic Bomb Victims' Appeal-1988 Document” was published on the basis of the survey of the A-bomb victims conducted by HIDANKYO in 1985. This document consisted of the report of the A-bomb damage and an appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was sent to many peace-loving people of the world.
The Third U.N. Special Session on Disarmament (SSD-III) was convened in 1988, in which 24-member Hidankyo delegation took part. On the NGO Day, Co-Chairperson Ito Takeshi spoke on behalf of the Hibakusha.
Global Hibakusha meeting was held in Nagasaki on August 9, 1993, where nuclear test victims of the former Soviet Union (Semipalatinsk and Altai), the US (Nevada and atomic soldiers), Marshall Islands and Polynesia joined with Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Appeal from Nuclear-Weapon Victims to the World" was adopted in the meeting.
For every important anniversaries and international events, Nihon Hidankyo sent large-scale delegations for testimonies and speaking tours to help strengthen international people’s support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They include the hearing of governmental statements at the International Court of Justice (1995, the 50th anniversary of the A-bombing), and the NPT Review Conference and the NGO Millennium Forum (2000).
In December 2001, Nihon Hidankyo was registered as an NGO affiliated to the U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI/NGO).
During the 2005 NPT Review Conference, as an NGO affiliated to the U.N., Nihon Hidankyo sponsored the U.N. A-Bomb exhibition. The A-bomb exhibits were displayed at the visitors’ lobby and at the corridor of conference rooms on the first basement level of the U.N. building. Thirty-six Hibakusha members made visits to national government missions to the U.N. and held dialogues and meetings with the people in New York. At the NGO Session during the Review Conference, Konishi Satoru, Assistant Secretary General of Nihon Hidankyo spoke before a large number of official delegations, receiving warm and big applause.
Nihon Hidankyo delegation joined the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Along with many other NGO members and peace workers from around the world, they walked in the major demonstration through the streets of New York City. Hidankyo sponsored the A-Bomb exhibition with 50 photo panels at the main gallery in the visitors’ lobby of the U.N. building for two months, including the period of the Review Conference. In the NGO Session during the Conference, Taniguchi Sumiteru, a Nagasaki A-bomb survivor, current Co-Chair, spoke on behalf of the Hibakusha, and received a standing ovation. Hidankyo again sent its delegation to the 2015 NPT Review Conference and held the Exhibition in the U.N. visitors’ lobby. Terumi Tanaka, Secretary General of Hidankyo, delivered A-bomb survivors’ appeal to the representatives of States Parties at the NGO session in the Review Conference, on May 1.
According to the resolution adopted in the 70th General Assembly, the open-ended working group taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations was held in the form of three sessions in the United Nations Office at Geneva, in February, May and August, 2016, respectively. The three meetings were open to all UN Member States, international organizations, UN agencies and civil society organizations.
Hidankyo sent representative/s to the February and the May sessions. Toshiki Fujimori, Deputy Secretary General of Hidankyo, participated in the February and the second week of the May sessions. Masako Wada, another Deputy Secretary General, participated in the first week of the May session. In the both sessions, the two representatives addressed to the participants Hibakusha’s appeal to achieve a nuclear free world.
The untiring efforts and activities of the Hibakusha despite their old age and ailments drew the attention of the peace movements and citizens of the world. Hidankyo was honored to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize many times (see “Nomination for Nobel Peace Prize by the IPB”). Especially in 2005, during his Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony speech, Professor Ole Danbolt Mjos, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee made an exceptional reference to, and saluted the Hibakusha and their organization, Nihon Hidankyo. It was an authoritative and international recognition given to Nihon Hidankyo’s persistent activities for peace, which were rated on par with the award.
In 2010, the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was held in Hiroshima, where Nihon Hidankyo received the Peace Summit Award for Social Activism.