He became famous for the images of his burns. “Please look at me again,” he told a UN conference in 2010. He led his fight overseas despite great suffering.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sumiteru Taniguchi, a survivor of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki who was known as anti-nuclear activist, died of duodenal papilla cancer today.
He served as a representative of Nihon Hidankyo, the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organisations, since 2010. After 1949, he became a leading figure in the anti-nuclear campaign.
A US military motion picture film of him taken during hospitalisation and released by media in 1970 made him known worldwide. A colour photo from the film captured him lying on his stomach in hospital showing his terrible back burns, his skin scarlet.
In 1945, when he was a boy, Taniguchi barely escaped death from the atomic bombing. During his life, he talked about the suffering he endured, about the destruction of his skin and the intense pain that led him to beg his doctors to kill him.
He was discharged from hospital in 1949, and immediately joined other survivors to push for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Despite the debilitating back pain, he travelled overseas more than 20 times to talk about his experience.
In 2010, he represented atomic bomb survivors at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN headquarters.
On that occasion, he displayed the famous picture of himself and called out to the audience, “I am not a guinea pig, nor am I an exhibit. But you who are here today, please don’t turn your eyes away from me. Please look at me again.”
When a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, a long-cherished dream of atomic bomb survivors, was adopted in July this year, Taniguchi said in a video message, "The treaty is useless if each country does not make efforts to abolish nuclear weapons."
Another representative of Nihon Hidankyo, Terumi Tanaka, told reporters that he is very sad to hear of Taniguchi's death. He said Taniguchi devoted his life to the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, whilst going in and out hospital frequently.
It is estimated that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed around 210,000 people by the end of 1945.