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A victim of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, she suffered severe burns; the pattern on her skin is from the kimono she was wearing at the time of the bombing.

Hibakusha (被爆者 ?) is the term widely used in Japan referring to victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese word translates literally to "explosion-affected people."[1] As of March 31, 2008, exactly 243,692 living hibakusha were certified by the Japanese government, with an average age of 75.14.[2] Most of them live in Japan, but several thousand live in Korea and elsewhere.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization (Japanese: Nihon Hidankyo) is a group formed by hibakusha in 1956 with the goals of pressuring the Japanese government to improve support of the victims and lobbying governments for the abolition of nuclear weapons.[3]


[edit] Law

The Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law defines hibakusha as people:

  1. who were within a few kilometers of the hypocenters of the bombs,
  2. who were within 2 km of the hypocenters within two weeks of the bombings,
  3. who were exposed to radiation from fallout, and
  4. babies carried by pregnant women in any of these categories.[4]

Hibakusha are entitled to government support. They receive a certain amount of allowance per month. They and their children were (and still are) victims of severe discrimination due to lack of knowledge about the consequences of radiation sickness, which people believed to be hereditary or even contagious.[5] About 1%, certified as suffering from bomb-related diseases, receive a special medical allowance.[6]

Each year, on the anniversaries of the bombings, lists of the names of hibakusha whose deaths have been recorded in the previous year are added to the cenotaphs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As of August 2008, the death tolls stand at 258,310 at Hiroshima,[7] and 145,984 at Nagasaki.[8]

[edit] Book

Studs Terkel's book The Good War has a conversation with two hibakusha. The postscript observes:

There is considerable discrimination in Japan against the hibakusha. It is frequently extended toward their children as well: socially as well as economically. "Not only hibakusha, but their children, are refused employment," says Mr. Kito. "There are many among them who do not want it known that they are hibakusha.


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