Dr. Makoto Matsumura, team leader of the health consultation and examinaton services for A-Bomb survivors greets Junji Sarashina, president of the Ameican Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors. (Photos by Darrell Miho)

By DARRELL MIHO

On Nov. 5 and 6, a team of doctors and representatives from Hiroshima and Nagasaki made their biannual visit to Los Angeles to meet with hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) living in Southern California.

This is the 23rd mission sponsored by the Japanese government. It was originally scheduled for 2021, but was postponed until this year due to the pandemic. The team also visited Sao Paulo, Brazil and Vancouver, Canada.

This year’s five-member team was led by Dr. Makoto Matsumura, president of the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association. This was his fifth mission. He said that their goal is “to provide relief to the atomic bomb victims so that the victims overseas can access the same medical care support as the ones in Japan.”

Dr. Makoto Matsumura during a consultation with a hibakusha.

The other team members were Dr. Haruo Hirakawa, Dr. Keiko Hiyama, Miyuri Fukuhara and Haruka Miura.

This year, the team met with 25 survivors from at the Osato Medical Clinic in Torrance. Junji Sarashina, president of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA), who was 16 years old when the bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, says that these medical visits are important because it allows the survivors to discuss their health issues in Japanese, a language most of them are more comfortable speaking, and to obtain information from doctors who are “experts and knowledgeable on the hibakusha” and “we can trust them and rely on them.”

Group photo with the doctors and representatives from Japan, Osato Medical Clinic staff and directors of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors.

He added that an additional benefit for their mental health is that they get to see old friends who shared the same experience.

The number of patients has dwindled over the years. Just ten years ago, about 150 hibakusha came for the medical exams and consultations. Sarashina was concerned that these vital medical missions may cease, but Matsumura says, “As long as the atomic bomb victims, including the ones we examined this morning, tell us to come, then we intend to come every time.”

If you are a hibakusha and would like information on the next medical visit in 2024, contact ASA at rememberhibakusha@gmail.com or visit their website at http://nomorhibakusha.org.

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Darrell Miho is a director for ASA and a Rafu Shimpo contributor.

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