At first, Hitoshi Kai wanted to become a doctor of tropical medicine, but he had to interrupt his studies in his final year because his parents’ house burnt down. After that he never made it back to university because he became engaged with the Vietnam War and Chernobyl later on, and he wanted to do something practical for the victims. So he earned a living as a math tutor and volunteered with various relief projects of the Junod Association.
He never experienced the atomic bomb himself, but has dedicated many years to the victims of atomic catastrophes. The office of the Junod association is located in a residential building next door to Uchida’s house in the town of Fuchu (Hiroshima prefecture).
Chizuko Uchida and Hitoshi Kai’s acquaintance goes back to the early 1980s. At the time, they collected articles with a group of friends about the dangers of atomic waste and screened films critical of nuclear power. When the Chernobyl catastrophe happened in 1986, they knew they had to do something. Uchida recalls:
“Before Chernobyl we already knew about the many uranium workers who were exposed to radiation during their work. And just when we thought that we should do something for these people, the reactor accident happened in Chernobyl. Then we established the Junod Association.”
Kai thinks it is naïve to believe that war or nuclear catastrophe is avoidable. More important is to set up functioning organizations that can really help after such catastrophes. That is why he is also critical of the peace movement in Japan:
“The atomic bomb was so horrible that it was enough to mourn the victims and the world listened. Just the statement that we experienced something horrible and therefore something so bad must never happen again was considered a peace campaign activity. It was not about doing something, but rather to mourn having become victims. If you really think about it, until now we haven’t done anything at all.”
The Junod Association depends on donations and works under very difficult conditions. In spite of that, its members have made considerable achievements at least in Chernobyl. And now, after the reactor accident in Fukushima, association members are faced with their greatest challenge to date.
Shortly after the reactor accident, Hitoshi Kai told me on the telephone that in the present situation not much could be expected from the physicians in Fukushima. However the experiences collected over decades from Hiroshima victims and doctors are of great value and these should be built on.