Event Report: Lecture by Masakatsu Yamazaki "Yasushi Nishiwaki, Scientist, Lived in the Nuclear Age: From the Bravo Affair to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto"

published: 2015-12-08

On September 26, 2015 (Sat.), Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University held at the Ritsumeikan University's Kyoto Museum for World Peace a lecture entitled “Yasushi Nishiwaki, Scientist, Lived in the Nuclear Age: From the Bravo Affair to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto”. The lecture was related to the “Radiation Falls on: The Bravo Affair and Yasushi Nishiwaki, Scientist” exhibition held at the museum from the 12th to the 30th of September. With Masakatsu Yamazaki (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology) as lecturer and Kazuya Yasuda (Chief Curator of the Tokyo Metropolitan Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall) as panelist, the event enjoyed participation of about 40 participants and invited a lively discussion.

The lecturer, Professor Yamazaki, is a researcher of history of science and technology with profound knowledge on the history of Japan's nuclear weapons and nuclear technology before and after the war. Last year, he organized “Scientist Yasushi Nishiwaki in the Nuclear Age” exhibition at the Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives. The exhibition held at the Ritsumeikan University was a part of a tour of this original exhibition initiated at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

In his lecture, Professor Yamazaki used plenty of image data and presented a great body of materials which included some facts that were presented to the public for the first time. He spoke about a range of issues such as the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, which alongside of local residents and other fishing boats fell victim to the thermonuclear test conducted by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll, about the contents of survey of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru made by a team of university researchers including Prof. Yasushi Nishiwaki, presented newspaper data covering the itinerary of the travels of Prof. Nishiwaki in Europe made to inform the public of the world about the damages suffered as a result of the Bravo affair, about how the actions of Prof. Nishiwaki in Europe eventually led to creation of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that called for abolition of nuclear weapons, and about the current work conducted on the materials left after Prof. Nishiwaki's death in 2011.

The panelist, Mr. Kazuya Yasuda, spoke on Prof. Yasushi Nishiwaki's personality and his attitude to research, illustrating his points with memorable episodes of the time when Prof. Nishiwaki visited the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall for the first time or the time when, already late in his life, Prof. Nishiwaki made an address during the March 1 Bikini Day Rally in Shizuoka in 2009. Mr. Yasuda also touched on the activities of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall. After being reused for some time as training ship, Daigo Fukuryu Maru was discarded and abandoned on Yumenoshima, but thanks to citizens' initiative it was decided to preserve the ship. In the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall, visitors can see the hull of the ship and also learn about the Bravo affair. The exposition offered this time at the Kyoto Museum for World Peace also uses a number of objects usually displayed at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall such as panels, model of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, ashes of death that fell on the ship, a Geiger counter, and scales of tuna contaminated with radiation.

During the questions and answers session, many questions were asked from the floor regarding history and the current state of radioactive pollution in Japan and a lively discussion ensued. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the lecturer, Prof. Yamazaki, the panelist, Mr. Yasuda, as well as all those who participated in the event and helped to organize it.

(Report by Tomonori Nakakura, Senior Researcher, Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University)