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The Day the Sun Rose in the West

Bikini, the Lucky Dragon, and I

Matashichi Ōishi, translated by Richard H. Minear

Publication Year: 2011

On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded a hydrogen bomb at Bikini in the South Pacific. The fifteen-megaton bomb was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and its fallout spread far beyond the official “no-sail” zone the U.S. had designated. Fishing just outside the zone at the time of the blast, the Lucky Dragon #5 was showered with radioactive ash. Making the difficult voyage back to their home port of Yaizu, twenty-year-old Oishi Matashichi and his shipmates became ill from maladies they could not comprehend. They were all hospitalized with radiation sickness, and one man died within a few months. The Lucky Dragon #5 became the focus of a major international incident, but many years passed before the truth behind U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific emerged. Late in his life, overcoming social and political pressures to remain silent, Oishi began to speak about his experience and what he had since learned about Bikini. His primary audience was schoolchildren; his primary forum, the museum in Tokyo built around the salvaged hull of the Lucky Dragon #5. Oishi’s advocacy has helped keep the Lucky Dragon #5 incident in Japan’s national consciousness.

Oishi relates the horrors he and the others underwent following Bikini: the months in hospital; the death of their crew mate; the accusations by the U.S. and even some Japanese that the Lucky Dragon #5 had been spying for the Soviets; the long campaign to win government funding for medical treatment; the enduring stigma of exposure to radiation. The Day the Sun Rose in the West stands as a powerful statement about the Cold War and the U.S.–Japan relationship as it impacted the lives of a handful of fishermen and ultimately all of us who live in the post-nuclear age.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Title Page

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p. iii


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p. iv


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p. v

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pp. vii-xii

On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama told an enthusiastic audience in Prague, “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Perhaps even more meaningfully, and for the first time by an American...

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Preface to the English-Language Edition

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pp. xiii-xvi

On March 1, 1954, an event took place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that changed the course of human history. It was a hydrogen bomb test that sent enormous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and contaminated the whole earth. Our Lucky Dragon #5, a tuna-fishing boat operating near...

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Prologue: Sakura Junior High School and I

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pp. 1-4

May 25, 1998: The rain that started the night before had turned into a downpour; there was a strong wind. At 5:00 a.m., leaving myself plenty of time, I dressed and got into my car. In winds this strong, the superhighway scared me. I’d drive carefully on lesser roads...

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1. Irradiated!

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pp. 5-21

March 1, 1954: In extreme secrecy, the U.S. military conducted a nuclear test at Bikini in the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific. It was the test of an extraordinarily large, fifteen-megaton bomb, a thousand times..

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2. Return to Port, Chaotic Days

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pp. 22-74

We started exhibiting abnormal symptoms beginning the evening of the day we were covered in ash. Some of us complained of serious pain. Headache, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea. Our eyes turned red and were itchy with mucus. Beginning about the third day, our faces turned unusually dark, and...

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3. At Death’s Door

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pp. 75-115

On May 20, 1955, after fourteen months of hospitalization, twenty-two crew members of the Lucky Dragon #5—all except Kuboyama—left the hospital. Yet leaving the hospital didn’t mean that we’d regained our health. My liver was still swollen, and I still had slight diarrhea. On May 17, before we...

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4. The Bikini Incident Isn’t Over

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pp. 116-152

On hearing that the engine of the Lucky Dragon #5 was sunk in the sea off Shichirimi Beach in Wakayama, one of my fellow crew members said he’d be happy if the engine served as a shelter for fish. The engine is a ship’s soul. Shichirimi Beach is said to be a home for the spirits of the dead. Seeking safe...

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Epilogue: Two Visits to the Marshall Islands, Home of Bikini

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pp. 153-157

I’ve visited the Marshall Islands twice, once in early 2002, once in mid-2004. The visits fulfilled a dream. Although almost half a century has passed, the contamination of the Marshall Islands is such that the Marshallese hibakusha are still not able to go home; they live a nomad’s life. Once a nuclear...


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pp. 159-165

E-ISBN-13: 9780824860202
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835118

Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794925376
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Day the Sun Rose in the West

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Subject Headings

  • Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Trawler).
  • Hydrogen bomb -- Marshall Islands -- Bikini Atoll -- Testing.
  • Ōishi, Matashichi.
  • Nuclear weapons testing victims -- Japan -- Biography.
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