At 6:45am on March 1st, 1954, 23 Japanese fishermen sat eating breakfast on teh deck of a tuna trawler named Daigo Fukuryu, the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Suddenly there was an intense flash of light on the western horizon. "Look! Look!" someone shouted. "The sun rises in the west!" They were witnessing Castle Bravo, an early American test of a thermonuclear weapon.
As the crewmen frantically pulled in the fishing lines, the growing mushroom cloud turned black and engulfed the boat. A strange snow-like substance began to rain down on the fishermen. The ash piled in every corner of the boat covering the fishermen and their catch. The substance, later called 'shi no hai,' the "ashes of death," was ash from coral reefs churned up and radiated by the explosion.
Burned black, hands chapped and bleeding, nauseous, and losing their hair, the fishermen were immediately sent to Tokyo hospitals upon their return to Japan. They were quarantined and sent through a gauntlet of medical tests. In August, Aikichi Kuboyama, chief radio officer for the Lucky Dragon, fell very ill. He slipped into a coma on September 23, 1954, and would never wake up.
In June of 1955, 15 months after entering the hospital, the 22 surviving fishermen were sent home only to discover their problems were far from over. Because of the ignorance surrounding 'hibakusha' (explosion-affected people), the fishermen were ostracized from their communities. They lost friends and loved ones, were openly ridiculed, and eventually forced into hiding. Now, 65 years later, we look at these fishermen as the embodiment of survival.