The Day The Sun Rose in the West: Bikini, The Lucky Dragon, and I

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.
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
184 pages
University of Hawaii Press
Honolulu, Hawai’i
ISSN Number
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"The Day the Sun Rose in the West": Lessons for a Lifetime

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art & Social Studies
Posted On: 08/03/2019

This book is a first-person account written by one of the survivors of Lucky Dragon #5, a Japanese tuna boat that in 1954 was caught in a shower of radioactive fallout from the United States’ nuclear testing in the Pacific. While the story of the boat was initially reported in a March 1954 LIFE magazine article by Dwight Martin and more recently shared by director Keith Reimink in his documentary film, "Day of the Western Sunrise," this autobiographical English translation personalizes the story even more as author Oishi Matashichi candidly tells his own tale.
"The Day the Sun Rose in the West" testifies to the pain and prejudice that Matashichi and his fellow crew members faced as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (even though they were miles outside of the testing zone.) In addition to the details of the events of March 1954, the following months of hospital quarantine and years of medical testing, the book also includes a number of photographs, articles, declassified government letters, messages from supporters, and stories of the fishermen as they attempted to return to “normal” lives. Oishi Matashichi also discusses the ways in which the governments of the United States and Japan “dealt” with the issues of accountability and compensation for the incident and the consequences of being "hibakusha" (an atomic explosion survivor).
Overcoming numerous physical and emotional obstacles, the author has tirelessly worked as part of the anti-nuclear movement to educate people of all ages about the dangers of nuclear weapons. In addition to writing this book, he also speaks to numerous school groups as a volunteer at the "Daigo Fukuryū Maru" (Lucky Dragon #5) Exhibition Hall in Tokyo and has inspired many students to be brave in facing their own challenges and fears. With a conversational style of writing where he occasionally ventures off into other side-stories, this book’s effectiveness lies in the fact that Oishi Matashichi comes across as a real man with an honest mission to prevent any nuclear accident (or intentional use) from ever happening again. There are so many lessons to be learned from his story--resilience, determination, and persistence to name just a few. This book could be used in a variety of ways in the language arts, history, government, or science classroom, from helping students find a voice to write their own stories (Matashichi's own educated was quite limited) to exploring the potential dangers of nuclear technologies and the accountability of governments. Oishi Matashichi’s story is an inspirational tale written in just over 150 pages that would be well worth any middle school or high school student reading and taking to heart.