To most of us, "Bikini" is a skimpy two-piece swimsuit. It's also the name of a Pacific ocean coral atoll used extensively in from 1946 to 1958 by the US for nuclear bomb testing. Most of the 23 bombs exploded at Bikini went as expected; one did not: the "Castle Bravo" hydrogen bomb explosion that took place on March 1, 1954. Castle Bravo was the first test of a practical hydrogen bomb and as such there was some uncertainty as to the result.
Indeed, the measured strength of the explosion turned out to have been 15 megatons - much more powerful than the expected 4 to 8 megatons and 1,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The test, intended to be secret, ended up as an international incident as traces of fallout spread to Japan, India, Australia and even the United States.
In preparation for Castle Bravo, Pacific islanders living in the area were forcibly relocated to nearby Rongerik atoll and an exclusion zone was set up which fishing vessels were forbidden to enter. As strong winds began to blow radioactive fallout from the test eastward, Rongerik atoll was quickly evacuated. The crewmen on the Lucky Dragon No. 5, 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of Bikini and about 60 kilometers outside the exclusion zone, were not so lucky. To quote Oishi, "A light like a lurid sunset suddenly appeared in complete darkness. Then white ashes continued to fall for several hours."
The Lucky Dragon No. 5 was purchased by the Japanese government in 1976 and is now the centerpiece of a dedicated museum of the incident at the Tokyo Metropolitan Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.
Matashichi Oishi, now 69, decided to write a book ("The Truth of the Bikini Incident") about his experience after speaking at schools and realizing that very few people in Japan were aware of what happened to him and his fellow fishermen. Says Oishi, "I'm not really the sort of person who writes a book. But I desperately want people to understand about the threat of nuclear weapons." Although currently available only in Japanese, an English translation is set to be published within the next several months. (via Japan Today)
Japanese Innovations Writer