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.