Hiroshima marks 67th anniversary of bombing, issues plea of nuclear disarmament
August 6, 2012
Hiroshima marked the 67th anniversary of its atomic bombing on Aug. 6 under the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and by issuing a plea for complete nuclear disarmament.
In a ceremony held at the Peace Memorial Park in the city’s Naka Ward, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui read the city’s annual Peace Declaration urging the world to abolish nuclear weapons.
The declaration also took note of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last year by calling on the government to draw up energy policies that protect the lives and safety of citizens.
But it did not go so far as demanding the government to phase out the nation’s dependence on nuclear power generation.
The ceremony started at 8 a.m. About 50,000 people attended the ceremony, according to the Hiroshima municipal government.
Among the many dignitaries were representatives from 71 countries, eight of which sent their representatives for the first time. The participants included British Ambassador David Warren and French Ambassador Christian Masset.
Britain and France are two of the established nuclear powers.
Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, came to share experiences on two areas of Japan that have suffered greatly from the nuclear age.
Matsui and two representatives from bereaved families added name lists of 5,729 atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, who died over the past year, to the cenotaph that honors victims of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and foreign dignitaries laid wreaths at the cenotaph one after another.
The Peace Bell was rung at 8:15 a.m. to mark the moment the bomb was dropped, and all participants observed a moment of silence.
In the Peace Declaration, Matsui included experiences of three hibakusha who were selected from the public via an open application system in which they submitted written accounts of their experiences of atomic bombing.
One was an 83-year-old woman who lost six of her seven family members in the bombing. Another was an 80-year-old man who helped collect the dead. The other, an 87-year-old woman, walked in despair along streetcar tracks in the devastated city.
Through their experiences, Matsui drove home the horror of the bombing.
However, he did not call on the government to commit itself to making Japan a nuclear-free country.
Instead, he tried to bridge the tragedy of people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear crisis with Hiroshima citizens of 67 years ago by saying, “Our hearts (of Hiroshima citizens) are with you.”
Matsui called on the government to broaden areas where radioactive “black rain” is believed to have fallen after the atomic bombing so that survivors not in the designated areas can receive medical assistance.
Afterward, Ryuki Miho, 11, a sixth-grader of Hijiyama Elementary School, and Mayu Endo, 12, a sixth-grader of Yasukita Elementary School, read a pledge for peace on behalf of children.
In his speech, the prime minister said: “The government has a basic policy of making Japan free from dependence on nuclear power generation. It will aim to establish energy policies that can put the people at ease in middle to long-term.”
As of the end of March this year, 210,830 people in Japan were registered as hibakusha. The figure was down 8,580 from the same time last year. Their average age was 78.1, up 0.66 year from 2011.
The anti-nuclear movement spread rapidly across Japan after the reactor meltdowns last year at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Citizens even rallied around the venue of the ceremony to express anti-nuclear slogans and their opposition to the restart of reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.