|Hiroshima, August 6, 2012. Via.|
The inscription on the cenotaph at Hiroshima’s Peace Park reads “Rest In Peace, for the error shall not be repeated.” Tens of thousands came to the park Tuesday on the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing to stand in solidarity with victims and to uphold this message.
With representatives from over 71 countries, including Ambassador John Roos--marking the second consecutive year a U.S. representative was in attendance--the ceremony commenced with one minute of silent reflection and prayer, followed by the ringing of the Peace Bell at 8:15 am, when the atomic bomb was dropped.
Among the speakers were Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. Both spoke at length about the importance of Japan’s pushing the world towards complete nuclear disarmament, and both shared a common sentiment: that the event never be forgotten or ignored.
"We must never forget the horrors of nuclear weapons and we must never repeat this tragedy that has been engraved into the history of mankind," said Noda. "As the only country to be victimized by an atomic bomb and experiencing its ravages, we have the noble responsibility to the human race and the future of the Earth to pass on the memories of this tragedy to the next generation."
Matsui read the Peace Declaration, saying, “We pledge to convey to the world the experiences and desires of our hibakusha [atomic bomb victims], and do everything in our power to achieve the genuine peace of a world without nuclear weapons."
A main focus of the ceremony is always to strive for a nuclear-free world, but as with last year, an equally pressing matter is related to modern nuclear technology.
In his speech, Mayor Matsui likened the survivors of the recent Fukushima disaster to the hibakusha, saying, "Here in Hiroshima, we are keenly aware that the survivors of that catastrophe still suffer terribly, yet look toward the future with hope. We see their ordeal clearly superimposed on what we endured 67 years ago. Please hold fast to your hope for tomorrow. Your day will arrive, absolutely."
He continued by not only urging the country’s government strongly towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, but also to “promote a safe energy policy”.
Noda responded in his speech, saying, “Based on the fundamental principle of not relying on nuclear power, we will aim in the mid- to long term to establish an energy structure that will assure the safety of the people.”
Meanwhile, attendees were also vocal about their hope for a nuclear-free world, holding an anti-nuclear rally outside of the Peace Park the days before and after the memorial. Many felt that the promise “the error shall never be repeated” had been broken when the nuclear meltdown happened in March 2011.
One of the remaining hibakusha, 87-year old Sunao Tsuboi, spoke to AFP to warn against the usage of nuclear power. “In terms of being nuclear victims we [from Hiroshima and Fukushima] are the same,” he said. “Nuclear technology is beyond human wisdom… I want to see a nuclear-free world while I’m still alive.” Another hibakusha, Toshiyuki Mimaki (70), added “We want to work with people in Fukushima and join our voices in calling for no more nuclear victims.”
This ceremony was different from many of the years before because of the controversial status of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima--Sachiko Sato, a Fukushima evacuee said, “In my mind, Fukushima is like a third nuclear victim following Hiroshima and Nagasaki."--but it was also different because of the presence of one of the attendees.
Clifton Truman Daniel, 55, is the oldest grandson of Truman and the first member of the Truman family to ever attend the Hiroshima memorial. Although he declined to comment on whether or not he agreed with his grandfather’s decision, he did tell Kyodo News at an earlier press conference that the reason he came this year was because he “needed to know the consequences of his grandfather’s decisions as part of his own effort to create a nuclear-free world.”
“I’m two generations down the line. It’s my responsibility to do all I can to make sure we never use nuclear weapons again,” he continued.
August 9 marks the 67th memorial of the Nagasaki bombing, and similar services will take place. John Roos plans to attend, marking the the first time an American Ambassador has visited Nagasaki. Clifton Truman Daniel will also join him as representatives of the U.S.