Dispatches from Nagasaki No.14

The 70th Nagasaki Peace Ceremony and various other Peace Events 

On August 9 of every year, a number of events are held to commemorate the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and to provide a forum for the promotion of world peace. This year’s Nagasaki Peace Ceremony commemorated the landmark 70th anniversary of the bombing. Presented below is an outline of this ceremony together with other peace events conducted within Nagasaki Prefecture that day.

Approximately 6,800 people were in attendance at the Peace Ceremony, including the ambassadors or other formal representatives of 75 countries. Never before has there been such a marked diplomatic presence (August 9 online edition of the Asahi Shimbun; http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH866QNLH86TIPE03B.html).

According to the August 10 edition of the Nagasaki Shimbun: “This Ceremony marked the first time that representatives of the five recognized holders of nuclear weapons (the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China), together with those of three of the four de facto nuclear powers (India, Pakistan and Israel but not North Korea), were brought together in solemn commemoration. These guests, along with approximately 30,000 private citizens, joined together for a moment of silence at precisely 11:02, the time the bomb hit the city.”

Representing the United States, the country that dropped the bomb, were Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, who attended the event in an official capacity for the second year running, and Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. Ambassador Kennedy stated that the U.S. will maintain its close relationship with Japan to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, which President Obama called for in his address in Prague (August 15 edition of the Nagasaki Shimbun). Kim Won-soo, UN Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs was the first representative of the United Nations to speak at the Ceremony in three years. Delivering a message from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Kim said “I echo your rallying cry: No more Hiroshimas. No more Nagasakis. I am proactively working to realize our common goal. Seven decades is far too long for the world to have lived in the nuclear shadow.” (August 11, 2015 edition of the Nagasaki Shimbun.)

The Nagasaki Peace Declaration, updated by the Drafting Committee each year to reflect recent events, sends a powerful message every year. In his declaration for 2015, Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, said: “I address President Obama, heads of state, including the heads of the nuclear weapon states, and all the people of the world. Please come to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and see for yourself exactly what happened under those mushroom clouds 70 years ago. Please understand and accept the message of the hibakusha, who are still doing their best to pass on their experiences, not simply as ‘victims,’ but as ‘members of the human race.’ I appeal to the Government of Japan. Please explore national security measures which do not rely on nuclear deterrence. The establishment of a ‘Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ),’ as advocated by researchers in America, Japan, Korea, China, and many other countries, would make this possible. Fix your sights on the future, and please consider a conversion from a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to a ‘non-nuclear umbrella.’” The Declaration is available on the City of Nagasaki website in ten different languages (http://www.city.nagasaki.lg.jp/heiwa/3020000/3020300/p027408.html).

During the Peace Ceremony, a “pledge for peace” address is also delivered by an atomic bombing survivor every year. This time, Sumiteru Taniguchi, who was given the unusual distinction of representing the bombing victims for his second year, spoke as follows: “After the war, a Constitution was enacted in which Japan promised to the world that it would never wage war or take up weapons again. However, the government is about to bring Japan back to the wartime period by enforcing the approval for exercising the right to collective self-defense and by pushing ahead with amending the Constitution. The national security legislation being pushed through by the government will lead Japan to war. It will rip up from their roots the movement and philosophy built up by many people seeking peace, including hibakusha, to abolish nuclear weapons. It is absolutely unforgiveable. Nuclear weapons are cruel and inhumane weapons that the people of the world overwhelming believe should be abolished forever.” (August 9, 2015 online edition of the Asahi Shimbun: http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH867TTCH86TOLB01B.html).

When speaking at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony several days earlier (August 6), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not mention the “three non-nuclear principles”. At a Meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on August 7, Prime Minister Abe, responding to criticism over his lack of any mention of the non-nuclear principles at Hiroshima, said, essentially, that he did not mention them there because he intended to do so in his speech in Nagasaki. He did indeed mention those principles at the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony, saying “I have renewed my determination for Japan, as the only country to have ever experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, to take the lead in the international community’s nuclear disarmament efforts, firmly upholding the ‘three non-nuclear principles’ as we work towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.” Mr. Abe continued: “As an expression of that determination, the Government of Japan will submit a new draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons to the United Nations General Assembly this autumn.” (August 10, 2015 online edition of the Mainichi Shimbun: http://mainichi.jp/shimen/news/20150810ddm001040178000c.html).

A variety of other peace events were held in Nagasaki Prefecture on the day of the ceremony. Although it was usually a day off for school children, for Nagasaki children it was a school day, one marked by peace events at which students folded paper cranes, recited the Pledge for Peace with their classmates, and, in chorus with the entire student body, sung songs. While that day was special, the days leading up to it were also packed with a variety of activities and learning experiences. At Kitaarima Junior High School in Shimabara, roughly 50 kilometers east of Nagasaki City, students conducted a play based on a novel about kamikaze pilots and, through it, learned about the injustices of war and the hardships of the people caught up in it. (August 10, 2015 edition of the Nagasaki Shimbun)

Many other events with a strong “pro-peace” message were held on the day throughout the Prefecture, often in conjunction with musical concerts. At an event held on August 7 at the Nishi Hongwanji Nagasaki branch Temple in Isahaya City, participants watched Peace on the Tigris – the Iraq War and 10 Years of Life in Baghdad, a documentary about the war. On the next day, members of the first generation of atomic bombing survivors, together with their children and grandchildren, described their experiences to a rapt audience. This was followed by a Buddhist sermon and, in the evening, a Peace Concert.

In this manner, a variety of peace events were held within Nagasaki Prefecture, culminating with the 70th Nagasaki Peace Ceremony on August 9. Participants learned about war and peace, took part in activities aimed at achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, and sent out a message of peace to the rest of the world.

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