It’s been 67 years since the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6th and 9th 1945 respectively. I’m usually with my family in Japan during this time, watching the ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on the news. The Peace Bell rings, followed by a moment of silence. Speeches are made by politicians as well as primary school students. The whole nation remembers and mourns our losses. Never again, we pray.
This year, I didn’t get to go home to visit my family, so I catch up on the news on the internet. I read about Harry Truman’s grandson attending the ceremony; the grandson of the man who ordered the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima. I read Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui’s annual Peace Declaration, which makes parallels between the atomic bombings 67 years ago and the terrifying nuclear reactor meltdowns in Fukushima in March last year:
March 11, 2011, is a day we will never forget. A natural disaster compounded by a nuclear power accident created an unprecedented catastrophe. 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. I speak now to all in the stricken areas. Please hold fast to your hope for tomorrow. Your day will arrive, absolutely. Our hearts are with you. Having learned a lesson from that horrific accident, Japan is now engaged in a national debate over its energy policy, with some voices insisting, “Nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist.” I call on the Japanese government to establish without delay an energy policy that guards the safety and security of the people. I ask the government of the only country to experience an atomic bombing to accept as its own the resolve of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mindful of the unstable situation surrounding us in Northeast Asia, please display bolder leadership in the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
I read about high school students from Fukushima visiting Hiroshima (see photo above): “I think it was hope that the people in Hiroshima relied on to rebuild… We, too, don’t want to be defeated in the nuclear disaster,” said one of the students, 13 years old.
I read that the Prime Minister made a vague and uncommitted declaration at the ceremony: “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.” What these “energy policies that can put people at ease” could possibly mean, I don’t know. Sounds like an empty appeasement to me. What I do know, though, is that we really need to be working towards ending dependency on nuclear power. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. Rest in peace. Rest in power.
[Photo credit: Ryo Ikeda]