Japan marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima yesterday with a somber ceremony to honor the dead and pledges to seek to eliminate nuclear weapons.
About 50,000 people stood for a minute of silence in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the early-morning blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed tens of thousands more, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, among many dignitaries attending the event, said that as the sole country to face a nuclear attack, Japan has a duty to seek to wipe out nuclear weapons.
However, he made no mention of the dilemma the resource-scarce country is facing over nuclear energy, nor of the tens of thousands of people displaced by risks from radioactivity from a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in its northeast.
There are more than 200,000 hibakusha, surviving victims from the atomic bombings, with an average age of nearly 79. Many gathered in Hiroshima to burn incense, bowing in prayer.
In a “peace declaration” speech, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui described the pain of those who survived, only to be shunned as contaminated by radiation.
“The atomic bomb is the ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil. The hibakusha, who know the hell of an atomic bombing, have continuously fought that evil,” Matsui said.
Matsui chided the government for its efforts to restart nuclear plants and to export nuclear technology to other countries.
“This summer, eastern Japan is still suffering the aftermath of the great earthquake and the nuclear accident. The desperate struggle to recover hometowns continues. The people of Hiroshima know well the ordeal of recovery,” Matsui said.
“We urge the national government to rapidly develop and implement a responsible energy policy, that places top priority on safety and the livelihoods of the people,” he said.