Ambassadors from record 67 nations to attend August 6 ceremony

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

On July 20, the City of Hiroshima released the outline of the Peace Memorial Ceremony to be held on August 6, the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Ambassadors and officials from 67 countries, eight more than last year and the largest number ever, will attend the ceremony. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have also indicated their intention to attend the ceremony.

The city extended invitations to 149 nations which maintain embassies in Japan. Of the five major nuclear nations, France will send its minister for the first time, and Russia is expected to make its 11th appearance in as many years. China will be absent while the United States and the United Kingdom have not responded, according to the city. From within the country, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada are arranging their schedules to attend the ceremony. Representatives of victims' relatives from 41 prefectures will attend the ceremony as well.

The ceremony, as in previous years, will be held in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It will start at 8:00 a.m. and last for 45 minutes.

At 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped, the Peace Bell will toll and a silent prayer will be offered. The bell will be rung by Norihiro Ishikawa, 31, representing the relatives of the victims, and Sakura Shiigi, 12, the children's representative. Mr. Ishikawa is an independent businessman from Nishi Ward, Hiroshima, and Ms. Shiigi is a sixth grader at Kabe Elementary School. Following the Peace Declaration by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, Kazuhiro Yokobayashi, 11, and Mikina Takamatsu, 11, sixth graders at Furutadai Elementary School in Nishi Ward and Fukuromachi Elementary School in Naka Ward, respectively, will read out the Commitment to Peace.

At the press conference held at Hiroshima City Hall, Ms. Shiigi said, "I would like to ring the bell with the hope of conveying our wish for peace to those who perished in the atomic bombing and those who will come into the world in the future."

In consideration of the elderly survivors and relatives of the victims, 5,700 seats, up 1,300 in number from last year, will be arranged under tents in the park to offer shade from the harsh summer heat.

(Originally published on July 21, 2010)

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