Hiroshima observes 74th anniversary of atomic bombing

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Marking the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the City of Hiroshima held the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony in the Peace Memorial Park in the city center on August 6. This ceremony to console the souls of the victims of the bombing conveyed to the world the conviction of the A-bomb survivors that the horrific destruction caused by nuclear weapons must never again take place.

A-bomb survivors, family members of the victims, government officials including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and representatives from countries and regions around the world attended the ceremony. The City of Hiroshima has continually encouraged representatives from the nine nuclear weapon states, including the United States and Russia, to attend the ceremony. This year representatives from most of the nuclear-armed nations were present.

During the ceremony, the register of the A-bomb victims was placed in the stone chest beneath the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. The names of those who died during the past year have been added to the register, and it now contains the names of 319,186 victims. At 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Peace Bell was tolled by two relatives of the victims while those in attendance offered a silent prayer.

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui then read out the Peace Declaration, saying, “We want leaders around the world to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament, as mandated by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and respond to the yearning of civil society for entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a milestone on the road to a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

He then continued, “I call on the government of the only country to experience a nuclear weapon in war to accede to the hibakushas’ request that the TPNW be signed and ratified. I urge Japan’s leaders to manifest the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution by displaying leadership in taking the next step toward a world free from nuclear weapons.”

After the Peace Declaration, two local elementary school students read out the Commitment to Peace.

On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber, flew from the island of Tinian in the Pacific Ocean and dropped a uranium bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. The temperature of the ground at the hypocenter reached 4,000 degrees Celsius, charring the area within two kilometers of ground zero. In addition to the intense heat rays and blast, an enormous amount of radiation was released. Three days later, the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki.

It is estimated that the number of victims reached 140,000 in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945. But many of those who survived died of leukemia and other A-bomb related diseases in and after 1946. Many survivors have developed cancer even decades after the bombings because of the aftereffects of their exposure to radiation.

People who entered the city of Hiroshima within two weeks of the atomic bombing or those who were involved in the relief efforts, among others, are recognized as A-bomb survivors by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. As of the end of March 2019, the number of survivors totaled 145,844, of which 2,966 live overseas. Their average age is 82.65.

Since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nation in July 2017, A-bomb survivors are hopeful that 50 countries will soon ratify it and the treaty will enter into force. Also, the main building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum reopened in April of this year after undergoing renovations, and is being visited by many people from overseas. A-bomb survivors believe that nuclear weapons can be abolished by raising awareness of their catastrophic effects more widely.

However, it is estimated that there are still nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world, 90 percent of which are possessed by the United States and Russia. The nuclear weapon states have declared that they will not ratify the nuclear weapons ban treaty, and Japan and other nations that rely on their allies’ nuclear capability for their national security have taken the same stance. A-bomb survivors and peace organizations in Hiroshima have been pursuing the Hibakusha Appeal, a worldwide signature drive aimed at collecting 100 million signatures to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They strongly criticize the Japanese government for its reliance on nuclear deterrence.