One of the countries that I spend several years growing up in was Japan. To this day one of my fondest memories is cherry blossom (sakura) time at Kyoto's Hirano Shrine. Japan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But like most countries, Japan has a past checked by military actions including war with the United States. Today Japan marks the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima with a solemn ceremony.
For me, having lived there and personally knowing survivors of that period, it's anything but a happy reminder of the imperialist mentality that comes from war. During a ceremony of thousands of elderly survivors, as well as children and dignitaries at the Peace Memorial Park where the bomb was dropped, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized to the survivors for comments made by former Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma, who said "the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could not be helped because they brought an end to the second World War".
To atomic blast survivors, winning or losing makes no difference to the pain and suffering they've carried over the last decades. It doesn't return their health, family, friends or neighbors. It doesn't give them back their lost dreams, or salve their open wounds, or make them smile again and nothing will ever take away the memories of the mushroom and it's devastation.
Over a third of Hiroshima's population of 350,000 was melted dead by the blast. Thousands more succumbed to related illnesses and injuries over the years. All carry emotional scar from the gruesome reality of this terrible event. At today's Peace Declaration, the lists of names of 5,221 hibakusha who died during the past year were added to those stored inside the park's monument honoring atomic bomb victims. The number of deceased hibakusha now stands at 253,008.
My close friend Cosmo (Grace) Yamamoto will one day be listed on the monument. She was just a child when the bomb was dropped. Many of her family were killed or injured. Immediately afterward, Cosmo (12 yrs old) was sent to Yokohama to board a ship for Taiwan. Only before boarding she was separated from her escort, then picked up and questioned by American soldiers. Imagine her horror and fear especially when she didn't speak English and the American's didn't speak Japanese. Just wanting to survive she handed over the money meant to offer her assistance in her new life, including the ring on her finger and all her identification. And then she begged in Japanese to be allowed to live.
Years later, Cosmo has not only survived but found a new life. She married an American in 1960 and moved to the United States. She founded several businesses, been an active member of her community, and brought happiness to those around her. But privately, she still suffers from the dropping of the bomb and the events that followed. Loving her, I wish I could take away that suffering, but nothing can....but 'never again'.
The promise of 'never again' and the action of Japan's non-nuclear policy banning the possession, production and import of nuclear arms helps. Ultimately the duty of each of us is to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons...it's the only thing that makes a difference and can bring about the change of peace...
Ben at True Majority shows the insanity of the United State's policy...take a look...then work for change so that Cosmo and the other hibakusha might know some degree of peace.
Families and friends gathered along the banks of the Motoyasu river Saturday night to launch the candlelit lanterns. The river is the same one survivors fled to in an effort to escape the horrific heat of the nuclear blast. They would throw themselves in the river to try and eliminate the pain and burning from the blast.
The lanterns represent the souls of the victims.