A visit to Japan is not complete without visiting Hiroshima the horrific site of the first nuclear bomb and when better than on the anniversary of that horrific event. The whole world knows about the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 where as many as 140 000 people were killed. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to the radiation exposure of the bomb. Each year a memorial ceremony is held on 6 August for those who died and the few who still survive as well as pray for the realization of everlasting world peace.
I arrived in Hiroshima early the morning of 6 August, the day of the memorial service. I headed straight to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park where they were holding the annual peace ceremony in memory of the atom bomb victims.
The location of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was once the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. The park was built on the open field that was created by the explosion. Today there are a number of memorials and monuments, museums, and lecture halls which draw over a million visitors annually.
The purpose of the Peace Memorial Park is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to establish the memory of nuclear horrors and advocate world peace.
This ceremony, which is attended by many citizens, including those who lost family members in the bombing, is held in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, a Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace. This cenotaph is an arched sculpture with a register of the names of all the people who died as a result of exposure to the Atomic bomb and contains over 181,000 names.
A small stone at the base of the arch reads, “Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Looking through the arch of the monument I could see the Peace Flame which has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964. It is said that the flame will burn until the entire world if free from nuclear weapons.
At exactly 8:15 a.m, the time the atomic bomb was dropped, the Peace Bell was rung, sirens sounded all over the city and for one minute people at the ceremony grounds paid silent tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing and prayed for the realization of everlasting world peace.
There was a sadness that covered the crowd as the mayor of Hiroshima read a prayer and talked about world peace, urging the rest of the world never to repeat what happened in Hiroshima. It was a very emotional experience and you could see that this memorial opening had touched a lot of people.
That whole day there were numerous activities and events all over the park commemorating this horrific event.
I attended a memorial speech where 3 different survivors of the atom bomb told their stories. They told us what they went through on the day of the bomb, what they saw and what went on after the bomb fell. It was very moving and shocking at the same time. They delivered their speeches in English and had translators help them with questions from the audience. They were all three still young children when this happened but remember that day in vivid detail. You can see that it’s still hard for them to tell their stories even after 60 years has passed. They live with the fear that any day they could die of some radiation related decease.
One of the survivors then took us on a tour of the memorial park and told us what each monument meant. It was a very emotional experience and it felt at times as if my heart was breaking and as if the sadness was seeping into my bones.
I remember thinking that I hadn’t felt that sad in ages and just wanted to sit on a bench and cry after we walked through the whole park.