• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 2:27pm
NewsAsia
JAPAN

Hiroshima marks anniversary of atomic bombing as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 6:31pm
 

Tens of thousands of people gathered for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Wednesday, marking the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.

Bells tolled as ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence in the rain at 8.15am local time, when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.

People attending Wednesday’s ceremony placed flowers in front of the cenotaph at Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima.

The city’s mayor Kazumi Matsui recalled the grim memories of one survivor at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.

The survivor, a 15-year-old pupil at the time, remembered hearing “voices from the brink of death” begging for “water, please”.

“The pleas were from younger students,” the mayor said, recounting the survivor’s grisly description of “their badly burned, grotesquely swollen faces, eyebrows and eyelashes singed off, school uniforms in ragged tatters”.

Many survivors – known in Japan as “hibakusha” – feel profound guilt over living through the attack, Matsui said.

But “people who rarely talked about the past because of their ghastly experiences are now, in old age, starting to open up”, he added.

Shigeji Yonekura, a 81-year-old Hiroshima survivor, said: “It’s sad to see my fellow hibakusha die year after year, but I want to keep telling young people about my horrific experience for as long as I live.”

An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of the second world war. It had killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.

On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people.

Japan surrendered days later – on August 15, 1945 – bringing the war to a close.

‘Sombre reflection’

Opinion remains divided over whether the twin attacks were justified. While some historians say that it prevented many more casualties in a planned land invasion, critics have said the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing that Japan was anyway heading for imminent defeat.

Paul Tibbets, who piloted the Enola Gay, said he never had any second thoughts about dropping the bomb, telling a newspaper in an interview in 2002, five years before his death, “I knew we did the right thing”.

The last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay, Theodore Van Kirk, died only last week, at the age of 93. His funeral was reportedly scheduled for August 5 in Pennsylvania, just hours before the Hiroshima commemorations in Japan.

Washington, which has been a close ally of Tokyo since the war, has never officially apologised for the bombings, however, leaked diplomatic cables from 2009 suggested that the Japanese government had rebuffed the idea of a US apology and a visit to Hiroshima by President Barack Obama.

But US diplomats have attended the annual commemorations of the attacks. And two years ago, a grandson of former US President Harry Truman, who gave the order to drop the bombs, attended peace ceremonies in Hiroshima.

In a statement issued on Wednesday’s anniversary, Kennedy, the US ambassador said: “This is a day for sombre reflection and a renewed commitment to building a more peaceful world.”

Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after an earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant on the northeast coast in 2011.

None of those deaths were directly attributed to the nuclear crisis but the reactor meltdowns spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Despite strong public opposition, Japan’s nuclear watchdog last month said that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on.

The decision marked a big step towards restarting the country’s nuclear plants, which were shut after the disaster.

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daily
Japan deserved the two nukes at that time after the horrific attack they had on Pearl Harbour and the countless Americans that were killed by the Japanese...............If the Americans didn't drop those two nukes, the barbaric Japanese would have continued their unjustified attack on the USA.
P Blair
The Atomic Bombings of Japan was brought upon the Japanese by their own evil actions. For Japan to mark the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, a pertinent question the Japanese must answer is whether the Japanese government have learned any lessons from the evil Japan unleashed on the world during her invasion and occupation of Asia, which saw terrible Japanese war crimes and slaughter of Asians including the looting of most of the treasures in Asia and the destruction wrought upon the occupied countries. Have Japan understood that by bringing death and destruction to others it will definitely receive a payback? Unfortunately the Japanese government today have learned nothing from the Atomic Bombings of Japan. Japanese politicians like Shinzo Abe and his LDP colleagues still glorify Japanese aggression and war crimes by praying to war criminals at the Yasukuni War Shrine and belittling the suffering of the victims of Japanese aggression especially the sex-slaves or "comfort-women". Even worse, Japan do not acknowledge her reprehensible responsibilities for causing so much suffering and destruction and fails to educate Japanese on the true nature of Japanese belligerence and aggression. So Japan's marking the 69th anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Japan lacks sincerity and remorse. In the eyes of the civilised world it's just an exercise in futility especially when the government of Shinzo Abe is back of the old path of Japanese lies, denials etc.
Jonathan Smith
The Atomic Bombings of Japan 69 years ago to stop Japan's militarism and barbarism in the invasion and occupation of many countries in Asia should be cause for reflection by Japan to work for peace instead of stirring up conflicts. The government of Shinzo Abe instead of glorifying the barbarous deeds of the Japanese war criminals and provoking Japan's neighbours including claiming and occupying their territories should instead be returning the spoils of Japan's war of aggression to her neighbours and paying compensation to the victims of Japan's brutal aggression. Shinzo Abe and the LDP members shouldn't be praying to war-criminals at the Yasukuni War Shrine and should adhere to Japan's "Peace Constitution" instead of starting Japan on the road to militarism which will only end with the total destruction of Japan.
baysidedweller
Anti-nuclear sentiments should run high so Abe's approval rating from high of 76% to the recent low of 48% could drop further.
IMO, most Japanese are peace loving people as the polls show. Unfortunately they have Abe as the prime minister.
This should remind Abe that if you play with fire, you get burned.
Daniel Lee
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the end result of Japanese militarism, aggression, massive war-crimes and looting, invasion and occupation. It was certainly what the Japanese deserved for their evil crimes against humanity like the Rape of Nanking, the 200,000 sex-slaves, Manila Massacre, slaughter of Allied POWs etc. Have the Japanese today reflected on this brutal fact of history? Certainly not. Japan white-washes its barbaric war history, insults the victims of Japanese barbarism makes no attempts to sincerely apologise for it's evil aggression and massive war-crimes and paid nothing in compensation to the hapless victims of Japanese aggression. Shinzo Abe's and his colleagues worship of war-criminals at the Yasukuni War Shrine is not only an insult to the victims of Japanese aggression but is also an insult to the Japanese victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shinzo Abe's and his war-criminals worshipping colleagues dishonour the victims of Japanese aggression and instead of taking Japan on the path to war again should cherish Japan's peace constitution instead of treating Japan's peace constitution as toilet paper.
ngsw
Officially ended the atrocities of Japan in China. KARMA should wake up earlier.
req
They should all put on shades and sun cream. Maybe they'll get less sunburn next time it happens.
input
Mr Abe and the entire Japanese cabinet should journey to Nanjing and pay homage to the tens of thousands of Chinese killed by the Japanese army during the Rape of Nanjing. Hiroshima is very little compared to what the Japanese did to China during the Second World War
Christine Wong
baysidedweller
"Even PM Abe and his right leaning colleagues do not deny JAPANESE wartime atrocities"
Not true, If Japan is like Germany and wholeheartedly (instead of halfheartedly) admitted to their past atrocities., then we will not be having so much discussions even to this date about the comfort woman issues in South Korea and China and the Nanking massacre. As Merkel said recently, facing history can be painful but vital. But Japan even to this day is not willing to "bite the bullet" so South Korea and China can have not more excuses to criticize her anymore.
FYI - Abe is the nationalistic revisionist who tries to white wash history. He is not trustworthy.
As I commented earlier, most Japanese are peace loving people. the unfortunate part is they elected Abe as their prime minister.
rolftsui
You are such a one sided arrogant brute. Shameful in trying to make political, cheap mileage from an absolute humanitarian disaster which has set humanity on the path to self annihilation.
Nuclear weapons are the epitome of the worst of the human condition and to applaud the use of such devices should never be condoned.
The dropping of these weapons were not a strategic or tactical military decision but a pure political one. All leading US Commanders in this theatre opposed its use while the politicians made the decision to drop the bombs.
Wake up and grow up and learn the true meaning of the word, "karma" before using it in such grotesque and miserable fashion.

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