TOKYO (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Bells tolled in Hiroshima on Thursday (Aug 6) for the 75th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, with ceremonies downsized due to the novel coronavirus and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urging dialogue between countries to decrease security threats.
Though thousands usually pack the Peace Park in central Hiroshima to pray, sing and lay paper cranes as a symbol of peace, entrance was sharply limited and only survivors and their families could attend the memorial ceremony itself.
The city said that given the significance of the 75th anniversary of the bombing, that killed 140,000 people before the end of 1945, they had decided to hold the ceremony despite the spread of coronavirus, but with strict precautions in place.
Overall attendance was scaled back to less than 10 per cent of usual, with chairs spaced far apart and most attendees wearing masks.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the event as usual and renewed calls to abolish atomic weapons and warned of a worsening global security situation.
Mr Abe urged dialogue between countries to decrease security threats. He added that Japan would uphold its stance of not possessing, making or introducing nuclear weapons.
“As the only country to suffer nuclear attacks, it is our duty to advance efforts to realise a world without nuclear weapons,” Mr Abe said, adding that Hiroshima’s recovery from its ordeal renewed his determination to overcome the virus.
The attack by the United States on Hiroshima was followed on Aug 9 by the dropping of a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. Japan’s then-emperor Hirohito declared defeat in World War II on Aug 15.
On Thursday, elderly survivors, diplomats and politicians sat at socially distanced spaces in front of the bombed-out remains of the iconic domed exhibition centre that was kept as a memorial of the world’s first nuclear attack. A minute’s silence was held at 8.15am, the time when the bomb fell in 1945.
“On August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb destroyed our city. Rumour at the time had it that ‘nothing will grow here for 75 years'," said mayor Kazumi Matsui. “And yet, Hiroshima recovered, becoming a symbol of peace.”
At 8.15am on Aug 6, 1945, US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and obliterated the city, killing 140,000 of an estimated population of 350,000, with thousands more dying later of injuries and radiation-related illnesses.
On Thursday, at the exact time the bomb exploded, the crowd stood for a moment of silence in the heavy summer heat while cicadas shrilled and the Peace Bell rang.
“When the 1918 flu pandemic attacked a century ago, it took tens of millions of lives and terrorised the world because nations fighting World War I were unable to meet the threat together,” Mayor Matsui added.
“A subsequent upsurge in nationalism led to World War II and the atomic bombings. We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself. Civil society must reject self-centered nationalism and unite against all threats.”