The Peace Memorial Ceremony
On August 6, 2020, the Peace Memorial Ceremony was held in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to console the souls of those who were lost due to the atomic bombing, as well as pray for the realization of everlasting peace. This year marks the 75th anniversary after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was said that “no grass or trees will grow for 75 years.” The situation of the ceremony this year was very different from the past years.
The cause, of course, was COVID-19. From the point of preventing infection, admission to the park was restricted and the number of people attending the ceremony was drastically reduced to only 880, about 10% of the usual number of guests. Seats were separated by nearly two meters, and visitors were required to take a temperature test and disinfect their seats as they entered the park. Large monitors were set up in the park to show video messages from the heads of state and atomic bomb survivors who had been unable to visit the park due to COVID-19. This year’s ceremony began under an unusual circumstance: a rope was set up around the park, and citizens that could not enter the venue surrounded it.
First, Mayor of Hiroshima City, MATSUI Kazumi, and a representative of the bereaved families dedicated a list of the 4,943 atomic bomb victims who were confirmed to have died over the past year, to the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. YAMADA Haruo, chairman of the Hiroshima City Council, gave a speech, followed by a floral tribute. As people laid flowers, they all wore white masks.
At 8:15 a.m., “the peace bells” rang with the sound of a long siren and everybody prayed silently for a minute. The sky was cloudy and the hot, humid air surrounded us. The sound of cicadas, now in their prime, burst out as usual.
Many of the speeches made by the participants were based on COVID-19. In his Peace Declaration, Mr. Matsui stressed that all nations must stand together in solidarity against the virus and the threat of nuclear weapons. He also called on the government to sign and ratify the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and to make a political decision to expand the “Black Rain Zone” that support atomic bomb survivors.
Two elementary school students living in Hiroshima made a pledge for peace, saying that COVID-19 made them realize that their daily lives weren’t a matter of course. Then, they strongly said that nuclear weapons are not necessary for our future.
Prime Minister ABE Shinzo, while adhering to the three non-nuclear principles, pledged to serve as a negotiator between countries with differing viewpoints. Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, YUZAKI Hidehiko, referring to the harsh reality of recent years regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons, stressed once again that the only way to eliminate nuclear weapons is to physically eliminate them. A video message from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, scheduled to attend the ceremony, was also played.
The ceremony ended with the “Hiroshima Peace Song” which in previous years would have been a chorus sung by several hundred citizens, but this year it was sung by three high school students accompanied by a Hibaku-piano (a piano that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima). The release of pigeons after the peace declaration was also cancelled.
Because of the COVID-19 ravages, the ceremony was held differently from previous years, marking the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing. The unforgettable day, August 6th was a day for everyone to remember peace in their own places.
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Peace message by the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture at the Peace Memorial Ceremony
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