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Hiroshima for Global Peace

I Peace Administration

1 The Origin of the Peace Administration: The Hiroshima City Peace Festival

(1) The First Memorial Service for Those Who Died in the War

The citizens of Hiroshima who survived the atomic bombing first searched for their relatives and acquaintances and prayed for the repose of the victims. In May 1946, the year after the bombing, the City of Hiroshima established a week of memorial services, and collected the victims’ ashes in collaboration with neighborhood associations. On the last day of the week, Kosho Ohtani, the head priest of Nishi Hongwan-ji Temple in Kyoto, was invited to preside over a Buddhist memorial service held in front of the temporary memorial monument under construction, in which the remains of victims would be kept. Furthermore, on August 6, the first anniversary of the bombing, the first annual memorial service conducted for the victims began at 6:30 a.m. and was held for approximately six hours. It was organized by the City of Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Prefectural Chapter of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations, and the Hiroshima War Victims Consolation Association. That was the beginning of memorial services that would be held every year by various religious denominations. The City of Hiroshima has called on citizens to observe a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. on August 6 annually.

(2) Actions in Hiroshima Involving the Japanese Constitution

The Japanese government announced its draft for a revised constitution on April 17, 1946. The Constitution of Japan was promulgated on November 3 and enforced on May 3 of the following year. In Hiroshima, various actions were taken in support of the pacifism of the new constitution.

The Hiroshima City Federation of Neighborhood Associations planned a peace restoration festival and submitted their proposal to the city in April 1946. In addition, on June 28, the Hiroshima Prefectural Commerce Association and the Association for the Reconstruction of Hiroshima Hondori Shopping Street created a program for a world peace commemoration festival and proposed that it be held in Hiroshima City. In response to these citizens’ requests, in early July the city began planning for a peace restoration festival to be held around August 6. The purpose was “to make August 6 a memorial day for world peace and for renunciation of war and pass it on to future generations, and to give hope to citizens striving to rebuild the city as a city of peace and culture.” (The Chugoku Shimbun, July 6 edition).

The Peace Festival was held on August 6, 1947 and was organized by the Hiroshima Peace Festival Association, established on June 20 by the City of Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Hiroshima Tourist Association. The occupation forces approved the festival, and General MacArthur sent a long message to the ceremony. In September that year, the Japan Culture and Peace Association was established by intellectuals in Hiroshima, including Arata Osada (president of Hiroshima University of Literature and Science) and Nobuo Hase (a physician). The Peace Festival was considered an annual event held under the slogan of promoting a lasting peace, and this organization had the mission of contributing to the research on and the realization of a lasting peace (preface by Osada in Hase, 1948). In addition, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law (enacted on August 6, 1949) was the crystallization of Hiroshima citizens’ thoughts on the new constitution in a form of a law as the will of the people of Japan. As these actions show, at the start of the reconstruction of Hiroshima, there was a strong awareness of the pacifism inherent in the constitution among the citizens of Hiroshima.

(3) Development and Breakdown of the Peace Festival

The purpose of the Peace Festival is explained in various ways, such as “to convey to the world that the A-bombed city wants peace” (Hamai, 1967), “to cover the atomic wasteland with the breath of peace” (the Chugoku Shimbun, June 21, 1947), and “to eternally commemorate August 6 as a day that world peace was resurrected, like July 14 in Paris” (the Chugoku Shimbun, June 22, 1947). On July 31, 1947, the City of Hiroshima established an ordinance to suspend office work at City Hall on August 6 every year as a day to commemorate peace, so that all the employees at City Hall would commemorate the 6th day of August. As if responding to this move, members of the United States Northern Baptist Convention began calling for August 6 to be named World Peace Day. Then on April 18, 1948, the international committee for World Peace Day was organized by promoters from 26 countries; and the first World Peace Day, called for by the committee, was observed on August 6 around the world (Hiroshima Peace Association, 1949). Furthermore, on February 1, 1949, the Hiroshima City Council passed a resolution on “the matter requesting August 6 be added as a national holiday as a Day of Peace.”

Messages were sent to the Peace Festival from General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers; the commander-in-chief of the British Commonwealth Forces; the head of the United States Military Government; the Prime Minister; the speakers from both houses, and others. JOFK (NHK Hiroshima) broadcasted the ceremony live, and it was relayed to the United States through JOAK (Tokyo). This was the first postwar international broadcast from Japan. The ceremony was covered by INS and CBS and other broadcasting networks in the United States, and news film companies including the United Artists, Nippon Eigasha, and Jiji Press (The Chugoku Shimbun, August 7 edition).

Actions were also taken in Hiroshima to meet this interest and to further raise the interest in Japan and abroad. The city sent seedlings of trees to war-damaged cities in Japan to commemorate peace (1st implementation) and asked various individuals from around the country to participate in the ceremony. In 1950, the city planned to send invitations to a total of 1,567 people, including the occupation forces, the Prime Minister, the speakers from both houses, and 15 state ministers, 453 members of the House of Representatives, 256 members of the House of Councillors, 57 members of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly, 38 members of the Hiroshima City Council, 69 members of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 46 prefectural governors, 233 mayors from cities throughout Japan, 347 mayors of municipalities in Hiroshima Prefecture, 19 people from newspaper companies in Hiroshima, 6 people from the city war orphanages, 23 citizens of merit, and five chairmen of municipal councils in Hiroshima Prefecture (City of Hiroshima, 1982).

The content of the ceremony had improved every year, and the 4th Peace Festival in 1950 seemed likely to be the best yet. However, the festival was cancelled a few days before August 6 due to the Korean War, which broke out in June. According to the August 2 report by the standing committee of the Hiroshima Peace Association, the decision was made as a result of a “discussion between the Chugoku Regional Civil Affairs Section, the chief of the Hiroshima District Headquarters of National Police for the Provinces, and the chief of the Hiroshima City Police.” (City of Hiroshima, 1982)

2 Developing the Peace Memorial Ceremony

(1) Memorial Services and Peace

The 1951 ceremony was held on August 6 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in front of the memorial monument for war victims. Until 1949, the program for the Peace Festival had not included elements of a memorial service. However, the 1951 ceremony included singing hymns in chorus and offerings of flowers, incense and branches of sacred sakaki trees. The mayor did not make a “peace declaration” but gave a “message from the Mayor” this time. The atmosphere of the ceremony was like that of a memorial service. In addition, some 20 pilots who had flown over 50 missions in the Korean War attended the ceremony, invited by the Chugoku Shimbun, Hiroshima Prefecture and the City of Hiroshima (at the request of the U.S. Air Force Iwakuni Base). An aircraft from the Iwakuni Base dropped a wreath of flowers, and the wreath was offered to the A-bomb victims. That year was the sixth anniversary, considered as one of the most important anniversaries for Buddhists, and numerous memorial services were held to commemorate August 6 by various organizations.

The Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed in San Francisco on September 9, 1951 and came into force on April 28, 1952. The first peace memorial ceremony held after sovereignty was returned to Japan was conducted from 8:00 a.m. for one hour at the square in front of the Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims, newly built in the Peace Memorial Park (the Cenotaph is officially named the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace). In addition to unveiling the cenotaph, the program included the presentation of the registries of the names of victims who died from the bombing. The peace declaration, which was brought back that year, included words suggesting A-bomb victims by saying, “We offer a pledge before their spirits.” The Peace Festivals in the past did not contain elements of a memorial service, but starting this year, the ceremony came to have two characteristics: a memorial service and a call for peace.

(2) Peace Declaration

The subject of the declaration read by the mayor during the peace memorial ceremony was not “I” (the mayor himself) but “we” (“the mayor of Hiroshima, on behalf of the citizens of Hiroshima,” or “the mayor of Hiroshima representing the citizens of Hiroshima who experienced the atomic bombing”). For example, the declarations say, “we, Hiroshima’s citizens” (1947) and “we did experience the atomic bombing” (1955). However, the 1991 declaration proclaimed, “I would like to…pledge myself to join the people of Hiroshima in working untiringly for peace.” For the first time in the English version, the subject was not “we” but “I.” This was the first time the mayor appeared as an individual in the declaration.

The 1947 declaration concluded with “Here, under this peace tower, we thus make a declaration of peace,” and in 1948 “On this historic occasion of the third anniversary of the atomic bombing, we vow to achieve this goal by appealing for peace to the whole world.” In this way, the early declarations aimed to clarify, to Japan and abroad, the pledge of the City. From 1951 onward, however, the declarations clearly indicated to whom the declarations were addressed. In 1951, the mayor’s speech announced, “We pray for the repose of the souls of the victims of the atomic bomb and….firmly pledge ourselves to build Hiroshima into a City of Peace.” In this speech, the “souls of the victims” appeared, and the repose was offered to them. In 1952, the peace declaration announced “…a sincere pledge before the spirits.” The spirits of the dead were clearly expressed here, and the declaration was addressed to these sprits. Furthermore, in 1954, the declaration called for an “appeal…throughout the world.” Thus the declaration was addressed to the “world” as well. Since then, these three elements (pledge, prayer for the repose of the souls, and appeal to the world) have always been incorporated in the peace declarations.

The declaration of 1947 included the statement, “because of this atomic bomb, the people of the world have become aware that a global war in which atomic energy is used would lead to the end of our civilization and extinction of mankind.” Though there are some differences in nuances each year, this view of the extinction of humankind has consistently appeared in the subsequent declarations. The 1991 declaration warned, “Knowing from bitter experience how very easily the use of nuclear weapons could lead to the extinction of the human race….” In the beginning, the view that the extinction of humankind was a future possibility was expressed, but after the Bikini Atoll hydrogen-bomb incident, the 1954 declaration described it as an immediate possibility, saying, “Now…the human beings are threatened to be annihilated at any moment.” In addition, initially the creation of absolute peace and renunciation of war were called for based on the view that not doing so would cause human beings to become extinct. The declaration has continued to call for the “abolition of nuclear weapons” since1958.

Expressions related to the damage caused by the atomic bombing in the Hiroshima have changed over the years. The 1947 declaration depicted it with two elements: destruction of the city and the massive number of fatalities. In 1953, the declaration expressed it as “unimaginably terrible” and added “aftereffects” of the bombing, saying, “The scars of the crime perpetrated by that single bomb still linger among us.”

(3) Attendance

Until 1953 the ceremony was attended by several thousand people. In 1954 the number of attendees reached approximately 20,000 and since then has usually been in the tens of thousands. The reason why the number jumped from several thousand to tens of thousands was because rallies against atomic and hydrogen bombs came to be held on the prefectural and the national scale in Hiroshima City each year around August 6, and the participants in these rallies have taken part in the ceremony since 1954.

From the start, the national government showed interest in the ceremony. In the early stage, prime ministers sent a message to the ceremony, and diet and cabinet members elected from Hiroshima acted on behalf of the prime minister. Cabinet members began to attend the ceremony from the mid-1960s, and in 1971 Prime Minister Eisaku Sato became the first prime minister to attend the ceremony in person. In addition, the national treasury came to subsidize the ceremony from 1979. In 1981, the national government started a subsidy from the national treasury to invite from each prefecture a representative of the bereaved families of the A-bomb victims to the ceremony. Due to such changes in the ceremony, since around the tenth anniversary of the atomic bombing, the ceremony grew from a local event to a nationwide event; and gradually, it became an established national event as of the twentieth anniversary.

In 1960, the then Crown Prince (the present Emperor) attended the ceremony. Kenzaburo Oe, who attended the ceremony for the first time, wrote immediately afterwards, “The gravity of this experience is likely to gradually grow and have a great impact on me.” His famous Hiroshima Notes was written on his experiences in Hiroshima in 1963 and 1964.

In the (1st) World Conference against A and H Bombs held in 1955, there were 52 foreign representatives from 14 countries. Attending the peace ceremony was part of the conference program, and since then participants of the conference have always attended the peace ceremony. Mayor Setsuo Yamada planned to invite prominent figures from around the world to the ceremony in 1967, but this idea did not come to fruition when he was in office. This was realized by the next mayor, Takeshi Araki, in the form of inviting relevant officials from the United Nations. Nonaligned countries and international peace organizations became more interested in nuclear disarmament from the mid-1970s and began to demand the United Nations to take concrete initiatives. In December 1976, the mayors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki visited the United Nations Headquarters and urged Secretary-General Waldheim and President H. S. Amerasinghe of the General Assembly to take measures toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons. Moreover, both mayors sent them invitations to the following year’s ceremony. In response to the efforts made by both cities, President Amerasinghe and M. Clark (director of the United Nations Information Centre) attended the ceremonies in both cities in 1977, the latter attending on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. Since then, high officials from the UN Secretariat have often attended the ceremony on behalf of the Secretary-General.

3 Opposition and Harmony Involving Peace and Memorial Services

(1) Hiroshima Prefecture’s Peace Memorial Ceremony

The citizens of Hiroshima and the bereaved families of the A-bomb victims had a deep-rooted desire for the 6th of August to be spent as a day of solemn prayer. This desire became more evident in 1959 when the 5th World Conference against A and H Bombs was held. In July, the Hiroshima Prefectural Chapter of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations decided not to participate in the World Conference as an organization and proposed hosting a flag at half-mast at every home in Hiroshima City on August 6. In addition, on December 15 the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly requested that the prefectural government hold a large memorial ceremony in 1960 for the victims of the atomic bombing. Later, after many twists and turns, this request was realized through the “Memorial Service and Peace Memorial Ceremony on the 15th Anniversary of A-bombing” jointly organized by the prefecture and the city governments.

Approximately 40,000 people attended the ceremony on August 6, 1960, including the Crown Prince (of the time), the Prime Minister (represented by the Minister of Health and Welfare), the speaker of the House of Representatives, the vice-president of the House of Councillors, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party Public Relations Committee, the Director of the Japan Socialist Party Public Relations Bureau, the secretary-general of the Democratic Socialist Party, and the acting chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. More than 100 bunches of flowers, offered by the National Governors’ Association, the National Association of Chairpersons of Prefectural Assemblies and others, were laid in front of the cenotaph. Incense sticks were relayed by families unable to attend the ceremony, starting from Shobara, Fuchu, Otake and Takehara, and were placed in front of the cenotaph just before the ceremony. This ceremony was the only Peace Memorial Ceremony that was organized by Hiroshima Prefecture.

(2) Response from Citizens’ Groups

Apart from initiatives by the national and local governments, there were also independent actions taken by peace groups and other associations to offer silent prayers at 8:15 a.m., the time of the atomic bombing. The Kochi Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs called on various organizations in Kochi Prefecture to dedicate a collective moment of silence on at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1957. In 1959, the Japanese National Railways Workers’ Union and the Japanese National Railways Locomotive Workers’ Union also instructed their affiliated organizations to blow the whistle of trains and observe silence at noon on the Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Day. This call to action was suspended in the 1960s during a period of division in the movement against atomic and hydrogen bombs, but was reinstated in the late 1970s.

In June 1964, the national council members’ meeting of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) decided to raise the national flag at half-mast for Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the days of the atomic bombings and to start a citizens’ movement to offer a one-minute of silent prayer at the time of the bombings. This was based on the proposal made by the executive board member representing the Kanto-Koshinestsu Regions, who said, “Nihon Hidankyo should launch a nationwide movement to fly the national flag at half-mast from August 6 to 18, which shall be a period of reflection for the entire country. This would cut across the divided anti-nuclear movements.” However, objections were made to this proposal, which included a moment of silent prayer on August 15 as well, so it was decided to offer a silent prayer only on the days of the atomic bombings.

On July 26, 1978, the Hiroshima Prefectural Labor Union Congress and the Liaison Council of A-bomb Survivors of Hiroshima Prefectural Labor Union Congress requested the governor and the mayor of Hiroshima 1) to call for all workplaces and households in the prefecture to offer one minute of silent prayer at 8:15 a.m. on August 6; 2) to stop all vehicles on roads; 3) to signal the residents in all municipalities in the prefecture, using sirens or other methods, to observe a moment of silent prayer; and 4) to ask, at least, the neighboring prefectures to join this action.

(3) Sanctifying the Peace Park

The Peace Park was not only a place for the citizens to relax but it also served as a venue for various gatherings, including the World Conference against A and H Bombs. However, right-wing organizations in 1959 and student organizations in 1963 clashed with the participants of the World Conference at the venue in the Peace Park (both on August 5). Local groups and organizations in Hiroshima responded with sharp criticism regarding these troubles. On August 17, eleven groups including the Hiroshima City War-Bereaved Families Association decided to ask the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture and the mayor of Hiroshima City to request the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) cease holding the World Congress in Hiroshima. On March 23, 1964, the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly adopted a written request to “make the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima a day of quiet prayer.” On June 5, the City of Hiroshima adopted the policy of prohibiting gatherings of general organizations at the square in front of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in the Peace Memorial Park for a period of three days from August 5 to 7.

In May 1967, the new mayor, Setsuo Yamada announced a concept to sanctify the Peace Memorial Park. The restrictions in the usage of the Park until then had been, in a sense, for preventing troubles involving the anti-nuclear movement, but under the new concept, various other measures came to be implemented. In February 1969, permission to run outdoor stalls in the park was revoked, and strict regulations were enforced regarding the utilization of the Peace Memorial Park, including banning demonstrations and gatherings (excluding May Day) and walking on the lawn. However, there have still been some events held at the Peace Memorial Park, such as the peace gatherings to welcome Pope John Paul II in February 1981 and former President Carter in May 1984.

(4) Call for a Moment of Silence and its Implementation

At the Cabinet meeting held on April 24, 1964, the national government decided to host the 2nd Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead on August 15 on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine and called on the citizens of Japan to observe a moment of silence at noon on August 15. In the same year, Hiroshima Prefecture asked prefectural residents to observe a moment of silence both at 8:15 a.m. on August 6 and at noon on August 15, but the call for silence on August 15 was made after the Cabinet’s call.

Nagasaki City implemented a moment of silence on August 6, 1972 and asked the City of Hiroshima to observe this silence on August 9. Responding to that request, in July of the following year the City of Hiroshima decided to ask the citizens to observe a moment of silence on August 9 at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. After that, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have jointly called for a silent prayer on August 6 and 9. In 1979, the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture and the mayor of Hiroshima City successfully expanded the call for this practice of a minute of silence to six other prefectures (four prefectures in the Chugoku region and Ehime and Kagawa prefectures) in addition to Hiroshima Prefecture. In 1980, the governor and the mayor of Hiroshima sent letters to the governors of 47 prefectures and the mayors of nine ordinance-designated cities, asking for a moment of silence. The letter was titled, “Regarding a memorial service for the A-bomb victims and a moment of silent prayers for peace.” Furthermore, every year since 1983 the City of Hiroshima has requested prefectural associations of city mayors and the Hiroshima Prefecture Association of Towns and Villages to observe a moment of silence.

In response to these calls from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the practice of observing silence at the moment of the atomic bombings gradually spread nationwide. In 1973, Saitama became the first prefectural government, outside Hiroshima and Nagasaki to observe silence at the moment of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In addition, in June 1982 the Japan Association of City Mayors decided to observe a moment of silence at the time of the atomic bombings in response to the request from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

According to Kyodo News, 17 prefectures and one ordinance-designated city (Kawasaki City) responded to the call in 1980, and 25 prefectures and two designated cities in 1981. With regard to the number of municipalities that observed a moment of silence, it rose sharply to 487 in 1982 (63% of the 772 municipalities called upon), and to 703 municipalities in 1983 (81% of the 865 municipalities called upon). Since then, it has been reported that the rate of observing a moment of silence in municipalities has remained over 80%.

4 Hiroshima Peace Culture Center

(1) The Birth of the Peace Administration

Setsuo Yamada became the new mayor of Hiroshima City in May 1967. In October, Mayor Yamada launched the Hiroshima Peace Culture Center (today’s Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation) as an organization of the city government. In the introduction to Hiroshima no Shogen (Testimonies from Hiroshima) Mayor Yamada wrote, “It was the first time this kind of organization had been established by a local government in Japan.” Its objective was stipulated in Article 1 of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Center Ordinance: “to contribute to building world peace and promoting the welfare of humanity by 1) conducting comprehensive research and study on peace-related issues; 2) studying and planning the construction of an international culture hall; 3) planning and implementing peace-related projects and events; and 4) planning and implementing fundamental and comprehensive policies for developing and managing peace memorial facilities and other cultural facilities.” In December, soon after the foundation of the Center, 24 people (those from academia, representatives from various fields, and city employees) were selected as members of the Council to Promote Peace Culture at the request or by appointment by the mayor. They made earnest proposals and had discussions related to the peace administration of the City of Hiroshima until the center became a foundation.

(2) Developing Events

Mayor Yamada was an enthusiastic world federalist. The first event at the center organized for the citizens was a public lecture on world federalism, held from January 23 to 24, 1968. He also promoted the concept of a world federation in the 1971 peace declaration, saying, “…all nations of the world (should) act upon the fundamental spirit in which the Japanese Constitution has renounced wars, and liquidate their military sovereignty completely by transferring it to a world organization binding mankind in solidarity.”

The center made enthusiastic attempts to increase citizens’ interest in peace-related issues. In August 1968, it held the first “gathering of citizens to talk about peace.” It was an opportunity for citizens to discuss how Hiroshima should promote peace. The second meeting was held in August 1969 on the theme of “disseminating the A-bomb experiences to future generations and peace education”; and the third meeting in July 1970. The center also conducted a survey on peace-related organizations, soon after its inauguration. The purpose of this survey was to support new endeavors to establish liaison and coordinate among peace organizations and solicit participation of citizens who were not members of any organizations. Initially, the outlines of 53 organizations were compiled in the Register of Peace-related Organizations (as of March 1, 1973). The Register has subsequently been updated.

(3) The Hiroshima Conference

Inspired by a proposal from the members of the Council to Promote Peace Culture, the Hiroshima Conference was held from November 29 to December 2, 1970. It was the first international peace conference held by the City of Hiroshima after the war with the cooperation of its citizens. Six participants were invited from overseas, including Philip Noel-Baker (U.K., a Nobel Peace Prize winner) and Eugene Rabinowitch (United States, one of those involved in the formation of the Pugwash Conference), and 13 from Japan, including Hideki Yukawa and Shinichiro Tomonaga (both winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics).

The center conducted various other projects as well, including drafting the peace declarations; establishing the Committee for the Map-restoration of A-bombed Areas (April 1969); producing the movie, Hiroshima: Genbaku no Kiroku (Hiroshima: A Record of the Atomic Bombing) (completed in August 1970); publishing books (since 1969); opening a library (June 1974); and receiving A-bomb drawings by survivors (December 1975).

(4) Restructuring of the Organization

The center became a foundation in April 1976 (its English name was changed to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation). With this, it shifted from an organization supporting the city’s peace administration to one resembling a non-governmental organization (NGO), and handled the city’s peace administration in collaboration with various departments and bureaus of the City of Hiroshima. With regard to the organization, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Hall belonged to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Center from 1971 to 1975, as did the Hiroshima City Public Hall from 1973 to 1975.

(Satoru Ubuki)


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