Hiroshima City to hold this year’s Peace Memorial Ceremony at a reduced scale again, preparing seating for 10 percent of participants compared to pre-pandemic years.

by Kyosuke Mizukawa and Hajime Niiyama, Staff Writers

On May 13, the City of Hiroshima finalized a policy drastically shrinking the scale of the Peace Memorial Ceremony to be held on August 6 this year as it had done last year, given the current levels of COVID-19 infections. Regarding the number of seats for participants in the ceremony, the city has been making adjustments to make it almost the same as last year’s maximum of 880, to avoid creating crowded close-contact spaces. Under the circumstances, where it is difficult to predict the end of the pandemic, it will be the unprecedented condition that the ceremony is held on a smaller scale for two consecutive years.

For the last year’s ceremony, the city limited the number of seats on the grass square in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Naka Ward, the venue of the ceremony, to a maximum of 880, greatly reduced from 11,500 usually arranged for the ceremony. According to the guidelines on social distancing which the national government has requested for the case of people standing in line outside without wearing masks, the seats were placed two meters apart.

Several sources said the city would apply the policy of keeping two-meter distance between seats on the grass square at the ceremony this year again. But the outline of the ceremony program will be unchanged, such as the Peace Declaration and the Commitment to Peace by representatives of children.

A-bomb survivors and the bereaved families of victims were given priority for seating the last year’s ceremony, based on the concept that their attendance was essential. As of now, the city is willing to invite representatives of bereaved families from prefectures nationwide and foreign ambassadors living in Japan to the ceremony this year as it has usually done. The city sent a document to the department in each prefectural office in Japan for requesting them to select the representative of the bereaved family from their prefecture, while explaining that the condition may change according to the Covid infection situation.

Last year, 785 people attended the ceremony in person, including international guests from 83 nations and the European Union (EU), and representatives of bereaved family from each prefecture in Japan. Of them, 23 people joined the ceremony as representatives of bereaved families, a record-low figure. There were no seats prepared for general participants as well as elementary school and junior high school students, who usually come from around Japan for peace studies.

Last year, the city asked the citizens to refrain from coming to Peace Memorial Park, the ceremony venue. It expanded the area of restrictions on entry, and began to apply those restrictions an hour earlier than the usual start time of 6:30 a.m. In order to both prevent Covid infections and secure time for citizens and surviving families to pray for their deceased victims under the pandemic situation, it has been decided to take the same measures again this year, too.


Peace Memorial Ceremony
A ceremony held with a purpose of commemorating the A-bomb victims and praying for realization of a peaceful world. When the Peace Festival was held on August 6, 1947, the second anniversary of the atomic bombing, Shinso Hamai, then the mayor of Hiroshima, read out Peace Declaration first time. The ceremony has been held on the A-bombing day every year, except that it was cancelled in 1950 because of the Korean war. The Peace Declaration has been sent to the nations throughout the world and continued to call for elimination of the nuclear weapons and realization of the permanent world peace. Last year, Hiroshima marked a milestone, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing, but the ceremony was held on a much smaller scale than usual to prevent spread of COVID-19 infections.

(Originally published on May 14, 2021)