Hiroshima Memo: Eternal Green

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

In the heart of the city of Hiroshima, lush greenery adorns Peace Memorial Park and Peace Boulevard, where the Hiroshima Flower Festival was held in early May. This year marked the 32nd Flower Festival, conceived for a city that overcame the tragedy of the atomic bombing to rise again from the ashes of a burnt plain. Young and old together, a total of over 1.5 million people, enjoyed the three-day festival of songs, dances, parades, and other performances.

In Hiroshima, August 6 is the day we pay tribute to the A-bomb victims and renew our pledge to their souls that we will “not repeat the evil” of war. On this day, we commit ourselves to continuing to work toward the realization of a world at peace, without nuclear weapons.

In contrast, the three-day Flower Festival in May is an opportunity to offer our gratitude to our predecessors for their efforts in reconstructing the fallen city as we come together, transcending differences of religion, ethnicity, and nationality, to share in the joy of life lived in peace.

Such a celebration of peace surely befits the month of May when nature is abundantly alive and the Japanese Constitution, which renounces war, took effect. The writer Tamiki Hara, whose best-known work, “Summer Flowers,” is based on his experience of the atomic bombing, wrote a poem called “Eternal Green”:  

In the delta of Hiroshima
Let new green flourish
In the memory of death and blaze
Let good prayers be filled

Let eternal green prevail
Let eternal green prevail

In the delta of Hiroshima
Let new green thrive

The writer, who witnessed the horrific world wrought by the atomic bombing, expressed the idea of peace through the growth of new greenery. Regrettably, however, Tamiki Hara ended his own life at the age of 45 by committing suicide on a railroad track in Tokyo in 1951, one year after the Korean War broke out. People believe that he threw himself in front of an oncoming train out of despair over the future of humanity, tormented over the continuing drumbeat of war in the world.

Fifty-seven years have passed since the death of Tamiki Hara. Voices calling to amend the “Peace Constitution” have grown louder in Japan as the military capability of the nation has come to be one of the world's strongest among non-nuclear powers. Masamoto Nasu, an A-bomb survivor and the author of children's literature, has expressed a sense of crisis about the current climate involving the movement to revise the Constitution. He states, “Without even realizing it, we are set to move down the same dangerous path that we have walked before.”

Approximately 1,200 A-bomb survivors and citizens who share this sentiment gathered for the Global Article 9 World Conference to Abolish War, held in Hiroshima on May 5 at a venue near the Flower Festival grounds. The participants made an appeal to preserve Japan's “Peace Constitution” and “convey the spirit of Article 9 to the world.”

At the heart of the Japanese Constitution and the Flower Festival is a common core rooted in peace. When peace in the land is lost, the celebrations cherished by its citizens will inevitably be lost, too.