Peace Declarations for A-bomb anniversaries reflect the times

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

At this year's annual Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, the mayor of Hiroshima will once again deliver the Peace Declaration. Since the first Peace Festival in 1947, the Peace Declaration delivered by Hiroshima mayors has reflected the historical backdrop and social conditions of the times and has conveyed Hiroshima's message including calls for nuclear disarmament and the realization of world peace. While tracing the changes that have taken place, the Chugoku Shimbun looked at the characteristics of recent Peace Declarations and the differences between those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Calls begin for nuclear abolition

In the first Peace Declaration, made in 1947, Mayor Shinso Hamai stressed the renunciation of war rather than nuclear abolition. "Because of the atomic bomb, the people of the world have become more aware that a global war in which atomic energy would be used would lead to the end of our civilization and the extinction of mankind," he said. He added, "Let us join in renouncing war eternally, and build a plan for world peace on this earth."

References to the abolition of nuclear weapons began to be included in the declaration in 1954 following the exposure of Japanese fishing boats, such as the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, to nuclear fallout from the hydrogen bomb test by the United States on Bikini Atoll. With the holding of the first World Conference against A- and H- Bombs in Hiroshima in 1955 and other events, the ban-the-bomb movement gained momentum, and in 1957 the mayor declared the theory of nuclear deterrence to be "nothing more than a foolish illusion." The following year the Peace Declaration called for the establishment of an international agreement that would completely ban the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons.

Since then, for more than 50 years every Peace Declaration has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. But in light of the current international situation, there is still no prospect of their total abolition. Emiko Okada, 73, an atomic bomb survivor, said, "I would like the mayor to deliver a message that will inspire young people – not just A-bomb survivors or peace activists – to take action."

Results of advocacy begin to be seen in 1979

Following the launch of a movement by A-bomb survivors to seek the enactment of a relief law based on the concept of compensation by the state, the Peace Declaration began to include references to this issue starting in 1979. But in December 1980 the Conference for Fundamental Problems of Measures for the Victims of the Atomic Bombs (Kihon-kon), a private advisory body to the Minister of Health and Welfare(now Health, Labor and Welfare), issued an opinion in which it stated that all citizens must endure equally the sacrifices resulting from the war instigated by Japan. The Peace Declaration the following year incorporated strong language, urging the Japanese government to change its stance on the issue: "We call for the enhancement and strengthening of relief measures for the atomic bomb survivors and the families of those who died based on the spirit of compensation by the state."

After the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law was enacted in 1995, the Peace Declaration focused on "realistic" relief for survivors both in Japan and abroad. Since 2003 references have also been made to the black rain that fell just after the bombing. Masaaki Takano, 72, chairman of the Hiroshima Prefecture Atomic Bomb Black Rain Council, said, "It is highly significant that black rain is regarded as one of the harmful effects of the atomic bombing."

References to Japan's wartime aggression appear

Mayor Takashi Hiraoka, who delivered the Peace Declaration from 1991 through 1998, was the first mayor to refer to Japan's wartime aggression, including an apology in his first Peace Declaration in 1991: "Japan inflicted great suffering and despair on the peoples of Asia and the Pacific during its reign of colonial domination and war."

Keisaburo Toyonaga, 74, director of the Hiroshima branch of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims, noted that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of Korea and said, "It is time to remind ourselves of the way in which the bombing of Hiroshima is regarded in Asia."

Satoru Ubuki, professor at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, analyzes declarations of Mayor Akiba

Emphasis on philosophy of reconciliation and humanity

The Chugoku Shimbun asked Satoru Ubuki, professor of modern Japanese history at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, to analyze the content of the Peace Declarations that have been delivered by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba. The following is a summary of his analysis.

Over the years the Peace Declaration has been delivered by the mayor on behalf of the citizens of the City of Hiroshima, which was destroyed by an atomic bombing. Compared to the declarations of previous mayors, those of Mayor Akiba emphasize his personal philosophy and ideas.

For example, he has articulated a view of peace that makes frequent use of the key words "reconciliation" and "humanity." In recent years he has also incorporated campaigns that he is involved in such as the "2020 Vision," a program to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2020 and his "Obamajority" campaign, which includes the notion that a majority of the people of the world support nuclear abolition.

In this respect Mayor Akiba is similar to Setsuo Yamada, who was mayor from 1967 to 1975. Mayor Yamada was aware of the global trend toward world federalism and developed his own philosophy of peace, making use of terms such as "world law" and "world state." In his 1971 declaration, he made a bold proposal, saying, "All nations of the world must act upon the fundamental spirit in which the Japanese Constitution has renounced wars and should liquidate their military sovereignty by transferring it to a world organization binding all people in solidarity."

Mayor Akiba has referred to treaties banning anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions, giving the impression of an awareness of global trends in the peace movement.

Last year he borrowed the phrase "Yes, we can," which was popularized by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, and closed his declaration with it. That was well received by students at my university, but I imagine there were others who disapproved and regarded it as a sort of stunt.

In the international community the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hold a major significance, and what the City of Hiroshima says carries a lot of weight. In order to put this symbolism to use and ensure that the "Hiroshima philosophy" is conveyed to the people of the world and to future generations, I would like the mayor to continue to deliver messages that are based on the city's experience of the atomic bombing.

Different processes for drafting of declaration

Hiroshima: Draft prepared by mayor and city departments
Nagasaki: Committee system includes citizens

There are major differences in the processes employed by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prepare their Peace Declarations. In the case of Hiroshima, the mayor and the staffs of peace-related departments prepare a draft, taking into consideration the opinions of researchers, A-bomb survivors, artists, and other influential individuals.

On the other hand, in Nagasaki the declaration is prepared primarily by the Peace Declaration Draft Committee. The mayor serves as chair of the roughly 20-member committee, which includes researchers, members of the news media, housewives, and other citizen representatives. The committee holds meetings from May through July, and prepares a draft of the declaration based on their discussions.

This year marks the 20th year that Hideo Tsuchiyama, 85, former president of Nagasaki University, has served on the committee. "I have to admit that because the declaration brings together the messages of all the committee members, such as descriptions of the atomic bombing and requests for the Japanese government, it becomes rather scattershot." On the other hand, he said, Hiroshima's peace declaration is made logical and easy to understand in order to articulate the mayor's ideas.

He also noted the value of Nagasaki's method. "As a city that has experienced an atomic bombing, what shall we praise and what shall we criticize? It is highly significant that committee members from a broad spectrum of society get together every year and hold discussions and clarify these points. I think the declaration sums up the feelings of the citizens of Nagasaki to some extent."

In Hiroshima as well there are those who would like the Peace Declaration to reflect the opinions of citizens. Haruko Moritaki, 71, co-director of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, said, "If A-bomb survivors and other citizens participated in the drafting of the declaration, and if it were delivered as the consensus of the people of Hiroshima, it would enhance the declaration's significance and value."

In that regard, a representative of Hiroshima's Peace Promotion Department said, "Many citizens convey their opinions to the city via e-mail and at town meetings. We try to be responsive and include their comments in the declaration."

(Originally published July 19, 2010)