Representatives of 71 nations and EU to attend Peace Memorial Ceremony on A-bomb anniversary

by Hisashi Kawate, Staff Writer

On July 15, the City of Hiroshima announced the outline of the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony to be held in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on August 6, the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing. So far, 71 nations, one more country than last year, and the European Union (EU) have indicated that they will send representatives to the ceremony. At a press conference, a representative from family members of the victims and three children’s representatives expressed their determination to pass down the memory of the atomic bombing and their wish for peace. They will take part in the ceremony by tolling the Peace Bell and performing other roles.

The 45-minute ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. At 8:15, the time the atomic bomb exploded above the city, all in attendance will offer a silent prayer while the Peace Bell is rung by Kazuki Kato, 29, a dentist living in Naka Ward, representing the victims’ families, and children’s representative Ui Okano, 11, a sixth-grader at Hesaka Elementary School and a resident of Higashi Ward. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui will then read aloud the Peace Declaration.

Ui, whose grandfather experienced the atomic bombing, said during the press conference that she will put her wish for peace into ringing the bell. The “Commitment to Peace” will be read by Yuichiro Muta and Reiko Tamura, both 11 and residents of Higashi Ward. They are sixth-graders at Onaga Elementary School and Ushita Elementary School, respectively. They also expressed enthusiasm for conveying the wish of Hiroshima citizens.

Family members of the victims, from 41 prefectures, will also attend the ceremony. The average age of these representatives is 64.5, with 87 the oldest and 27 the youngest.

The City of Hiroshima has sent letters of invitation to 155 nations and the EU, two more than last year and the largest number ever. Among the countries that have responded to date, the five nations of Cambodia, Cyprus, Portugal, Maldives, and Liberia will be attending the ceremony for the first time. Among the five major nuclear powers, the United Kingdom and France have expressed their intention to attend, while replies have not yet been received from the United States, Russia, and China. India, Pakistan, and Israel, a de facto nuclear weapon state, will send their ambassador or consul general. No response has been received from North Korea.

This year’s ceremony will be the first since the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the right to collective self-defense by changing the interpretation of the Constitution. Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida are making arrangements to attend the ceremony.

(Originally published on July 16, 2014)