Hiroshima survivors celebrate 75th anniversary of world’s first nuclear attack

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The decline in witnesses to the world’s first atomic bombing marked its 75th anniversary on Thursday, the mayor and others noting the Japanese government’s refusal to sign a nuclear weapons ban treaty.Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged world leaders to engage more seriously in nuclear disarmament, highlighting Japan’s failures.

“I ask the Japanese government to heed the call of the [bombing survivors] to sign, ratify and become a party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ”Matsui said. As the only country to suffer a nuclear attack, Japan must persuade the global public to join the spirit of Hiroshima. ”

His speech highlights what survivors feel as the hypocrisy of the Japanese government, which welcomes 50,000 US troops and is protected by the US nuclear umbrella. Tokyo did not sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty adopted in 2017, despite its non-nuclear commitment, a failure to act that atomic bomb survivors and peace groups call insincere.

People burn sticks in front of the cenotaph for bombing victims before the ceremony begins. (Eugene Hoshiko / The Associated Press)

The United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people, mostly civilians and many children. The United States dropped a second bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 more. Japan surrendered on August 15, ending World War II and nearly half a century of aggression in Asia.

Survivors, their families and other participants marked the anniversary of the 8:15 a.m. explosion on Thursday with a minute of silence.

Thursday’s peace ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was reduced, with the number of participants reduced to less than 1,000, a tenth of recent years, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some survivors and their loved ones surrendered and prayed at the park cenotaph a few hours before the ceremony began. The register of victims of the atomic bombings is kept at the cenotaph, the inscription of which reads: “May all souls here rest in peace for we will not repeat the mistake.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers a silent prayer for the victims of the bombing. (Kyodo / Reuters)

An aging group of survivors, known as the hibakusha, feel an increasing urgency to tell their stories, in hopes of reaching a younger generation.

On the 75th anniversary, elderly survivors, whose average age now exceeds 83, lamented the slow progress in nuclear disarmament.

They expressed their anger at what they said was the reluctance of the Japanese government to help and listen to those who suffered from the atomic bombing.

Visitors observe a minute’s silence for atomic bombing victims at 8:15 a.m., when the bomb exploded over the city in 1945 (Eugene Hoshiko / The Associated Press)

“Many survivors are offended by the prime minister of this country who does not sign the treaty to ban nuclear weapons,” said Keiko Ogura, 84, who survived the atomic bombing at eight years. “We need non-nuclear states to help us and pressure the Japanese government to sign. ”

Matsui urged world leaders, especially those of nuclear-weapon states, to visit Hiroshima and see the reality of the atomic bombing.

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