The citizens of Hiroshima on Thursday (August 6) marked 70 years since the U.S. atomic bombing of their city.
At 8:15 a.m. (2315 GMT), the exact time the bomb exploded on August 6, 1945, the crowd stood for a moment of silence in the heavy summer heat as cicadas shrilled and the Peace Bell rang.
The Hiroshima bombing, which killed 140,000 by the end of the year, was followed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9. 1945, which killed about 40,000 instantly. World War Two ended on Aug. 15 with Japan’s surrender.
In a speech at the event, the Mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, renewed his call for US President Barack Obama and other world leaders to step up efforts towards building a world free of nuclear weapons.
In his peace declaration, he called on policy makers to “create versatile security systems that do not depend on military might.” “In order for us to live together we need to end the use of all nuclear weapons, the ultimate in inhumane, pure evil. And the moment to get this done is now,” he said.
A combination picture shows the gutted Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, which is currently called the Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. This undated handout photo (top) was taken by Toshio Kawahara and released by his grandchild Yoshio Kawamoto, with the picture below showing same location near Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima on July 28, 2015.
The call was echoed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who argued that “as the only country ever attacked by an atomic bomb…we have a mission to create a world without nuclear arms.”
“We have been tasked with conveying the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, across generations and borders,” Abe added, while confirming that Japan would submit a fresh resolution to abolish nuclear weapons at the UN General Assembly this year.
While Abe spoke, protesters in the crowd shouted slogans and held banners calling on the Japanese government to retract controversial security bill being pushed through parliament.
The bills seek to expand the scope of the Japanese military beyond self-defense and permit it to take part in conflicts abroad.
The government has, so far, succeeded in passing them in the lower house of parliament. However, critics of the bills have raised questions over their constitutionality.
Attendees at the ceremony said it reminded them to cherish the peaceful times they have now.
“Today reminded me that we need to cherish the peace we have. It is our duty to continue to cherish it,” said 68-year-old Hiromi Usuno, who is too young to have experienced the A-bomb, though he says relatives did die in the blast 70 years ago.
Others, especially survivors, worry this may be the last year they will be able to attend.
“My father and sister were in the blast, and I am in my late 70s nearly 80. So I don’t know how much longer I can come here, but I am here to pray for peace,” said 78-year-old Yasumi Tsukada, who was eight when she lost her father and sister.
Japanese media say the average survivor age is now 80.13 years old and this may be the last major commemoration they will be able to attend.
Story compiled from information from CCTV and The Associated Press.