August 6, 2010

Lady E’s First Peace Memorial Ceremony

View of the atomic bomb victim's cenotaph and the A-Bomb Dome in the background (credit: Reuters)

For the first time, the United States, France and Britain all sent their top envoys in Japan to Hiroshima’s annual Peace Memorial Ceremony, which commemorates the atomic bombing of the city on August 6, 1945. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was also there. We sent Lady E.

That said, I’m not going to crack wise on this contemplative day which marks a human tragedy of historic proportions. Elena is three-and-a-half years old, which is old enough to start learning about her hometown. The nuclear bombing left an indelible mark on the city of her birth and it is the reason the word ‘Hiroshima’ resonates globally. All politics aside, I think it’s important that she be conscious of the catastrophe that happened here and its impact: she is, after all, as much Japanese as she is Canadian.

So off went the Rising Daughter #1 and I to the ceremony, held in the Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima. The Peace Park is adjacent to the Aioi Bridge, which was the target for the Enola Gay’s bombardier on that fateful day. The ceremony starts promptly at 0800 every year and follows a strict protocol that I have come to know well…I have been to more than a few of them since I began living here.

The mayor of Hiroshima, the governor of the prefecture and the prime minister of Japan all give speeches on the theme of peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Two local school kids follow with their own peace declaration, representing children of the world, and a large school of doves are released over the assembled crowd. Ominous-sounding tolls of the Peace Bell commence at exactly 0815, the moment the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. This is followed by a minute of silence and solemn prayer for the souls of the bombing casualties. It’s a very somber ritual.

Elena, I must say, behaved herself far better than my expectations. Maybe the seriousness of the event somehow permeated her otherwise mischievous little girl’s brain? Here a few pics from this morning:

View of the crowd from our vantage point

Elena with the A-Bomb Dome in the background

The crowd disperses after the speeches (on Aioi Bridge) 

Democracy in action

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