Japan marked two solemn days last week: August 6 and 9, the 75th anniversaries of U.S. atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now Japan’s leaders and a dwindling number of survivors are urging world leaders to enact a nuclear weapons ban.
In Nagasaki, hibakusha, or atomic bombing survivors, and others gathered to honor more than 70,000 killed. They observed a minute of silence at 11:02 a.m.—the exact moment a B-29 bomber dropped a 10,000-pound bomb dubbed “Fat Man” on the city.
The August 9, 1945, bombing came three days after the United States had deployed the world’s first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. That bomb killed 140,000.
On August 15, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.
Nagasaki’s commemoration took place at Nagasaki Peace Park. Mayor Tomihisa Taue read a peace declaration. His words raised concern about disarmament efforts. He worries that some countries are upgrading and miniaturizing nuclear weapons for easier use.
“The threat of nuclear weapons . . . is increasingly becoming real,” Taue says. He urges the United States and Russia to show a “workable way” toward nuclear disarmament.
Taue says “the true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large.” He urges Japan’s government and lawmakers to join other nations that have signed the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
But after the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the treaty. He calls it unrealistic and says, “The treaty is different from Japan’s position and approach” even though they share the same goal of abolishing nuclear weapons.
An aging group of bomb survivors have a growing sense of urgency to tell their stories.
“There is not much time left for us survivors,” says Shigemi Fukabori, 89. He represented the Nagasaki survivors at the ceremony.
Fukabori was a 14-year-old student working at a shipyard when Nagasaki was bombed. He lost four siblings that day.
“I’m determined to keep telling my story so that Nagasaki will be the last place on Earth to have suffered an atomic attack,” he says.
After 75 years, Fukabori still remembers the horrible sights of his charred city.
“Nagasaki bears a responsibility as a witness of catastrophic results the nuclear weapon caused to humanity and environment,” he said in his speech. “I hope as many people as possible to join us, especially the young generations to inherit our baton of peace and keep running.”
(A man and his daughter pray for the victims of a U.S. atomic bombing at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, Japan, on Sunday, August 9, 2020. Takuto Kaneko/Kyodo News via AP)