This time last year I and my partner were in Japan for the Hiroshima peace day. It was not a life changing event as both of us have maintained a life long opposition to nuclear arms, but it certainly heightened our understanding of what nuclear weapons mean.
Although the short but moving speeches by the Mayor of Hiroshima, the Japanese Prime Minister and the UN Secretary General had an impact it was the Japanese People themselves that bought the greatest understanding. The horrors of nuclear warfare seem embedded in the Japanese consciousness. It is not a constant source of conversation put it is always there.
The often held view that Japan has never apologised for their actions before and during the World War and that they have written these events out of their history is untrue. The history books in Japan are so brutally honest that it is almost painful, and there are many shrines and monuments to people they have wronged begging forgiveness. This is part of the memorial to the slave labour force of Korean nationals that died as Nagasaki.
Here we apologize to Korea and the Koreans for the immeasurable suffering that we inflicted upon them during those tragic years in threatening them with the sword and gun, colonizing and annexing their peninsula, bringing them against their will and abusing them in slavery and finally for the catastrophic war where they had to die under the atomic bomb. We strongly appeal for the total abolition of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth, and we hope for the peaceful unification of the Korean Nation.
There is no doubt that as the only nation in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack the Japanese, as a nation, has a profound commitment to nuclear disarmament and peace.
This commitment to peace is sometimes comical to the outsider. At Shibuya a sea of people surges like the tide and sometimes there was no option but to go with the tide. The vast majority people in Shibuya were young women in their teens or early 20s with one mission in life; to shop till they dropped. But every time I went to take a picture there would be a young woman, or two, who would stop, smile and give the 60’s peace salute. The 60's peace movement is alive and well, and lives in Japan.
At the same time Japanese seem to accept the contradiction of a nation dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons living under the protection of the nuclear umbrella of the nation that used them to test their weapons. Seeing the documentary evidence that Japan tried to surrender on July 29, 1945, but was ignored until after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was saddening. This, and the way the Americans spared five cities from conventional attack so that they could compare the effects of the two types of bomb they had (uranium-based and plutonium-based), bought home that in war nobody is innocent.
In the end it was Hiroshima and Kokura that where selected as the targets. Kokura was saved by dense cloud cover but there was a small break in the cloud over the secondary target, Nagasaki, and they become the second city to be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. One of the facts not generally known in Australia is that the Allies knew that Nagasaki was the site of a prison housing American and Australian prisoners of war. The bomb at Nagasaki was dropped almost over that prison
The atrocities carried out by both sides in the world war are well documented right back to the roots of the war with Japan in China in the early 1930s. Neither side was wholly guilty or wholly innocent. There is no place for blame, only learning and moving on.
Unfortunately the world can never move on from Hiroshima and Nagasaki while there are still nuclear weapons on this planet. Now we have Israel with nuclear weapons, as well as developing countries such as India, Pakistan and China. If the Taliban succeed in Pakistan we could have a nuclear armed Taliban.
If this continues some time someone will use them. Maybe it will be Iran or North Korea, or someone who is not yet on the radar. With so many fanatics in the world it is inevitable that sooner or later someone is going to share the Japanese experience unless we take away the weapons.
There is only one way to avoid this future and that is to get rid of all nuclear weapons throughout the world. Is this going to happen? Not unless there is a massive reversal in the thinking of the human race. That depends on every one of us changing our thinking.
On tonight's news there will probably be the usual 15-second grab on Hiroshima squeezed in just before the sport and weather. When that happens please take the time to think about what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whether you want a repeat on a much larger scale.
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