‘From Hiroshima to Hope’ Peace Ceremony, Green Lake
Photos & Text by David Yamaguchi
The North American Post
The annual “From Hiroshima to Hope” Peace Ceremony was held on August 6 — the 78th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. As the observance was not held in 2020, owing to the pandemic, and was held on a smaller scale in 2021, it was an opportunity for many to see this fourth-of-four major annual local Japanese-culture-themed events with fresh eyes (Cherry Blossom Festival, Bellevue Japan Fair, Seattle Bon Odori; napost.com).
Hiroshima survivor sketch, in an enclosed booth.
Reading right to left: (1) observer’s name, Yamasaki or Yamazaki Sayoko(?),
(2) the date, location and time in red (hachi-gatsu muika, Eba-houmen, gogo niji goro); (3) the person on the ground crying “mizu MIZU” (written in the old way, “MIDU”); (4) “Kore wa watashi” above a pointing arrow, and her thoughts: (5) “Kono kata mo osoraku ikitewa orarenu koto deseu (old way of writing “deshou”), taihenna kizu deshita kara.” Translations are (2) “August 6, in the direction of Eba, about 2 p.m.”; (3) Water WATER (4) “This is me;” (5) “I believe this person also did not make it. The injury looked too severe.” Translation: Hikari Kono
On first approaching the ceremony grounds (on the northwest shore of the lake near the public theater and dock), one is struck by the thought that this is an event attended by a broad cross-section of Seattle. Peace groups with their own posters and tables dotted the background space. Among the people milling about, however, a fair amount of Japanese was also being spoken.
The posters included explicit photos of post-atomic bombing scenes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were several I had not seen before and found instructive for all adults to see.
The main-stage ceremony was excellent. Emcee Stan Shikuma was a superb speaker. He mentioned the “massive threat of nuclear conflict in Ukraine with Russia,” describing the present as “a very scary time.” He conveyed that “the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs would be considered tactical nuclear weapon today.”
Shikuma continued, “As a democracy, we should be the ones making the life and death decisions. I think we need a change in paradigm, in the way we think about war. …
Advise, vote, make our politicians agree to nuclear disarmament…
(By being here,) “we are conveying that we care, that we are one, that we want peace, that we are willing to do something to achieve it. …”
Later, one outstanding speaker included Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown, Sr. Pastor of Plymouth Church, downtown Seattle.
She began, “As a country, we have yet to deal with our xenophobia and fear…”
Next, Dee Goto, of the JCCCW Omoide (memories) group, narrated the personal story of one of her relatives…
“In 1940, my husband injured his knee and we went back to Hiroshima…
“I came to stand behind the open door behind the (bus) driver…
“When the dust cleared, I could see the city… I couldn’t figure out what was happening…”
“Then I saw the bridge so I knew I was still in Hiroshima… The horses were dead… everything was burning… It took almost two hours to go home…”
Goto was followed by two other Omoide speakers; I was especially struck by the narration of Liz Murata. She grew up half German, half Japanese in Richland, Washington, the town adjoining the Hanford nuclear site that produced the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb.
Growing up there, Murata was the target of bullying because of her ancestry. Yet the cruelty did not end with her school days, for today she is a “downwinder,” a person whose health has been compromised by long-term exposure to low levels of radioactivity emanating from the contaminated landscape. Her hand holding her speaking notes was shaking.
Shikuma closed out his emcee remarks by saying, “Silence does not protect you. It is important that we are silent no more. (In Washington,) we have the Trident nuclear base (at Bangor), the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
“I think we need to reevaluate what we find acceptable.”
He ended by introducing toro nagashi, Japanese lantern floating, which began as a 300-year-old tradition from India.
Then the crowd did what they had been looking forward to all evening. They followed Buddhist monks in procession and placed their lanterns on the lake, where a gentle breeze gradually blew them out onto the lake in the twilight. While all had been instructed to move back for others after placing their lanterns, people lingered on the dock, because it was so alluring.
One thousand lanterns had been prepared. None were left.