by J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The 66th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was remembered Sunday during a memorial service for the victims at Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo.
About 50 people, including survivors of the August 1945 nuclear blasts, gathered to pay their respects in front of a lantern containing the Peace Flame from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Junji Sarashina, director of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors (ASA), recalled, “After the bomb was dropped … people suffered from leukemia, cancer and so-called radiation sickness … Radiation is a very scary thing.”
He found it “amazing” that he and other survivors are “still alive and kicking.” At the same time, he said, “A lot of my friends and a lot of my relatives have passed away, but we must keep going.”
“We also wish the best of luck to the people of the Fukushima area,” Sarashina added, referring to the ongoing nuclear crisis following the earthquake and tsunami.
After conducting the service, Bishop Emeritus Taisen Miyata reflected on his first visit to the Hiroshima memorial 30 years ago. “We Japanese cannot think of Nagasaki, Hiroshima without grief and mourning. I visited the exact spot where the explosion took place. I paid homage to the monument of Hiroshima deaths and read the words engraved on it. It says, ‘Rest in peace. This mistake shall never be repeated.’ ”
When the peace treaty between Japan and the Allies was signed in San Francisco in 1951, Miyata noted, J.R. Jayawardene, a delegate from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), quoted from Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism: “Hatred does not cease by hatred. Hatred ceases only by love and compassion.”
These words “made a deep impression on the Japanese people … He called to our mind the noble teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni and the brotherhood of all mankind,” Miyata said.
Miyata also remembered officiating at the service of Walter Miyamasu, a former pathologist at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute who passed away on July 12 at the age of 80. As a 15-year-old middle-school student in Hiroshima, he escaped from the firestorm by jumping into the Motoyasu River. Although his classmates died in the river, which was filled with dead bodies, he miraculously survived.
Retiring after 50 years with UCLA, Miyamasu went on a pilgrimage in 2006, visiting 88 temples in Shikoku. “After completion of the pilgrimage, he went to Hiroshima Memorial Park, exactly where he plunged … into the water of Motoyasu-gawa, and prayed for his classmates … He fulfilled his mission,” Miyata said.
Yuko Kaifu, former consul at the Japanese Consulate General in Los Angeles, talked about her involvement with ASA, which included helping to facilitate biennial visits by medical teams from Hiroshima to examine local hibakusha. “It’s not a very well known fact that there are more than 1,000 A-bomb survivors living in the United States … The vast majority of them are Japanese speakers. They wanted to consult with medical doctors who can speak the Japanese language … The 18th mission has just been completed this June.”
Kaifu has also supported ASA President Kaz Suyeishi’s peace education efforts. For the past 40 years, the Hiroshima survivor has been speaking about her experiences at public schools, colleges, churches, community centers and other venues throughout California and beyond.
Kaifu’s daughter, Mayo, came home from Asahi Gakuen Japanese language school one day after a presentation by Suyeishi. “Mom, it was very touching, I shed tears, and I can never forget the story she told us,” Kaifu quoted her daughter as saying.
Suyeishi had talked about sharing umeboshi with kindergarten children who had survived the bombing, only to learn the next day that they were all dead. “That is the kind of story that touches the hearts of children and reminds them of the importance of peace,” Kaifu said.
Forty years ago, only one school invited Suyeishi to speak, Kaifu said, “but now … she’s invited everywhere to share her experiences, because people in the United States know that it’s not to criticize or to blame, but to reinforce the importance of peace.”
Stressing the need to involve the younger generations, Suyeishi invited 14-year-old Mayo to read the “Pledge for Peace,” a statement that is given every year at the commemoration in Hiroshima by two sixth-graders, a boy and a girl, selected from local elementary schools. The statement reads, in part:
“Sixty-six years ago, on Aug. 6, 8:15 a.m., the first atomic bomb in history was dropped on Hiroshima. In an instant, many precious lives were lost. Bodies and faces of loved ones completely disappeared. The bomb destroyed traces of history and culture cultivated over the years by many people and the city was reduced to ashes … In spite of the destruction and despair, the citizens pulled themselves together and gave it their all each day to reconstruct their city, and we are extremely grateful to them.
“There are many serious problems in the world today. Many children have lost their smiles in conflicts and poverty that surround them … If we do not solve these problems, there will be no future for us. How can we resolve these conflicts and how can we bring the smiles back to everyone’s faces?
“It is our mission as the youth of Hiroshima to … tell the world what we know. We cannot change what has happened in the past, but we can learn from it, and if each of us acts with the strong desire for change, we can build a peaceful world. It is our turn next to fill the world with smiling people. We promise to convey our wish from Hiroshima to the world and future generations.”