70 years on, Nagasaki still prays for peace

A girl offers a prayer for A-bomb victims in front of lanterns at the Peace Memorial Park in Nagasaki yesterday. Picture: Jiji Press/Getty Images
A girl offers a prayer for A-bomb victims in front of lanterns at the Peace Memorial Park in Nagasaki yesterday. Picture: Jiji Press/Getty Images
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SERVICES will be held around the world today to mark 70 years since an atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people.

Last week similar events were held to commemorate the first atomic bomb being dropped by a US aircraft on Hiroshima on 6 August, killing 140,000 people

The shadows of ordinary lives are burnt into rocks

The twin bombings are credited with bringing the Second World War to an end as Japan surrendered soon after.

In Edinburgh, peace activist, Ellen Moxley, 80, will finish her International Fast for Nuclear Disarmament at noon outside the Scottish Parliament. She has been fasting since 6.15am on 6 August.

Glasgow City Council is holding a special ceremony in the City Chambers in cooperation with CND Scotland featuring readings and music led by the Lord Provost.

The Scottish Government has restated its opposition to nuclear weapons on the 70th anniversary of the bombings. Earlier this week External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed ministers were “firmly committed to worldwide disarmament”.

Hyslop, who visited Nagasaki last month during a trip to Japan, scattered flower petals on a pond outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday in an act of remembrance.

“Just over a month ago, I stood at the hypocentre of the explosion in Nagasaki. Even standing beside the physical scars, it is impossible to imagine the destructive power of a nuclear bomb,” she said.

“The shadows of men, women and even children marked the city, memories of ordinary innocent lives burnt into rock.”

She added: “Scotland stands with Japan on the issue of nuclear disarmament. We oppose the continuation and the proposed renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system, and the Scottish Government is firmly committed to worldwide disarmament.”

At a Hiroshima commemoration on Thursday Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also called for worldwide nuclear disarmament. “Hiroshima has been revived and has become a city of culture and prosperity. Seventy years on I want to re-emphasise the necessity of world peace,” he said.

Nagasaki’s Catholic community, Japan’s largest, was hit especially hard by the atomic bombing, in which the Urakami Cathedral collapsed as worshippers attended mass.

The head of the Virgin Mary statue, found in the ruins, is displayed in the rebuilt church and taken out for a street procession every 9 August.

Nagasaki resident, Sumitery Taniguchi, 86, was 16 at the time of the devastating blast. He was thrown from his bicycle and wandered the streets for three days with skin hanging from his back.

He was delivering letters at the time, just over a mile from from the epicentre of the explosion from the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb which detonated over Nagasaki.

For 70 years, he has lived with heavy scarring the remains of three ribs that half rotted away and permanently press against his lungs, making it hard to breathe. His wife still applies a moisturising cream every morning to reduce irritation from the scars.

Speaking in a weak voice with some effort, Taniguchi, told the story last month of wandering for three days in a daze, unaware of the seriousness of his injuries. He later realised that the ragged cloth hanging from his back was his skin.

He spent the next 21 months lying on his stomach, getting treatment for his burned back, decomposing flesh and exposed bones.

Because he lay immobile for so long, as one of his arm bones grew, it blocked the joint at the elbow so he can’t fully extend the arm.

Taniguchi hopes no-one else will have to suffer the pain of nuclear weapons.

He heads a Nagasaki survivors’ group working against nuclear proliferation, though old age and pneumonia are making it harder for him to play an active role. After so many years, his words are tinged with frustration.

“I want this to be the end,” he said.