Attendees make offerings at the altar as ministers chant sutras. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Writer

The 67th commemorative service for Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims was held at Koyasan Temple in Little Tokyo with about 40 people in attendance.

The service, conducted annually around the anniversaries of the atomic bombings, began with opening remarks by the chairperson, Tsuruko Iwohara; a processional and sutra chanting by the ministers, including Rev. Keishin Kako; candlelight offerings by organizational representatives; incense offerings by congregation members; and chanting of “Goeika,” a Buddhist hymn, by Koyasan Eiyukai.

The officiant, Bishop Emeritus Taisen Miyata, called on everyone, regardless of religious differences, to pray for world peace and remember “the tragic cities where atomic bombs were dropped for the first time in human history.”

“We Japanese cannot think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without great grief and mourning,” he continued. “Approximately 140,000 people were killed by a single bomb in the city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., while 90,000 people were lost in the city of Nagasaki in Kyushu on Aug. 9.”

Miyata quoted one of his classmates at Koyasan University who grew up in Hiroshima: “A single bomb destroyed everything … Nothing is more miserable than war. My hometown is crying out to the world, ‘No more Hiroshimas, no more wars.’”

Since 1989, a flame from Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park has been kept in a special container at Koyasan, and temple members have offered daily prayers for peace in front of it, Miyata said. The Flame of Peace in Hiroshima will not be extinguished until all nuclear weapons have been dismantled.

The guest speaker was Mitsuo Chris Ishii, principal of Saniku Tozai Gakuen (East-West Language School), a Seventh Day Adventist minister, and a representative of ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Japan.

Ishii noted that the day before, the Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace was held for the 25th time at Hieizan (Mt. Hiei). “At 3 o’clock in the afternoon yesterday, they prayed together … listening to the Bell of Peace … which was made by many different coins from 65 different countries. At this prayer summit yesterday in Japan, Buddhist, Christian, Islam, and several different religious organizations were all together, praying in different languages.”

Kaz Suyeishi of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors with Rev. Mitsuo Ishii in front of the Hiroshima Peace Flame.

He also reported that this year’s commemoration in Hiroshima was attended by Clifton Truman Daniel, a grandson of President Harry Truman, who made the decision to drop the atomic bombs. “Several years ago he met an elderly man whose name is Sasaki Masahiro, whose sister died from leukemia when she was 12 years old, a victim of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima … He promised to him that he will visit Hiroshima.”

The sister was Sadako Sasaki, who is remembered for attempting to fold 1,000 origami cranes before her death in 1955. Her statue stands in Peace Memorial Park, adorned with paper cranes sent from around the world.

Ishii added that Daniel “talked to his grandfather many years ago. He said his grandfather did not really mention much about the atomic bomb, but a few things that he found from his grandfather (indicated) that he was regretful … (Daniel) thought that in some way he wanted to contribute his effort to have no more war … He had enough courage to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

After visiting Peace Memorial Park for the first time about 34 years ago with his American wife and their children, and being shocked by the pictures and artifacts they saw in the museum, “I said to myself that I might have to talk about this to many of my friends who are in America. So every time I have visitors from the USA, I tell them, ‘I want to take you to a place where you can see something that you need to see … It’s not fun … But it is very important for you to see.’”

Ishii was equally impressed by the memorials to the fallen in Okinawa, where some 200,000 people, including many civilians, died in 1945. All of the names, Japanese and American alike, are carved in stone. “That was the second shocking experience I had … From then I started to talk more about peace … because of the sacrifice of many people who were lost in the war.”

In addition to praying for world peace, Ishii and his organization have worked for peace in different ways — building schools and wells in Southern Sudan; helping people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who have been maimed by land mines left over from the Vietnam War; providing clean water for impoverished people in Haiti; and building schools in war-torn Afghanistan.

“Peace is not just opposite of the war … Peace is where the children can sleep and eat,” he explained. “… We need to not only talk about peace or love, but we have to work hard at it. Otherwise, it is difficult to make the people understand what peace is.”

A recent visit to Bhutan, a small country between China and India, was an eye-opening experience for Ishii. When he swatted a mosquito, his driver told him, “No killing, no killing,” and explained that every single life is valued there. When Ishii visited a farm and was confronted with many flies and mosquitoes, he just shooed them away and got used to doing that.

He was also impressed that the term GNH (gross national happiness) was coined by Bhutan’s king. “I learned so many secrets of peace. They are happy with what they have. They don’t have to kill … They simply talk.”

Ishii closed by saying, “Peace starts from the heart. Unless you have your own peace, I don’t think we can pray for peace.”

Hiroshima survivor Kaz Suyeishi, who is “85 years young” and has been participating in the public services for 40 years, asked the audience to repeat after her: “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more hibakusha. No more any war.”

She added, “Do not forget, you must have love instead of hate. With love — this grandma knows that — we could make world peace … See you next year.”

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