From left: Darrell Miho, Dr. Gloria Montebruno-Saller, Howard Kakita.

The annual commemoration service for Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims and survivors was held in person for the first time in three years on Aug. 6 at Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin of Los Angeles in Little Tokyo.

2023 marks 78 years since atomic bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing an estimated 210,000 people by the end of the year. Survivors, known as hibakusha, continue to suffer from the effects of radiation exposure.

Attendees line up to pay their respects before the Hiroshima Peace Flame.

The service was presented by the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, a nonprofit organizations that has over 300 members from Hawaii and Los Angeles.

The service was led by Bishop Yuju Matsumoto. Attendees lined up to pay their respects before the Hiroshima Peace Flame, which was ignited from the flame that burns in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

Hiroshima survivor Junji Sarashina (seated) shares his experiences with attendees.

ASA Interim Co-President Howard Kakita and Director Darrell Miho served as emcees. Kakita was born in East Los Angeles but was taken to Japan in 1940. He survived the Hiroshima bombing and was reunited with his family in the U.S. in 1948. Miho is a photojournalist who has been documenting the stories of hibakusha.

The main speaker was Dr. Gloria Montebruno-Saller, ASA interim co-president and indpendent scholar/researcher in Japan studies, Japanese American studies and Asian studies. She reflected on events since the last in-person gathering in 2020, including the war in Ukraine, which raised the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons, and the release of the movie “Oppenheimer,” which is about the development of the A-bomb. Saller stressed that there is still much work to be done to help the public “understand what is really at stake when we talk about nuclear weapons.”

The program included video messages from Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Shiro Suzuki, who issued their cities’ annual peace declarations on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively.

Above: Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. Below: Nagasaki Mayor Shiro Suzuki.

Junji Sarashina, a native of Lahaina, a Hiroshima survivor and former ASA president, was on hand to share his experiences with attendees after the formal presentations. Photographic displays showed the aftermath of the bombings.

Other commemorative events included an exhibition titled “A Bridge for Peace,” presented by LELA (Lantern of the East Los Angeles) at Makery Gallery in Little Tokyo; a peace prayer and memorial ceremony held online by Shinto Shrine of Shusse Inari in America; and “Peace on Your Wings,” a musical inspired by the true story of Sadako Sasaki and her 1,000 origami cranes, performed by Honolulu-based Ohana Arts at the Aratani Theatre.

Chanting during the memorial service.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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