This year, in place of its annual Hiroshima Commemoration and Peace Service, select members of the Honolulu Hiroshima Kenjin Kai held an exclusive, in-person ceremony offering a pöhaku (stone) and accompanying plaque at the Hiroshima Torii Gate in Mö‘ili‘ili, in memory of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Closed to the community so as to avoid large gatherings, this service was held to commemorate “the tragic bombing of Hiroshima and to pay respect to those who lost their lives and those whose lives were drastically affected forever,” according to the HHKK. The open-to-the-public version of this ceremony, which normally would have drawn a crowd from O‘ahu AJA families, peace activists and Japanese-history buffs, was canceled due to COVID-19.
On Aug. 6, 1945, in the midst of World War II battles in the Pacific, the United States of America dropped a uranium bomb with a payload equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT upon the city, killing about 140,000 people by the end of the year, and creating cancer and other chronic diseases among survivors, according to 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization ICAN.
In addition to burning 70% of the buildings, the bomb also killed or injured 90% of doctors or nurses in that city, additionally rendering 42 of the region’s 45 hospitals non-functional. This meant that the Japanese victims of the bombing, as well as those who entered the city to help them, suffered from radiation injuries without any relief — 70% of victims suffered from combined injuries including, in most cases, severe burns (for more, see here).
The modest Aug. 6 ceremony, led by Master of Ceremonies Wayne Miyao, HHKK president and event chair, included a solemn service filled with meaning and reflection among the two groups in attendance. Due to coronavirus rules, the number of attendees was limited to 10 guests in the main cluster and another five guests in a second group, all of whom donned masks and gloves as well as practiced social distancing. This double-formation was designed so that the 15-person, closed event could follow Honolulu City and County’s “less than 10” social-gathering rule.
Bishop Eric Matsumoto of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission started the program with a blessing. This was followed by speeches given by Koichi Ito, the Consul General of Japan in Hawai‘i, and by HHKK member Roy Amemiya of Honolulu C&C (representing Mayor Kirk Caldwell), both of whom, alongside Miyao, then conducted the pöhaku’s unveiling. Other HHKK officials who helped plan the dedication service, and who thus had been invited to participate, included Robert Nagao, Brandon Saigusa and Kevin Nakata.
Miyao, who thanked Caldwell and Amemiya for the city’s guidance that allowed the HHKK to organize the event, said during the ceremony, “We encourage everyone to take the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Torii Gate and view the new addition of the pöhaku stone and plaque.”