President Obama in Hiroshima: Thoughts from the Editor’s Desk

President Obama in Hiroshima: Thoughts from the Editor’s Desk

“Let us be the last.”

This is one of Nagasaki city’s core slogans, and can be found throughout Japan: on commuter rails’ advertisement sections, on posters, and on TV shows. It resounds stronger as August 6th and 9th draw nearer. Japan lost 210,000 lives when the American government bombed Hiroshima on the 6th and Nagasaki on the 9th of 1945, and the healing process–between nations, within the Japanese people–is still largely underway.  Every August on the 6th in Hiroshima and 8th in Nagasaki, children in school uniforms, elders who experienced the war firsthand, and everyone in between gather for the Peace Commemoration Ceremonies.

Peace memorial park in Hiroshima
Peace memorial park in Hiroshima

As a nation, the Japanese people tend to remain quiet in order to maintain harmony. Still, we have long desired to have the sitting American President visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki, to have him taste a small piece of the pain the Japanese people feel, if not to participate in the August ceremonies. Seeing President Barack Obama visit the same sites many Japanese elementary and middle school children visit on school trips tugged at the heartstrings of people in Japan.

Paper cranes, a thousand per set, draped in Peace Memorial Park.
Paper cranes, a thousand per set, draped in Peace Memorial Park.

The local people in Hiroshima have shown their excitement and appreciation for President Obama’s visit: for example, they have seriously debated whether or not to publicly showcase two of Obama’s origami cranes. National polls have shown that ninety-two percent of the entire nation supports Obama’s coming to Hiroshima.

Obama's paper cranes, made with Japanese-style origami paper.
Obama’s paper cranes, made with Japanese-style origami paper.

Obama did not apologize to the atomic bomb victims, but many in the US still objected to Obama’s choice to visit these atomic bomb sites. With a simple scroll through facebook I saw numerous negative comments on articles regarding the President’s visit. Individuals believe that dropping the atomic bomb was necessary, and even justifiable, to ending a long and bloody war.

In his speech at the Hiroshima peace memorial, Obama shared some words:

But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again…. Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war…. [Peaceful days for children] is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

I hope, as a proud Japanese student in America as well as a sorrowful citizen of a nation devastated by the effects of nuclear power, we can begin to approach the future that Obama advocates for. “A world,” as Stevie Wonder sings, “where [people] are free / When we have found what life’s really worth / There’ll be peace on earth.”