I attended the Peace Festival twice (2004 and 2005) while living in Japan. It was by far one of the most moving experiences of my life. The first year I went the night before the anniversary and lingered in the Peace Park very late, watching the Buddhists groups doing their all night meditation vigils in preparation for the festival. The second year I went on the 6th and stayed over that night so I could experience the thousands of lanterns floating on the river in the evening.
I have memories of the oppressive, oppressive heat that is normal for Hiroshima this time of year. I clearly recall feeling very conspicuous as an American in the middle of thousands of Japanese marking the anniversary of a time when America changed their lives forever. I remember the mood in Hiroshima - the feeling in the air, so different than the previous hundred times I'd been in town. It truly was palpable. If you have a life list, put visiting the memorial park and museum in Hiroshima on it.
The anniversary always brings up discussions on whether or not it was necessary for the Americans to use the bomb. I think it's an important discussion, but I have absolutely nothing to add. I've read several books about the war, but I don't know enough to have an opinion, and I don't really feel like I have the right to question a decision made in such terrible conditions so many years ago. It was a different world in 1945. For my own perspective, I always come back to these two thoughts: As in all wars, both sides did horrible things. Everyone wants peace.
- My post and several pictures from the 2005 Peace Festival marking the 60th anniversary of the bombing here (scroll down.)
- I do support the call for a nuclear-free world by 2020.
- Here are Google Image results for the Peace Park. I've been to every one of those places in the Park many times and they're all even more amazing than they look in pictures.
- Mari, one of my favorite Japan bloggers, of Watashi to Tokyo (Me and Tokyo), has a brief post that inspired the same old debate here.
- Pretty thorough Wikipedia article on the bombings here.