Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki
By Johanna Thompson
~ ~ ~ ~
Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. more than 75 people gathered at the Ashland Plaza to remember and reflect on the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
Ashland has commemorated the Aug. 6 weekend for 25 years through presentations, music and educational booths. This year's commemoration, "Citizen Action for a Nuclear Free World," brought a special visitor. Masaya Nemoto is a Japanese student pursuing his doctorate at Rutgers University. With a major in cultural anthropology he is studying the effects of the atom bomb on survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"I was surprised at the small town. It is a good community with excellent events," Nemoto said about Ashland. "I though the people in the United States didn't care about the Hiroshima and Nakasaki and the bomb."
Nemoto was impressed by the amount of community support for the morning events which included music from the Rogue Valley Peace Choir ensemble and Ashland Taiko Drummers.
Mayor John Stromberg, who belongs to a group called Mayors for Peace, spoke at the morning ceremony and read the city proclamation designating Ashland as a nuclear-free zone. The evening events ended with Whistling Elk Drum Group from Red Earth Descendants. The main display is set up as a maze with a timeline of nuclear history which will stay in the plaza overnight. The Rogue Valley Veterans for Peace will spend the night at the plaza so the display won't be taken down.
Josh Thorpe, an Ashland native and graduate of University of Oregon was a part of the planning committee along with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Thorpe has taught English in Japan for three years and said he has a deeper understanding of the impact the bomb had on the people from his time there.
"In high school and history class I learned about the bomb, but when I visited it felt real," Thorpe said. "I learned about the consequences and what could be done to work towards a more peaceful future."
He explained that half the people who come to the event have been before and are aware of the issues the event raises. The other half is mostly people walking around downtown Ashland.
"It is a global issue, on August 6 there are events all over the world," Thorpe said. "We are not trying to place blame on anyone. It's about moving forward collectively. Having a positive outlook is the most important thing."
Rogue Valley resident and a survivor of the bombing in Hiroshima Hideko Tamura talked about the strong feelings on the subject.
"It's a hot topic here in the Rogue Valley," Tamura said. "For people who believe one way or the other it is a hot topic."
Tamura has spoken about her experiences publicly and the collective healing process that she is a part of.
"We need to make forward steps, even if it is a half step, we must walk together and have true empathy," Tamura said.
Jill Mackie has been a coordinator with the Women's International League for Peace for the event for five years.
"It's important to educate people on what nuclear means," Mackie said.
This year has special meaning for her because her daughter, Linda Richards, is in Hiroshima for the commemoration ceremonies in Japan.
"It's a very touching year for me, for her to be there and for me to do it here," Mackie said.
The event is sponsored by many local groups, every year brings different collaborations.
"I've been very pleased and delighted with the committee this year, and thankful for all the people for showing up at 6 a.m. to help out," Mackie said.
The event will continue until Monday night at 7 p.m., the time that the second bomb dropped on Nagasaki, with a ceremony in the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park. People are invited to float sunflowers down the creek as a symbol of the nuclear-free movement.
Johanna Thompson is a reporter with the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-482-3456.