A Japanese teacher living in Waterford is working with Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Joe Kelly to create a Peace Memorial dedicated to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first cities in the world to suffer a nuclear attack. The memorial will support and highlight Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which outlaws war as a means of settling international disputes.
THIS week marks the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombings in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.On August 6th and 9th 1945, in the final stages of World War II, the US detonated two nuclear weapons killing a total of 129,000 people in what remains the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of warfare. The following month, the Japanese government signed the Instrument of Surrender, effectively ending World War II. However, the ethical and legal justification for the bombings is still debated to this day.
Peace Parks have been developed in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki which are visited by thousands of tourists each year. One of the monuments in the Hiroshima Peace Park is the Peace Flame which was lit in 1964 and will only be extinguished after all nuclear weapons on the planet have been destroyed. For many years, the former Mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba wrote letters of protest each time a nuclear test was conducted as a plea to end the use of nuclear weapons.Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki have now become cities which are strongly associated with the quest for peace and nuclear disarmament.
The events of August 1945 unsurprisingly left a lasting legacy on the Japanese psyche and even influenced the country’s constitution. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a clause in the national Constitution of Japan which came into effect in May 1947 outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the State. It renounces the sovereign right of belligerency and aims for an international peace based on justice and order. The article states that, to accomplish these aims, armed forces with war potential will not be maintained.
Plaques highlighting Article 9 have been erected at a number of locations worldwide. Now, a Japanese teacher living in Waterford hopes that the city can become the latest to feature such a memorial and become one of only a few European locations to have such a feature.
Kumiko Tsuchida has already made great progress on this project and has been in regular contact with Waterford City & County Council about her aim. She spent time working in Turkey where she also developed such a memorial and engaged in a similar project while in Zimbabwe. She has also visited Telde in Gran Canaria which is currently one of the only European locations to have a similar memorial. In 1996, the city built the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Square in memory of those who perished in the atomic bomb blasts.The square’s central monument is engraved with the Spanish translation of Article 9 of Japan’s constitution.Kumiko believes strongly in the adage that if we don’t pay attention to history we are condemned to keep repeating it.She says it is more important than ever to promote Article 9 as it comes under increasing scrutiny in her home country.
The Article is seen as being increasingly under threat from current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. In July 2014, instead of using Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution to amend the Constitution, (which stipulates that any change requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Japanese National Diet, plus the consent of a majority of those voting in a referendum) the Japanese government approved a reinterpretation which gave more powers to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, allowing them to defend other allies in case of war being declared upon them.
This was despite concerns and disapproval from mainland China, South Korea and North Korea, whereas the United States supported the move. Since the Prime Minister circumvented Japan’s constitutional amendment procedure, this change is considered illegitimate by some Japanese political parties and citizens.
In September 2015, the Japanese National Diet made the reinterpretation official by enacting a series of laws allowing the Japan Self-Defense Forces to provide material support to allies engaged in combat internationally.
The stated justification was that failing to defend or support an ally would weaken alliances and endanger Japan. Given that tensions with North Korea increased significantly last year, the issue is as relevant as ever. In her quest to continue spreading the message and the importance of Article 9, Kumiko has been striving to identify a suitable location for a memorial in Waterford.
Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) is passionately supporting the idea of creating a memorial in Waterford and is aiming to make this a priority project as part of his tenure. He is holding a meeting to discuss the project this week with Kumiko and Council officials. He says a number of potential locations have already been discussed but says all involved are striving to identify a location which ticks all the boxes.
A location which will provide a place where people can sit and contemplate in a reflective manner, but which is also in an area that is regularly used, is being sought.Kumiko is keen that the Waterford location will be accessed easily and that the memorial can be viewed at any time, day or night. Each memorial which has already been created has its own distinctive style. In Telde, the memorial has a traditional Spanish look incorporating the use of tiles. Mayor Kelly believes there is potential for creating something “really special” in Waterford.