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Japan Honors Anniversary of Hiroshima as Thousands Call for End to Nuclear Weapons, Power

- Common Dreams staff

People release paper lanterns on the Motoyasu river facing the gutted Atomic Bomb Dome in remembrance of atomic bomb victims on the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (Photo:Reuters/Kyodo)Tens of thousands gathered in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Monday to mark the anniversary of the atomic bomb seven decades ago. As crowds gathered throughout the city, speakers and anti-nuclear activists reminded the crowds that nuclear catastrophe is not a distant memory, but a continual threat owed to nuclear power and disasters such as Fukushima.

A bell rang out at 8:15 am (2315 GMT Sunday), the time of detonation, to begin a moment of silence at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, as up to 50,000 people joined hands.

"We pledge to convey to the world the experiences and desires of our atomic-bomb sufferers and do everything in our power to achieve the genuine peace of a world without nuclear weapons," said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui at the rally.

Demonstrations, marches, forums, and concerts against global nuclear weapons took place in the city throughout the day.

In separate rallies on Monday, more than 7,000 people, including atomic bomb survivors and evacuees from the Fukushima area, staged anti-nuclear power demonstrations, the latest in a series of protests after last year's crisis at Fukushima.

"We want to work together with people in Fukushima and join our voices calling for no more nuclear victims," said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 70, an atomic bomb survivor.

Kumiko Okamoto, a 38-year-old mother of two, said: "There is no difference between atomic bombs and nuclear accidents."

The anniversary came a month after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave his go-ahead to the Kansai Electric Power Co to restart a reactor at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant, the first restart since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.

The restart came despite a growing nuclear power protest movement, which has seen weekly demonstrations against atomic power in the country outside Noda's residence in Tokyo. A rally in west Tokyo last month saw a crowd of up to 170,000.

Outside today's memorial ceremony, protesters at a separate anti nuclear power rally could be heard shouting "Go home, Noda" during the prime minister's speech.

"What does someone promoting nuclear energy have to say at a gathering like this?" Kyoto resident Koichiro Mori, 21, asked. "I think that Noda visiting Hiroshima is an insult to the hibakusha, and I feel a deep sense of anger."

Demonstrators also marched around the headquarters of Chugoku Electric Power, a regional utility which has reactors of its own, chanting: "Noda should quit. We oppose nuclear power."Japanese people stage a die-in protest in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, commonly called the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on August 6, 2012 in Hiroshima. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)