06 August 2015


          Summer night:
          ruined mountains, rivers
          cry out with one voice.

          Flaming trees 
          dance up
          into the angry autumn sky.

Timiki Hara,  Haiku 20, 6-7 August 1945

Today, we have been thinking, Emily and I, about our visit to Japan in 1982. We were on a British Council tour of the Far East, playing Viola and Feste respectively, and what we remember chiefly is the friendliness of our audiences, our hosts in Hiroshima. We performed in a college there and at the end of our show some students played traditional music to us and there were speeches of welcome and appreciation. A party even came to the station to wave us off. 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial or Genbaku Dōmu,
part of the 
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Photo by EP
Here in West Hampstead there is a Peace Park too. Its opening on 9th August 1984 had been timed to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Among its symbols of peace is a white crane, representative of the origami cranes made by Sadako Sasaki, who was two when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and who, ten years later, died of leukaemia caused by radiation exposure. 

Photo by EP
And among the messages of peace embedded in a path through the park is a plaque inscribed with the words of the Mayor of Hiroshima.

Photo by EP
It is worth mentioning that less than a mile north of the Peace Park lies the grave of Joseph Rotblat, a longtime resident of West Hampstead and the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project on the grounds of conscience. In 1995, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts towards nuclear disarmament. His gravestone bears the words with which he concluded his Nobel lecture: ‘Above all remember your humanity.’

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