WATSONVILLE—The simultaneous ringing of bells in sister cities across the United States and Japan on Wednesday marked 75 years of peace since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The event at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple was part of an inaugural initiative of the newly created Japan Committee of Sister Cities International (SCI), a project that calls for citizen “diplomats” and city leaders to coordinate bell ringings in sister cities across the two countries.
“These can be bells big and small—houses of worship, hand bells, call bells, cow bells…anything,” said Rev. Jay Shinseki, resident minister of Monterey and Watsonville.
The bell was rung 75 times by Temple officials and community members for each year of peace and in “memory of all who died in the blast and later died from the effects of the A-bomb,” Shinseki said prior to the event.
In 1945 the U.S. detonated two nuclear weapons, the first on Aug. 6 over Hiroshima and the second on Aug. 9 over Nagasaki. Between 129,000 and 226,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed. Those attacks remain the only uses of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.
The bell project emerged from the U.S./Japan sister city relationships developed after World War II.
“As tragic as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, followed by the bombing of Nagasaki three days later, and the loss of lives was (that) there were other considerations,” said Mas Hashimoto of Watsonville, who participated in the bell ringing. “The Pacific war ended with the surrender of Japan (Aug. 14); the invasion of mainland Japan by our military forces which would have resulted in the loss of over a million lives—both Japanese and Americans—never materialized … Hiroshima today symbolizes both ‘never again’ and that we must dedicate our lives working for world peace.”
The late photographer, artist, community leader and social activist, Richard Fukuhara, had the vision to have bells around the world ring to honor those lives lost in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. He founded Shadows For Peace in 2015 to honor the lives lost and share the stories of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors). One goal is to promote peace through speaker forums, some of which included hibakusha living in the U.S.
There are more than 455 sister city/state relationships in the U.S. and Japan, 162 of them within the SCI network, the second largest of any country.
Watsonville has a sister city relationship with Kawakami-Mura.