Warring factions split city of peace

HIROSHIMA 50 YEARS ON

Hiroshima contains few notable Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples but, in many ways, it is the holiest of all Japanese cities.

Over 50 years, the peace ceremonies held every year in the Peace Park have taken on a sacramental quality, and tomorrow's service - a half- century to the second after the dropping of the world's first atom bomb - will be conducted with all the hush and solemnity of a religious ceremony.

All week there have been marches by demonstrators dressed in symbolic white, their chants sounding more like calls to prayer than slogans condemning nuclear stockpiling or French tests. "The great achievement of the last 50 years has been the creation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as holy places, almost Meccas of peace," said Mitsuo Okamoto, Professor of Peace Studies at the city's Shudo University.

But Hiroshima has other things in common with the world's holy cities: sectarian feuding, doctrinal battles and personal vendettas.

The Hiroshima Handbook lists 95 peace-related organisations from the Society of University Professors to Protect Peace and Freedom to the Mushroom Society. But chief among them are two, best known by their acronyms: Gensuikyo and Gensuikin. They are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Hiroshima.

Originally there was just one group, a loose association of journalists, trade unionists and citizens' committees, many of them victims of the atomic bomb. Left-wing activity was strictly controlled under the American occupation; the early organisation was "a guerrilla movement" in the words of one of its founders, Kiyoshi Matsue.

It was galvanised by the outbreak of the Korean War and the tests at Bikini atoll in 1954 during which Japanese fishermen were poisoned by radioactive fall-out. The following year the first Council Against A and H Bombs - Gensuikyo - was held in Hiroshima on the 10th anniversary of the bombing.

Less than a decade later, the group was rent by a dispute between factions led by the Japan Communist Party (JCP) and more moderate socialists. "The communist group defended the nuclear weapons held by the Soviet Union as justifiable, a defensive measure against the US, which was the only country to have used an atom bomb in war," said Professor Okamoto. "The others claimed all nuclear arms were evil and should be abolished."

"That is a total misunderstanding caused by Gensuikin propaganda," according to Dr Tomoyasu Kawai, of the Gensuikyo conference. The moderate group had, he said, abandoned their demands for immediate abolition of nuclear weapons favouring instead a gradualist approach.

The organisation split; beginning in 1964 there were two Hiroshima Councils Against A and H Bombs. Eventually, the breakaway moderates established their own handle, Gensuikin. There was a brief rapprochement in the Seventies, which fell apart when Gensuikyo announced its support of nuclear power.

"There are no substantive differences these days," said Professor Okamoto, who avoids both groups. "Only inertia keeps them apart, and the old personalities who used to excoriate one another in the Sixties and Seventies." This week the two sects have issued their own statements, mounted their own marches and run parallel conferences; they were almost indistinguishable in tone and content, but quite separate.

"This city's experience is so unique," said Professor Okamoto, ''it had the potential to become the leading peace movement of the world. But people see them squabbling, and feel alienated."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee