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Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors visit Baltimore, call for peace

Atomic bomb survivor Ms. Takako Chiba recalls her ordeal following its detonation during a gathering for the annual remembrance of the 70th year since the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug.9), held near Johns Hopkins University. Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun (Frame: DSC_7228.JPG)

Seventy years ago, Goro Matsuyama watched as his city was destroyed.

Matsuyama was 16 years old when the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He remembers feeling sad when Japan surrendered at the end of the second World War. But his views have evolved.

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"I am against war itself," Matsuyama, now 86, said Thursday through a translator. "If there is no war, there will be no nuclear bombs. We should fight against war. That is the only way to achieve peace."

Matsuyama and Takako Chiba, 73, both survivors of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing in Hiroshima, visited Baltimore as part of a trip to the United States to remember the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Yukie Ikebe and the Heartful Chorus sang "Amazing Grace" and Japanese songs during a commemoration celebration in North Baltimore near the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.

Chiba was 3 years old when the bomb dropped but has vivid memories of a childhood lived in the austerity that followed.

"I still remember the struggles after the war as my family tried to get by," she said. "We had little to eat."

Meat was so scarce at the time, Chiba said, that she still regards it as a delicacy.

Earlier Thursday, the pair met with a group of children in Rockville who spent the day brainstorming how to stop war. Chiba called the experience heartening.

In Baltimore on Thursday evening, they were "very surprised" to find a group of 20 antiwar protesters awaiting them, she said.

"I had no idea that people in the U.S. supported this cause, that there are people in this city — which I had no idea about — who are with us," Chiba said.

Japan's prime minister called for an end to nuclear warfare Thursday as the country stopped to remember the victims of the bombing.

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At 8:15 a.m. Thursday — the moment in 1945 that the Little Boy uranium bomb was dropped — tens of thousands in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park stood in silence to honor the dead.

It was the first time a nuclear weapon had been used in war. Three days later, the United States dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki.

Estimates of casualties of the two bombings approach 250,000, most of them civilians. Japan announced its surrender Aug. 15, ending World War II. The number of casualties is difficult to ascertain because it was not clear how many people were living in the cities during the war, and people continued to die of bomb-related illnesses many years afterward.

"Seventy years on, I re-emphasize the necessity of world peace," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the memorial service. "We have to continue our effort to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. It is our responsibility, and it is our duty."

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, speaking in Malaysia, said the anniversary was a "very, very powerful reminder" not only of the impact of war but also of the significance of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers.

About 55,000 people from 100 countries attended the ceremony in Hiroshima. They included U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control.

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In Tokyo, the U.S. Embassy warned that the anniversary was "a traditional day of protests" against the embassy and told American citizens to avoid demonstrations or other large gatherings.

But in Hiroshima, the scene was peaceful. Lanterns floated in the river through Hiroshima overnight, while survivors of the blast were preparing to read poems at the memorial. A "Don't repeat the war" conference was held, and choirs performed.

Matsuyama, the survivor who visited Baltimore on Thursday, said he treasures his opportunity to advocate against nuclear weapons and war in general.

As one of the remaining survivors who have seen firsthand the destruction humanity can do, he said, he feels obligated to speak out.

"We are all growing older," he said. "We have very little time left."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6


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