Lanterns floating on Green Lake during the 2014 Hiroshima to Hope event • Photo by Martha Brice
Lanterns floating on Green Lake during the 2014 Hiroshima to Hope event • Photo by Martha Brice

The following is a reflection of this summer’s event by the From Hiroshima To Hope Planning Committee:

The 31st From Hiroshima to Hope floating lantern event began with energetic building of a stage, canopies, unloading of tables and chairs and a bamboo pulley system. Over the next five hours, 10 canopies and many tables and chairs were set up to accommodate calligraphers, origami makers, and photos of two cities, taken days after the bombings to show what happened 70 years ago.

As to why we were there, Stan Shikuma said: “Seventy years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we still gather to remember, learn, understand, and heal.  Peace is a process nurtured in community and shared experience, and our annual program helps that process grow.”

On August 6,  2015, in the upper northwest corner of Green Lake Park not far from the Seattle Public Theater, about 1,500 people gathered to watch a Butoh dance procession move a golden silk sculpture of “Little Boy Folded” in front of the stage, slowly, white faces and red kimonos focused until the life-size sculpture was carefully pulleyed up on a bamboo frame.  “The Cloud of Unknowing” read by Herb Tsuchiya and the flute playing of Larry Larson accompanied this awe-inspiring performance. This quiet movement  followed happy singing by the Sound Singers, a group of Japanese and Japanese American singers.

Once the sculpture was safely in place, Shikuma, the emcee, took the stage with his voice for peace introducing Dr. James Yamazaki who was the lead physician of the U.S. Atomic Bomb Medical Team assigned to Nagasaki to survey the effects of the atomic bomb particularly on children which he included in a memoir of his experiences in Children of the Atomic Bomb.  Honored by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, he honored our event with his presence,

Rev. Cederman gave a blessing and was followed by Rasmig Keutelian who talked about the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Gayane Grigoryan played a short piece “Nocturne” by Armenian composer Edvard Baghdasaryn, accompanied by Yoshiko Yamamoto on the piano. Seattle Kokon Taiko  once again entertained the audience with its resounding drums playing one of Stan Shikua’s compositions inspired by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The keynote speaker, Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza, gave a passionate speech about the perils of war, of the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, and the effects of so much funding drawn from social, health and education which is put toward war. Her community is especially affected by the lack of funding, but has just recently found funds to build a new structure to provide more housing, better health care and education for her community.

Mike Stern entertained with his guitar, playing a piece he wrote inspired while visiting Hiroshima some years ago. Stan talked about the availability of nuclear weapons today, almost 16,000 of which are in storage all over the world and the kind of threat they pose. He asked the audience to imagine what one Hiroshima sized bomb would do if dropped on the center of Seattle.

Koto playing by Marcia and her mother Kuniko Takamura, a family tradition which started 30 years ago closed the program on stage. Rev. Don Castro gave a short Buddhist message and explained the toro nagashi history, the floating of lanterns with beautiful calligraphy on the lake, then led the procession to the water.  Over a thousand lanterns were put into the water by volunteers and floated out to be photographed by hundreds of cameras.  Some lanterns were blown across the lake by a wind that came up about 11 pm so volunteers collected them until 2 a.m.!

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