Acceptance Speech by the Mayor of Hirosima at the Gautam Buddha International Peace Award Ceremony
Right Honourable President of Nepal, Dr.Ram Baran Yadav,
Right Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal, Mr.Jhala Nath Khanal,
Honourable Minister for Culture, His Excellency Mr.Kul Chandra Gautam, Chairman of
His Excellency Dr.Ganesh Yonzan Tamang, Ambassador of Nepal to Japan,
His Excellency Mr.Tatsuo Mizuno, Ambaasador of Japan to Nepal,
and His Excellency Mr.TomihisaTaue, Mayor of Nagasaki
It is my honor, pleasure and privilege to stand here, as former mayor of Hiroshima, on
behalf of the hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, the citizens of Hiroshima as well as the
nearly 5,000 cities and mayors that belong to Mayors for Peace. It has been a
tremendous honor for me to be able to work with them and for them since my youth,
but especially as mayor of Hiroshima for 12 years.
Thank you very much for recognizing their efforts toward creating a nuclear weapon
free world, in the form of the Gautam Buddha International Peace Prize. Please allow
me to outline the history of their efforts and indicate where we are headed.
In sum, I should mention that Mayor for Peace is the fastest growing NGO in the world
and the next item on its agenda is to create a nuclear weapons convention. Clearly,
the NWC will be a practical mid-point to the realization of a nuclear weapon free world
by 2020. We firmly believe this scenario is possible because our goal is supported by
I would like to venture a little further and assert that the wish to rid the world of not
only nuclear weapons but all war is based on human nature. If I may be allowed to
venture further, a more accurate description might be that the wish for peace is based
We have all seen a glimpse of this among the people who are the victims of the
catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis that hit the Eastern part of Japan. The
behavior of the people who were so tragically affected by the catastrophe is almost
“saintly.” Words of praise as well as condolence, sympathy, encouragement, prayer
and others of goodwill have reached Japan.
I wish to join these people, together with all of you here, to offer our condolences to
those who lost their lives so tragically, promising that we will do everything in our
power to help ease the pains of those who are far from returning to their normal lives
and offer our hands in the future efforts of restoring their cities, towns, and livelihoods.
Firefighters, medical doctors, water specialists, volunteers of every kind rushed to
those areas from Hiroshima. Whenever a catastrophe of any kind befalls any
population, this is a typical reaction that Hiroshima citizens take because it reminds
them of what happened almost 66 years ago.
Those who came back after a period of rescue or volunteer work were moved by what
they saw, heard and experienced. Especially moving to them was that the evacuees
were so glad to know that Hiroshima cares and the very presence of Hiroshima amidst
the confusion, uncertainty, fear and doubt meant a great deal to the victims.
Hiroshima does understand their sufferings and pains because the city went through a
similar and perhaps worse experience. Hiroshima offers hope because Hiroshima
citizens have been able to reconstruct their city and achieve prosperity. Many expect
that Hiroshima could offer an effective cure for the damage caused by radiation.
Drawing parallels between Hiroshima and the Eastern Japan tragedy, including
Fukushima, is important as well as understanding many differences so that together,
we can create a better future for the victims and for all of us. The key word here is
“the future.” In an important sense, which I would like to elaborate, Hiroshima has
been able to become what it is today by focusing on the future.
Let me start by summarizing what the hibakusha went through and have made of their
experiences by quoting from the Peace Declaration of 1999. In it, I described what I
believe to be the three most important gifts the hibakusha have given us. Let me
The first is that they were able to transcend the infernal pain and despair that the
bombings sowed and to opt for life. They hovered between life and death in a
corpse-strewn sea of rubble and ruin—circumstances under which none would have
blamed them had they chosen death. Yet they chose life.
Their second accomplishment is that they effectively prevented a third use of nuclear
weapons. Their determination to tell their story to the world, to argue eloquently
that to use nuclear weapons is to doom the human race, and to show the use of
nuclear weapons to be the ultimate evil has brought about this result. We owe our
future and our children’s future to them.
Their third achievement lies in their representing the new worldview as engraved on
the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims. They have rejected the path of revenge and
animosity that leads to extinction for all humankind. [This ends the quote.]
This new way of thinking manifests most commonly among the hibakusha in the phrase,
“No one else should ever suffer as we did.” This phrase does not sound particularly
revolutionary until you understand that the “no one” they were referring to included
those whom one would normally label as enemies.
This phrase and their desire to prevent any repetition of the nuclear tragedy actually
rule out the possibility of revenge. It is a hibakusha philosophy of nonviolence and
humanity born from an experience immediately recognized as a threat to the entire
human species. Thus, the hibakusha message is so revolutionary that it has yet to be
fully understood and digested by most of the human family.
This is the spirit of Hiroshima, the conviction that the survival of the human race is
more important than any personal suffering, injustice, hatred or desire for retaliation.
One question that I am asked often is, why did the hibakusha, who are not a group of
Einstein’s and Kant’s, come up with such a monumental philosophy?
One answer I can offer is the nature of a city. Among many important characteristics
of a city I would like to emphasize that it is not a small scale country in a nation-state
framework. Although nations are the way we human beings now are taught to look
at the world and history, especially war, cities are the way we understand suffering. I
have visited Gernika, Spain, and Ypres, Belgium, among others. Both cities are as
devoted as Hiroshima to remembering the tragedies they suffered in war and to
preventing any repetition of such tragedies, not just in their own cities but anywhere
on Earth. Their message is, like Hiroshima, “Never again.”
People rarely suffer alone. The suffering of any individual is actually the suffering of
at least a family, if not a neighborhood or a wider community, and a city is a vital, true
and personally relevant level of collective identity. That is why we speak of Auschwitz,
the My Lai massacre, the Dresden bombing, for example, when we refer to these
sufferings. Suffering becomes an integral part of the collective memory, and peace is
the natural answer to the question, how can we keep this from happening again?
Mayors generally arise from the collective consciousness of their city. We are close to
our citizens. We suffer when they suffer. We are generally honest because we
cannot deny facts. When garbage is left on a curbside or a pothole is left unfilled, we
cannot pretend it is not there. We are relatively neutral in terms of ideology and
other values because we must serve all citizens regardless of their political affiliations.
Given this close relationship of cities to “reality,” it is obvious that the international
system, which is so sorely and obviously lacking the basic skills of democracy and
civilized behavior, requires far greater input from cities. We need to institutionalize a
civil society-driven process, most notably exemplified by the one that led to the
Anti-Personnel Land Mine Convention. We need a process that reflects city views and
values when important decisions are made, and the survival of humanity certainly is
That is why, in 2003, we launched what we called an Emergency Campaign to Ban
Nuclear Weapons which is also known as the 2020 Vision Campaign because we are
promoting our vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2020. In the 12 years since I
took office, our membership has grown from 440 city members to more than 4,700,
and we now include Moscow, London, Paris, Beijing, New Delhi, Rawalpindi, and
Jerusalem from nuclear-armed states. I expect that more cities will join us soon,
In many ways, cities do stand independent from nation-states. Such strength of a
typical city is derived not from military power but from diversity. A typical city
consists of people who differ in job, ethnic background, religion, political opinion,
economic circumstances, age, gender, and, more generally, in their value system. And
yet, since they must live in harmony within a limited space and time, they try to find at
least some common threads that sustain a community. Through this everyday effort
is born a creative solution. In the case of the hibakusha in Hiroshima or Nagasaki the
creative solution was the philosophy of reconciliation embodied in the expression, “No
one else should ever suffer as we did.”
The second answer to the question of “why” is that their philosophy of reconciliation is
the only one that does justice to their suffering.
The hibakusha tried to explain their plight in every possible way, but none of them
worked satisfactorily until they found the depth of their expression, “No one else
should ever suffer as we did.” As I mentioned earlier, this line of logic and sentiment
that advocates “Never again” is universal among cities round the world.
“Universal” by definition, means that it is based on human nature. At the same time,
for me personally at least, it seems just as convincing to see that it is the Buddha
nature in all of us that compelled hibakusha and others to come to that conclusion.
There is a religious history and environment in Hiroshima that offer hints of such
Hiroshima is known as an area where many followers of a particular sect of Buddhism,
called the Jodo Shinshu, or literally translated, the true teachings of the Pure Land,
happen to live. The sect was founded by Reverend Shinran in the 13th century.
The essential tenet of Jodo Shinshu is that all one needs to be guided to the Pure Land
is to abandon oneself and chant the word “Namuamidabutsu”, which means that one
accepts the guidance of the Buddha whose attributes are infinite life and hope.
To me a more significant part of the teaching is that one’s journey does not end there.
Once one reaches the Pure Land, or the other world, one then returns to this secular
world to help others so that all humanity will be saved as well.
The hibakusha’s efforts can be interpreted within this framework of returning to the
secular world to save humanity. After having experienced a living hell, thus having
had a glimpse of the other world, the hibakusha have returned to this secular world to
save us from the evils of this world, especially from nuclear weapons. Their actions
are thus guided by the Buddha nature itself and are consequently universal.
Whether you call it human nature or Buddha nature, it is true that cities that have
suffered from the scourges war and violence come to the conclusion “Never again” and
are joining Mayors for Peace to create a world free from nuclear weapons and war.
It is not only the cities round the world who share our vision of nuclear weapon free
world. As you know very well, President Obama of the United Sates declared to the
world that it is his and America’s moral responsibility to create such a world.
Not only the United States but the United Nations is with us. On August 6th last year,
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon became the first UN Secretary-General ever to
attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima. His presence in Hiroshima on
that day and everything he said and did while he was with us were clear evidence that
he is true to his word; the abolition of nuclear weapons is the top priority for him
In his mind the timeline is also very clear. Secretary-General Ban endorsed the 2020
Vision Campaign of Mayors for Peace, without any reservation, by declaring it a
And we are sure we can accomplish our goal by 2020. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon
also believes we can. Inviting all people around the world to Hiroshima in 2020, he
said: “Let us pledge to join together on the 75th anniversary of the bombing – with
the hibakusha – to celebrate the end of nuclear weapons.”
I am confident that we will be able to actualize a massive array of celebrations all over
the world because new, inspiring efforts are sprouting everywhere in the world.
Let me just mention a Japanese grass-roots group including hibakusha called the “Yes!
Campaign.” They toured most Japanese cities knocking at the doors of mayors they
had never met. Luckily, many complied and this campaign collected support
signatures for the 2020 Vision from more than two thirds of mayors in Japan. Such a
bold approach would not even have been conceived ten years ago.
Secondly, younger mayors now are leading the movement. One example among
many should convince you that this is phenomenal. Mayor Ebine of Fujisawa City in
Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, organized a peace symposium last November. One
of the important events related to this symposium was the meeting of all mayors in
Kanagawa Prefecture. At the conclusion of this meeting all the mayors passed a
resolution that they will work together to create a nuclear weapon free world by 2020.
Again Japanese efforts for the abolition of nuclear weapons accomplished a great deal,
this is the first time that ALL mayors belonging to a prefecture came to pass such a
strong resolution with a definite timeframe.
Rock musicians, artists, sports stars, novelists, Nobel Laureates, farmers, students, and
many more are joining mayors and we are now seriously considering replicating efforts
which have proved themselves successful in their efforts to ban anti-personnel
landmines and cluster munitions. For this purpose, our next step is to persuade
enough national governments the world over to agree on a Nuclear Weapons
Convention that clearly bans all nuclear weapons on earth.
The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mayors for Peace, and the people of Nepal all
share a common vision. We see the possibility of a world where war, violence,
starvation and widespread environmental destruction are, like institutional slavery,
viewed with horror as artifacts of our barbaric past. Nuclear weapons have no place
in such a world, and I believe history books will note that the creation of such a world
actually began with the banning and total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Working together, we have the capacity to create such a world, and I believe we will.
In 1972, we achieved the chemical weapons convention. In 1993, it was the biological
weapons convention. In 1998, it was the anti-personnel landmine convention. In
2008, it was the cluster munitions convention. In 2015, with your help, it will be a
nuclear weapons convention, leading to a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2020.
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