A record-breaking crowd of about 300 people attended the Honouring Peace event on 9 August, to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki. The annual event was held for the first time at the new Japanese-style pavilion in Esquimalt Gorge Park at the site of the original Japanese teahouse destroyed by vandalism in 1942.
Elder Bear Sam opened with a healing prayer in the Lekwungun language, explaining the significance of the headdress that had originally been a war bonnet, gifted to his father and then to him. MLA Mitzi Dean brought a message of support and encouragement from Premier Horgan. Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins began by paying tribute to the late Mayor of Oak Bay, Nils Jensen, for his preparatory role leading to this day. Mayor Desjardins read a message sent by the Mayor of Hiroshima to the Honouring Peace event, noting the inspiring progress made recently by the 2021 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Speakers included Dr Dillon Takata, descended from the owners of the original teahouse, and Tsugio Kurushima of the Nikkei Society, each expressing the horror of nuclear war, including the moving poem “Children of the A-Bomb” read by Margaret Krawciw. Their comments were interspersed with short performances by the Furusato dancers, Arbutus Singers, and Taiko drummers. In the words of one participant, “it was a good honouring.” It was also a striking reminder of the need for work at every level to painstakingly build the relationships necessary for peace.
Ceremonial tree planting
Following the program, Mayor Desjardins was assisted by several others in the ceremonial tree planting of a gingko sapling that had been nurtured in Oak Bay from seeds of a Hiroshima tree that had survived the blast. The evening ended with floating the lanterns that had been decorated by participants earlier in the evening, who then set them in the reflective pools surrounding the new Pavilion.
The organizing team for the event was a first-time coalition of partners: Dr Jonathan Down (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Canada); Megumi Saunders and Tsugio Kurushima (Victoria Nikkei Society); Sheila Flood (Victoria Multifaith Society); Sharon Welsh (Greater Victoria Peace School); and Patrick Slobodian (Esquimalt Bahá’í Assembly).