Children lit paper lanterns over the shadow of the Hiroshima Peace memorial as thousands gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
Bells tolled and thousands bowed their heads in prayer to remember the devastation. The bomb killed and maimed thousands – 140,000 by the end of the year – both on the day of the bombing and through the many that died from their injuries and the after affects of the radiation.
The Hiroshima bombing was followed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, which killed about 40,000 instantly.
At 8.15am local time, the exact time the bomb had exploded, the crowd stood for a moment of silence and the Peace Bell rang.
“My grandfather died here at that time and I keep wondering what he felt then,” said Tomiyo Sota. “He was still 21 years old and it pains me to think he died so young.”
Many of those gathered for the ceremony renewed their calls for peace, highlighting rising tensions over Japan’s moves away from its pacifist constitution.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowed to the crowd, and gave a speech during the commemorations.
However, protests have been taking place across the country against his government pushing security bills through parliament that could send Japanese troops into conflict for the first time since World War Two.
Many with memories of the war and its aftermath are scathing about Abe’s pursuit of a more robust security stance and his desire to adopt a less apologetic tone towards the war in Asia.
Survivors of the bombing marched for nuclear disarmament, and lambasted Abe at a meeting after the commemoration ceremony.
“These bills will bring the tragedy of war to our nation once again,” said Yukio Yoshioka, 86. “They must be withdrawn.”