Hiroshima - Pearl Harbour memorials strike 'sister park' deals

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 propelled America into World War II. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing about 140,000 people. Photo: Shutterstock/RAJU SONI

Putting many centuries of pain and bitterness aside, Hiroshima and Pearl Harbour are all set to be 'sisters' from now on. The two symbols of animosity between Japan and the United States in World War II are now promoting peace and friendship through a sister park arrangement.

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui signed a sister park agreement on Thursday for Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park and the Pearl Harbour National Memorial of Hawaii.

Nobody can go to Pearl Harbour, and nobody can go to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and enter the front door, walk out the exit door and be the same person, Emanuel said at the signing ceremony at the American Embassy in Tokyo.

I think the hope here is that we inspire people from all over the United States and all over Japan to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial and to visit Pearl Harbour so they can learn the spirit of reconciliation, Emanuel said.

Under the sister park arrangement, the two parks will promote exchanges and share experiences in restoring historic structures and landscapes, the use of virtual reality and digital images for preservation and education, and best practices in youth education and tourism management, the embassy said.

The sister arrangement between the two parks related to the beginning and end of the war will be a proof that mankind, despite making the mistake of waging a war, can come to senses and reconciliate and pursue peace, Matsui said.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 propelled America into World War II. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing about 140,000 people, and a second one on Nagasaki three days later, killing another 70,000. Japan surrendered on August 15, ending a nearly half-century of aggression across Asia.

Since the war, the two countries have built a powerful alliance. In Hiroshima, some atomic bombing survivors raised concern about the sister park arrangement, saying it could help justify the use of nuclear weapons and should be reconsidered.

I understand anguish and angst is an emotion but I don't think you should be trapped by that, Emanuel said. He said reconciliation between the United States and Japan is the example of what I think this world desperately needs right now.

Emanuel said Pearl Harbour is a revered place in the American psyche, while Hiroshima is an equally revered place in the Japanese psyche, which is why you want to build a sister park agreement to learn from each other".

The two parks became places of reconciliation when then-President Barack Obama paid tribute to atom bomb victims at the Hiroshima Peace Park as the first serving American leader to visit in May 2016, and then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in return, visited Pearl Harbour in December that year.

Those were key steps in deepening the alliance between our two nations, Obama said in a statement congratulating Thursday's sister park signing and calling it another historic accomplishment".

By connecting our two peoples to our shared past, we can build a shared future grounded in peace and cooperation, he said.

The sister park arrangement is the second between the US and Japan, following one signed in 2016 between Gettysburg National Military Park and Gifu Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum.

(With PTI inputs)

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