Glowing lanterns floated down the rivers running through Nagasaki at dusk Friday, ending a day of remembrance for the thousands who perished in the atomic bomb attack here 51 years ago.
Bells tolled in churches and temples throughout the hilly port city. About 25,000 people crowded Peace Park for a memorial ceremony beginning at 11:02 a.m., the minute the bomb exploded on Aug. 9, 1945.
The park, once a thriving business and residential area, was the epicenter of the blast, which killed more than 70,000 people and reduced the city’s northern section to heaps of rubble and smoking cinders.
The blast came three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Many question whether the second attack was needed to force Japan - already devastated by conventional bombing - to surrender to the Allies.
During Friday’s memorial ceremony, survivors and families of victims made offerings of water before an altar. At nightfall, floating lanterns were lit to symbolize the souls of those who were killed.
“No matter how many years pass we must continue to inform the people of the world about what happened that day in Nagasaki,” Mayor Itcho Ito said, according to Kyodo News.
Few traces of the bombing can be seen today. Peace Park is filled with towering cedars and flowering hydrangea bushes. Unlike Hiroshima, where the half-destroyed Atomic Dome was left as a memorial to the bomb, Nagasaki rebuilt everything, including a cathedral destroyed in the blast.
The epicenter was in Nagasaki’s northern sector; steep hills shielded the city’s center.