The coronavirus pandemic has taken away some of the best parts of summer. Festivals, concerts and sporting events are all dearly missed, but one thing the virus can’t take away is tradition. From Hiroshima to Hope (FHTH) is one organization making sure of that.
FHTH puts on an annual program of the same name, currently in its 36th year, that commemorates the anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States during World War II and remembers those who lost their lives. The program is usually held at Green Lake and features music, speakers and a floating lantern ceremony.
This year, the program will be virtual due to the pandemic. A short film with clips from past programs, interviews with bomb survivors, performances and more will be available to view on FHTH’s Facebook page and website on Aug. 6.
Stan Shikuma, a longtime supporter of FHTH and president of the Japanese American Citizens League, has been to every program since its inception in 1984.
Shikuma said FHTH has expanded over the years to include remembering or honoring all those who have died in any war or general violence. Other communities interested in peace or that have had encounters with violence and want to participate will come, he said. For example, they have had Latino and Native American groups participate, and a few years ago a Punjabi group started providing Gurmukhi calligraphy for the lanterns.
The floating of the paper lanterns is a Japanese tradition, Shikuma said.
“In Japanese culture and mythology, life comes out of water and light is representative of the spirit,” he said, “so by floating lanterns across the water, it’s kind of like you’re returning the spirit and renewing the life.”
The lanterns have a candle inside and, on the outside, people will write words like peace, love and remembrance, their own personal message or names of loved ones in Japanese calligraphy, Shikuma said.
“It’s a very awesome, very peaceful sight to watch the lanterns floating,” he said.
While there won’t be any lanterns floating on Green Lake this year, community members are encouraged to place a paper lantern in their windows as part of a Window Peace Lantern project from Aug. 6-9.
Shikuma said the goal of the program is to not only remember those who died and continue to die in war and other forms of violence, but to move attendees to take action to help stop the next war and prevent the next death.
“It’s a question of humanity and social justice that we put a stop to nuclear weapons,” he said.
Event organizers want people to take the day to heart and think about what peace means and how it can be achieved, Shikuma said.
“There aren’t many occasions where we gather together as a community to think about why we engage in war and why people die in war and what we can do to stop it, so that’s one of the goals of FHTH.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated a Punjabi group provided Hindu script for the lanterns. It has been updated to reflect the group provided Gurmukhi calligraphy.