Peace Message Delivered in Sign Language…

from September 2003 Issue of Japanese Deaf News, JFD’s monthly newspaper:

…by A Deaf Survivor at the A-Bomb Memorial Peace Ceremony in Nagasaki

Ms. Eiko Yamazaki delivering her
“Peace Message” in Sign Language
(Photo provided by the Nagasaki News)

“My responsibility as a survivor of the atomic-bombing, is to continue to speak on behalf of the many Deaf hibakusha who died… to continue to speak about all the things that I saw and felt.”

On August 9, at the 58th Peace Ceremony in Nagasaki in Memory of the Victims of the Atomic Bomb, a Deaf lady, Ms. Eiko Yamazaki, 76, represented the surviving A-bomb victims and delivered her “Peace Message” in sign language. Ms. Yamazaki used her hands and body eloquently and succeeded in conveying the full impact of her experiences and importance of her message. Her Peace Message in sign language touched the hearts of the participants and many looked on with tears in their eyes.

The appointment of a Deaf person to deliver the Peace Message on behalf of the surviving A-bomb victims was the result of persevering peace activities conducted by the Nagasaki Association of the Deaf and the Nagasaki Division of the National Study Association for Sign Language Interpretation. Such endeavors were recognized by other hibakusha groups and led to the realization of Ms. Yamazaki’s Peace Message.

“It was difficult to express my message in the limited time and to choose the sign language expressions which would best convey my message,” says Ms. Yamazaki. She had been practicing for days, but her energetic presentation didn’t show any sign of fatigue. President Kazuo Murakami of the Nagasaki Association of the Deaf commented: “It was extremely meaningful that the commitment to peace was delivered from the standpoint of the Deaf. I hope that it will help to increase public awareness on disability and lead to true peace in society.”

Construction of the Long-Desired Memorial Monument

Ceremony participants offering flowers to the monument

August 3 was a hot sunny day, reminding many of the same summer heat 58 years ago. On this day, the unveiling ceremony of the “Monument in Memory of the Deaf Victims of the Atomic Bomb” was held in the playground of Hiroshima Deaf School in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The ceremony was attended by the Alumni Association of Hiroshima Deaf School which had been conducting movements to build the Monument, as well as members of Hiroshima Deaf School, families and relatives of the victims, survivors of the atomic bombing (hibakusha), and representatives of related organizations. After the ceremony, flowers and prayers were offered by the participants. Some had come from as far away as Osaka Prefecture to attend the ceremony. Speeches were presented by President Yamamoto of the Hiroshima Deaf School Alumni Association and Principal Fukunaga of the Hiroshima Deaf School.

In his speech, President Yamamoto said, “The movement to build a Monument in memory of the Deaf who died as victims of the atomic bombing is said to have been started by 3 Deaf people just 3 years after the end of World War II. This long cherished desire has finally been realized today. I hope that this Monument will help to teach the younger generations of Deaf people about the tragic horror of the atomic bomb and the value of peace.”

Ms. Nakagawa of the Hiroshima Division of the National Study Association for Sign Language Interpretation explained the progress since the dropping of the A-bomb to the realization of the construction of the monument. She introduced the mortuary tablet which had served as the temporary memorial until the construction of the permanent monument.

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