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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 05:33 GMT
Tokyo remembers 1945 bombing raid
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Tokyo

Destroyed Tokyo streets along the Sumida River
One night's bombing levelled much of the city
People in Tokyo have been marking the 60th anniversary of a massive US night-time bombing raid which destroyed much of the city in 1945.

Several memorial services have been held across the city to remember the more than 100,000 people who died.

The raid was part of an American strategy to try to wear down Japanese morale ahead of a possible invasion.

It has remained controversial because of the death toll, but a ceremony expressed little anger towards the US.

At 1000, Buddhist monks began the mournful service of remembrance in a special memorial hall built in Tokyo's Sumida-ku Ward, which was in the centre of the firestorm caused by the US bombing raid 60 years ago.

The low-key service was attended by Prince Akishino, second son of the current emperor, and grandson of Emperor Hirohito who led Japan into the Second World War.

More than 2,000 mainly elderly residents also crowded into the hall, laying bouquets of flowers and lighting incense.

Restrained speeches

Many still have vivid memories of the B-29 bombers flying low overhead dropping the incendiary bombs which turned the neighbourhood into an inferno.

They recall hellish scenes of people being incinerated as they tried to run, or dying when they threw themselves into the boiling River Sumida.

Yoshiko Hashimoto, who lost her parents in the attack
Survivors show no bitterness, only a longing for peace

The speeches at the service were restrained, apportioning no blame, and referring to the appalling death toll as a tragedy brought on by war.

There was little anger expressed towards the Americans by the survivors either.

Most said their experiences that night had simply instilled in them a lifetime passion for peace.

The city has built a small museum to commemorate the bombing raid and a few monuments.

But this day is always overshadowed by the much larger events later in the year marking the anniversaries of the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


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