Canterbury: Hiroshima Day Tree カンタベリー:広島デーの樹

I came across this plaque on the University of Kent campus in Canterbury today (I’m here with students and colleagues from Kōgakkan University 皇學館大学), and I was surprised to learn about this particular connection between Kent and Japan.

The plaque reads: “This tree was planted by The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Japan during the Lambeth Conference 1988 to commemorate Hiroshima Day.” I didn’t know the background for some of the things mentioned here, though, so I did some cursory searches on the Internet and in the library to learn a little more.

The Anglican Church of Japan (Nippon Seikōkai 日本聖公会)

I knew there was an Anglican Church of Japan, but until now, I hadn’t thought much about when or where it might have become active. The British introduced the religion to the Ryūkyū islands in the 1840s and regular services began on the island of Kyushu in 1859, when two Americans (Channing Moore Williams and John Liggins) came to the country. At the time, the Japanese government allowed foreigners to worship as Christians while prohibiting it among Japanese. Williams held services at a Buddhist temple called Sōfukuji 祟福寺, but for many years, only foreigners were allowed to participate (Markham, et al. 2013). Williams later went on to found Rikkyō University (立教大学).

The Lambeth Conference (ランベス会議)

The Lambeth Conferences take place among bishops about once every decade. Coincidentally, they began in 1867, around the same time that the religion was introduced to Japan. I haven’t been able to determine when Japanese bishops first attended one of these, but it might have been when some of them participated in the 1948 conference, shortly after WWII. (Hein 2008).

Hiroshima Day (広島デー)

There are commemorations around the world every year on August 6 at 8:15 a.m. to mark the moment in 1945 when the US exploded an atomic bomb over the city. However, I’ve never thought of it as “Hiroshima Day,” and I wanted to know where and when the term originated. After all, the US initially censored photos of the incident and public sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the war was in support of the bombing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine exactly when this phrase came into use, but it probably happened within a couple of years after the bombing. Tanimoto Kiyoshi 谷本清, a Methodist minister who survived the bombings in Hiroshima, appears to have been instrumental in the formation of “Hiroshima Day” as an international observance (Zwigenberg 2014). He became known around the world through John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946), which was written to put a human face on the event. Tanimoto toured every state in the US to raise money for the Hiroshima Peace Center Foundation (公益財団法人 ヒロシマ・ピース・センター), and he arranged to have the “Hiroshima Maidens” (広島の少女) flown to the US for plastic surgery to repair some of the damage from the bomb (Stier and Landres 2006).

The Tree

If you are in the area and want to come and take a look at the tree, you can find it just outside of Templeman Library on the University of Kent campus.


The ferris wheel in the background is there this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the university’s founding.