• Jiji

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The “flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” kept at a Tokyo shrine for about 30 years as a prayer for the abolition of nuclear weapons, will be moved to a temple in Fukushima Prefecture, the location of Japan’s worst nuclear accident.

A ceremony to transfer the flame will be held in Fukushima on Thursday afternoon, the 10th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, which led to an unprecedented triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The flame will be relabeled a “non-nuclear flame,” connecting the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were devastated by the August 1945 U.S. atomic bombings, with Fukushima and Bikini Atoll, where a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in March 1954 exposed the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, a Japanese fishing boat, and others to radioactive fallout.

“We reject nuclear damage that destroys the environment, lives and hometowns,” said Tokuo Hayakawa, 81, the head priest of Hokyoji Temple in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture.

The flame was originally collected in Hiroshima following the atomic bombing and was initially kept in the city of Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture. Fire made using a roof tile exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was later incorporated into the flame.

Since 1990, the flame has been maintained at Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo. The transfer of the flame to the Fukushima temple is due to difficulties continuing to manage the flame at the shrine.

The flame “will be connected to people in Fukushima through new pledges,” said Toshitaka Onodera, 80, who has managed the flame at the Tokyo shrine. “I hope that the flame will be kept permanently.”

At the Fukushima temple, a museum will also be set up to display items related to the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident, the atomic bombings and the Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb test.

“Creating a peaceful future should begin by learning history,” Hayakawa said.

The flame will be placed next to a stone monument on which words of “regret for failing to prevent the nuclear accident” are inscribed. Hayakawa had called for safety measures at the nuclear plant since before the March 2011 accident.

“We mustn’t let such a disaster happen again,” he said, adding that the flame “will hopefully become a light conveying” lessons from the accident.

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