The second city ever attacked by an atomic bomb marked the 60th anniversary of its devastation Tuesday with a Catholic Mass, a moment of silence and an angry plea for a global ban on nuclear arms.
About 6,000 people, including hundreds of aging bomb survivors, crowded into Nagasaki's Peace Memorial Park, just a few hundred meters (yards) from the center of the blast, for a solemn remembrance and moment of silence.
Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh then had some angry words for the leaders of the nuclear powers, and especially the United States.
"We understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of the horror of the 9-11 terrorist attacks," he was quoted as saying by AP. "Yet, is your security enhanced by your government's policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons, of carrying out repeated sub-critical nuclear tests, and of pursuing the development of new `mini' nuclear weapons?"
Itoh also urged Japan to get out from under the U.S. "nuclear umbrella." About 50,000 U.S. troops are deployed throughout Japan under a post World War II mutual security pact.
Soon after, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a staunch supporter of the U.S. presence, placed a wreath before the monument to the dead. He vowed to advocate a nuclear ban, but kept his comments brief. "This is an occasion to remember the victims, and pray for world peace," he said.
Nagasaki's remembrances began just after sunrise with a special Mass at Urakami Cathedral. Hundreds of worshippers crowded into the church, which at the time of the bombing was the largest in Asia with 12,000 parishioners -- 8,500 of whom are believed to have been killed.
Tuesday's memorial follows a much bigger one last week in Hiroshima, where some 55,000 people swarmed into that city's peace park.
The horrors of that tragedy will not ever be forgotten.
American airmen flying many miles from Nagasaki have said smoke from fires in the city was rising 50,000ft (15,240m). Nagasaki is one of Japan's most important ports providing vital access to and from Shanghai.
Three days ago a similar device was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on Japan's largest island, Honshu.
The extent of the damage caused to Hiroshima is not yet known but Japanese broadcasts indicate that "enormous devastation" has been done.
The Americans have warned the Japanese people that further attacks of a similar nature will be made unless they petition their emperor to surrender.
More than three million leaflets were dropped over the country from American aeroplanes warning the Japanese people that more atomic weapons would be used "again and again" to destroy the country unless they ended the war forthwith.
V-J Day, marking the end of the war, has its 60th anniversary Sunday. But so far, the nuclear commemoration has prompted more attention. Amazingly, of all the horrible genies let out of their bottles during World War II - from genocide to totalitarianism to German and Japanese aggression - the threat of nuclear annihilation, ushered in by the United States, seems to have emerged as the most pressing worry for Americans today.
In honor of the anniversary of the atomic bombings, Time magazine ran gritty portraits of survivors, the shock still etched in their faces. The men and women offered their stories -- how they happened to turn away from the explosion and, therefore, saved themselves from being blinded, for example -- and the magazine soberly recorded their distance from the blast, their proximity to hell, Boston Globe reports.
These kinds of testimonials are usually reserved for victims of war crimes, and while Time does not make the link directly, it does not completely resist it, either. An accompanying essay by historian David M. Kennedy notes pointedly that the United States ''crossed a terrifying moral threshold" when it targeted Japanese cities, killing as many as 900,000 civilians in the two atomic bombings combined with fire-bombing raids on Tokyo and other population centers. The targeting of civilians in wartime is currently a violation of international law.