Do not mess with this monument.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a particularly poignant landmark in Japan. Its Genbaku Dome was one of the only structures left standing in the city center after the atomic bomb’s detention and is being preserved in its damaged state, and not too far from it stands the Atomic Bomb Victims Cenotaph.

This cenotaph, which is an empty tomb to honor those who have died but were never found or laid to rest elsewhere, consists of a granite arch and monument with the names of victims engraved on it and the message that “the mistakes will not be repeated.”

Given the politically charged nature of World War II and use of nuclear weapons, the cenotaph has been the target of vandalism in the past by people wanting to make a statement. And sometimes these statements can be downright cryptic, like an incident that occurred in the early morning of 28 October.

According to surveillance camera footage, at about 3 a.m. a man walked up to the cenotaph and threw a paper airplane at it so that is landed in front of the monument underneath the arch. He then casually walked away.

▼ Footage of the paper as it was found in front of the monument

The 35-centimeter (14-inch) long plane was found later that morning and retrieved by a patrol guard. It was taped shut and had “Great Hiroshima Earthquake 10.28 5:18” scrawled on the top in blue pen. This is especially cryptic since there is no record of a “Great Hiroshima Earthquake” and if that was meant to be a prediction, one did not occur at 5:18 a.m. or p.m. on that day either.

Hiroshima city council member Taichi Mukugi wrote about the incident on his blog and added that there was writing on the inside of the plane too, but it was difficult to read and made little sense. Parts referred to “165 countries as of [illegible date]” and “14 including Hiroshima [illegible] Nagasaki.” Regardless of the meaning, Mukugi deemed it at best not in the spirit of mourning for the atomic bomb victims and at worst a veiled threat.

As a result, the incident was reported to the police. It’s not exactly clear whether throwing a paper airplane at the Atomic Bomb Victims Centograph is a crime but it appears to fall under Article 188 of the penal code which prohibits publicly disrespecting places of worship and cemeteries. Violation of this law can be punished by up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of 100,000 yen (US$676).

It’s still unclear though because the cenotaph isn’t exactly a burial place nor is it a shrine or temple, and throwing a paper airplane isn’t exactly a clear-cut gesture of intended disrespect. In fact the City of Hiroshima has been pursuing an answer to the legality of such acts since June of last year, when someone taped sheets of paper to the monument and elsewhere in the park which warned of a meteor striking the Yoshiura area of Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture on 8 August at 6:27 p.m.

▼ News report from last year about the taped signs

Hiroshima deputy police chief Kengo Imoto said they would pursue the matter even more seriously now as the G7 Summit is set to be held in the city next May. As we’ve seen before, local police tend to dial things up to 11 when international events are due to be held, so we may see an outcome to this strange offense soon.

Source: TBS News Dig, FNN Online Prime, Senkyo Dot Com
Top image: Pakutaso
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