Saturday, July 30, 2005
Hiroshima Peace Park
Today, we finally visited what made Hiroshima world-famous, not its oysters, or okonomiyaki, but its Peace Park and Atomic-bomb dome, the remains of what used to be a handsome green-domed building. The A-bomb dome sits right across the baseball stadium, and you can go very close to this place. I was surprised to see no security guards or policemen in sight! This building lay only a few hundred meters from ground zero, and serves to remind people of the power of the atomic bomb.
Along the way to the official museum, I saw a citizen’s exhibit about the atomic bomb. Talk about an anti-American exhibit. Do not even discuss cause of the bombing or the context: there was a war going on! This exhibit just focused on victimization of the Japanese: the exhibit starts with the city, and then the bombing. Then poems and scenes of suffering. Then onto Okinawa, where they documented American atrocities against the Okinawans. But no mention of shudan jiketsu, or "compulsory group suicide," in which whole families killed each other in order to die an honorable death and avoid capture. When Japanese soldiers told you it was time to kill yourselves, it was very hard to say no, especially if the Japanese soldiers were armed. Many survivors felt anguish after they killed their family members, and then failed to kill themselves. The American soldiers did not kill them, and so they wondered why they had to kill their own family members.
Mention of shudan jiketsu, by the way, is strongly discouraged in Japanese society, and as Norma Field, in her book, In the Realm of a Dying Emperor points out, right wing thugs will intimidate you into silence. Anyway, after this victimization display, the organizers set up a petition to sign to demand an apology from the Americans. Fat chance. You will get Chinese, Koreans, and Filipinos, who suffered immensely under the Japanese, in a fury depicting the Japanese as the true victims of the war. Imagine going to Koreatown or Chinatown and telling the people there that they will have to apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kinda like omitting all mention of the Holocaust and having the Germans demand an apology from the Allied nations for the firebombing of Dresden.
Anyway, no matter whose responsibility you may say it ultimately is, the Americans for dropping the bomb, or the Japanese government for starting the aggressive war against Asians, and for failing to surrender when they knew the war was lost in 1944, you still feel very sorry for the people of Hiroshima who were nuked away that day in August, 1945. It was still a gory and painful way to die by A-bomb. I said a prayer for the souls at the memorial.
The following picture is a bunch of paper cranes. You fold a thousand so that someone who is ill can get well. A young girl, Sadako, died of radiaton poisoning ten years after the bomb, and she kept folding cranes in the hope of getting well. So there are many displays of paper cranes from schoolkids all over the world.
We then walked into the display, which to its credit, did state that Japan was in a war at the time of the bombings, and implied a link between the bombing and Japans attempt to take over Asia. Kiyoshi and I spent time comparing the English and Japanese translations. Lets just say that the English translations make it clear that Japan had invaded Asia, and was mistreating the Chinese and Koreans, while the Japanese translations are a bit more on the vague side. I can see that the museum staff is under pressure from all sides, and they are at least trying to raise the issue of Japanese war responsibility.
We then went to the memorial for Korean victims of the A-bomb, which seemed quite empty of people. 10% of the victims of Hiroshima were Korean, conscripted to work in factories in Japan. This fact, still unknown to most people, really murks up the victimization theory, as it reminds Japanese that their nation invaded, occupied, and brutalized the Koreans next door. Here is a photo of the monument to Korean victims of the A-bomb.
Across the street from the A-bomb dome is a baseball stadium, and today I saw a large baseball signed by the Japanese league players.Anyway, today felt depressing walking around the park, so we decided to lighten up by going to an Irish bar in the middle of town. Guinness beer is delicious no matter where you go. Here`s a picture of the foreign staff.