Hiroshima And Japan Essay

2312 words - 9 pages

Hiroshima and JapanHiroshima as History:SomePreliminary ThoughtsHistory did not end in 1945, just as it did not end in 1989, when Francis Fukuyama announced history's demise by noting democracy's victory in the Cold War with the breakup of Soviet influence in eastern Europe. Although nuclear tensions did not end history in 1989, one would surely be forgiven for concluding that history did indeed end when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Since that date, there have been innumerable accounts of this first use of an atomic weapon. There are Hiroshima diaries, Hiroshima epitaphs, museums and mausoleums to Hiroshima, and Hiroshima notes. But while Hiroshima has left behind records, legacies, and photographs, surprisingly I have yet to discover a history of Hiroshima. In fact, a search of the University of Illinois library holdings in both English and Japanese turned up only one book on the history of Hiroshima (other than local histories of the area), but it turned out to be a mistake!The reasons for this absence of a history of Hiroshima are many and complex. Surely, part of the explanation lies in the way postwar Japanese have elevated Hiroshima to the status of an international city, a city whose very name is often transliterated in the katakana script usually reserved for foreign names, a city that belongs to the world as an undying symbol of peace, rather than to Japan exclusively. The international interest in Hiroshima and its development as a mecca for peace activists has, however, complicated the significance of Hiroshima for Japanese themselves. Much of the discussion on Hiroshima that we hear in the media is either from non-Japanese, especially Europeans and Americans, or from Japanese who quite consciously address the interests and expectations of what they perceive as "the world at large." Yet, as beautiful and moving as the rhetoric of peace often is, the fact remains that Hiroshima does very much still belong to Japan, and the city and the contest over its significance in postwar Japanese politics are often mobilized in Japanese social and political contexts in ways that might surprise those in the West who instinctively intone, with the certitude of moral conviction, "No more Hiroshimas!"I certainly do not intend to argue for more Hiroshimas. Rather, what I do wish to contribute to the ongoing discussion on the meaning of Hiroshima fifty years hence is an outline of some elements that must be included in any attempt to piece together a history of Hiroshima. By "history" I mean not simply the various events that led to the development of the bomb in the United States or the narrative of militarism in prewar Japan that led to the Fifteen-Year War, although an awareness of the latter has often been crucially lacking in Japanese representations of their own "victim status" through Hiroshima. Nor is history the same as chronology, records, or, most importantly, memory. The history of Hiroshima that has been...

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