Being a part of the study abroad program Memory and Modernity in Japan I got to visit the Hiroshima and Nagasaki prefectures. The program was about seeing the real Japan de-bunking myths and misconceptions on how Japan is presented in media. Japan is normally painted in this super modern and futuristic light. Their transportation being efficient and competent light years ahead of systems like NYC’s MTA. Having the fastest trains in the world the bullet train also know as a Shinkansen that has the ability to take you from one end of Japan to another in a few hours. I learned that despite these innovations/strides in technology they still have many parts of history remaining untouched like shrines in the middle of Tokyo. One of these parts of history they have chosen to preserve is the atomic bomb sites in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I got the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Museums and see history for myself. This gave me a new perspective on how to view the impact of the Atomic Bomb and nuclear warfare. When taught about the atomic bomb they never go in depth about the catastrophic effects the people who were still alive had to deal with afterward. In the museums, you get pictures of the burns people suffered even miles and miles away from the blast’s center. As well as the effects of the nuclear material and radioactivity remaining which caused the next couple generations to be born with deformities and illnesses. In getting to see both museums and learning about the history of Japan it allowed me to be critical of the narratives the museums presented.
Both museums advocate for peace but Hiroshima seems to advocate more for itself vs world peace. The slogan of the Museum is “No more Hiroshimas” presenting a very singular narrative that nuclear war has only affected them or there the most important one affected. They also only give Nagasaki a few sentences in the museum and make no mention of the dozens of nuclear tests being conducted today that still affect people.
A-bomb site Hiroshima Hiroshima Peace memorial arch
The only building was chosen to remain after
Hiroshima was re-built.
While Hiroshima took on a very singular narrative Nagasaki takes a global one. The interior of this museum is way more memorable as it feels like I am going through the wreckage after the bomb as it was dimly lit with parts of parts of buildings that remained after the blast. In addition to videos looping of what the town looked like immediately after the explosion. Something that is interesting in this museum is that they mention the Korean death toll and the foreign soldier’s death toll as well, which Hiroshima decided to leave out. They even say that the numbers are estimates and that they can never know exactly which acknowledges some of Japan’s darker history. The museum had a hall with a map of all the places where nuclear tests have been conducted. As well as having video diaries on how people have been affected by these nuclear tests. I preferred this narrative more since it gave more of a sense of urgency when it comes to stopping nuclear tests and war.
Views from Nagasaki
Nagasaki memorial statue