I recently visited Hiroshima for the first time. I wanted to go in July, before crowds descended on the city for the annual atomic bomb memorial anniversary.
It is a beautiful city, and I would like to visit it again. Downtown is small enough to walk everywhere I wanted to go. Plus, the city is organized and primed to host international visitors. Multilingual tourist information is easily available, and Peace Park Memorial itself is well-wooded, signage is excellent, there are plenty of bench seats for resting and there are many public toilets available. No garbage receptacles, though.
I worry that overuse of the word “peace” renders its true meaning and motivation anodyne: the Peace Park, the Peace Museum, the Peace Fountain, the Peace Boulevard, the Peace Bell, the Peace Clock, the Peace Cenotaph with the Peace Pool and the Peace Flame, etc. After roaming around the city on my own for a couple of days I joined a tour for my last day, before returning to Tokyo.
It was then, while listening to my Japanese guide, that overuse of the word “peace” began to aggravate me. Others in the tour group seemed not to appreciate that in 1945 there was a war going on. It was total war. It was a war that Japan started and that Japan waged in a notoriously heinous and criminal fashion. It was a war that Japan stubbornly refused to give up long after its cause was lost, preparing to sacrifice its own civilian population in a fight to the death against battle-hardened U.S. Marines. And, it was a war in which Japan allied itself with Nazis! In summer 1945 there was still no end in sight, so I’m thankful the Americans used their new weapon to force the Japanese government along.
Of course, the A-bomb did not push Japan into surrender. Even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese general staff was prepared to push on. What decided the issue was the very real threat that the Soviets would parachute into Sapporo and take Hokkaido. Surrender to the U.S. became the least offensive of a list of evil options.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.