I recently got back from a trip to Japan and South Korea. When in Japan with my parents we went to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. It is by the Peace Park which contains many memorials for those who died because of the atomic bomb.
We all know what happened but here’s a quick history lesson. World War II was almost over and the USA drops the first ever atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on 6th August 1945 and then a second on Nagasaki three days later. Japan surrendered. The justification for the bombs was that they saved more lives in the long run than were killed because of the a-bombs. I’ve never studied this in explicit detail but I advise you all to think critically about this reasoning because it sure is a very convenient narrative for the Americans.
The Peace Museum definitely sends a message. I found the whole thing aggressively peaceful. I don’t know how to describe this but there were plenty of signs talking about how Hiroshima is a city of peace and will stand up for peace.
There is no mention of Americans in the museum. When they describe what happened captions say things like “the atomic bomb was dropped” rather than “the Americans dropped the atomic bomb”. No blame is placed anywhere and it’s spoken about as if it were a natural disaster. Like an earthquake or tsunami. It’s worth noting that Japan was occupied by the Americans at the end of the war so this may have had an impact on the way people spoke about it.
The most striking thing was the amount of children who died. Every glass case that I peeked in showed the burned belongings of a child and it stated their name and age, specifically what happened to them and when they died. This made it personal. It’s one thing to demonstrate the scale of the deaths and damage with big numbers but when you see the lunch box of a 12 year old who suffered deadly burns it evokes an emotional response. There was a school trip of Japanese kids there when I was visiting and I kept wondering how they were processing everything seeing the stories of children their own age.
The Peace Museum in Hiroshima poses a lot of questions about how we should talk about war and victims. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments about any war museums you’ve visited.