Hiroshima Day

August 6, 2008

I'm curious if you heard of any activities in your area, your neighborhood or your city around Hiroshima Day. I think it's ever important to keep this day in mind, remembering the people who died and also the survivors, like hibakusha, especially since we live in a country that has waged many wars abroad (and at home).

As Asian Americans, we can also collectively remember that many of us are here in the U.S. right now because our parents or ancestors left their homelands as a result of war (and many times because of U.S. involvement in those wars), as immigrants and refugees.

As Prof. Mari Matsuda at Georgetown Law said when I interviewed her for an article about the current antiwar movement, "Every single one of us has war in our geneology, as Asian Americans, and we can use that historical memory of what war did to all our countries of origin to oppose the war." She's talking of course about the war in Iraq, but it can be applied to any war.  

According to some younger generation Japanese folks interviewed in Steven Okazaki's doc "White Light/Black Rain," (which is nominated for an Emmy) they do not even remember Hiroshima Day. If Japanese kids don't even know about this day, then it makes me wonder if Americans know about this day.

What's even more about this day is the real truth behind it--it didn't need to happen. Read Ron Takaki's piece here about the racist truths behind why the bombs were dropped.

Has anyone been to Hiroshima or the Peace Museum, or seen the atomic bomb dome? Please share your experiences.   


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



"What's even more about this day is the real truth behind it--it didn't need to happen."Pearl Harbor didn't need to happen either. Or the Rape of Nanking. Or the Bataan Death March. Or any of the myriad of atrocities committed by the Japanese after they STARTED THE WAR.
Ah yes, Pearl Harbor - the United States' second favorite chosen trauma behind 9/11, that was used as the rationale behind FDR's Executive Order 9066. And yes, the RACIST & UNNECESSARY A-bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki. (For more on this, please look carefully at Ron Takaki's piece that is mentioned near the end of the post)Yes, imperial Japan committed massive terror & violence in the 1930s & 40s, & these acts are remembered rightly so as war crimes in the US and among the international community.I'm waiting for the day that we remember what happened to Hiroshima & Nagasaki as war crimes by imperial U.S. (Along with what's happening in Afghanistan & Iraq, and the host of terrorizing events that white elite america has led since 1492.
This day will always be a controversial, both in the US and in Japan. I remember that it was highly televised in Japan. Usually the prime minister would give a speech or visit a shrine. Many public elementary schools would fold the 1000 paper cranes and remember the story of Sadako. The emperor would sometimes make an appearance as well.As for the Peace Museum, the memorial is compelling and breathtaking. It is full of intense human emotion. you see the last reminiscence of human life. And it doesn't matter if you are Japanese, Asian American, or American; it's tragic. It is only a few small rooms with several artifacts but it took me about 3 hours to see it all.and let's not get into war crimes, the tokyo bombing, the Pacific War. It's war, everyone loses.
Thanksgiving is a lie said:"Yes, imperial Japan committed massive terror & violence in the 1930s & 40s, & these acts are remembered rightly so as war crimes in the US and among the international community."Yes, but curiously, they're NOT remembered, or even mentioned in history books, in Japan. Now I would say that is the greater crime.
Having a negative view of the use of atomic weapons against the Japanese is certainly a good human reaction. In general, war is a terrible thing, a complete waste and the horrors visited upon civilians, let alone the suffering of soldiers doing their duty, makes us wonder what is wrong with the human race. But lost in this memorializing, questioning, is the simple fact that it was necessary and as bizarre as this sounds it saved lives. Anyone who does not understand this has no understanding of the war and the Japanese mentality of fighting to the death.All the battles, and in particular the last big land battles of the Pacific resulted in staggering casualty figures for the Japanese. For the benefit of those who do not seem to care about the toll the Japanese inflicted on everyone else in a war they initiated I'll stick to the Japanese side for a clearer picture. First, you must understand the Japanese and that in itself is a fascinating study. They're a wonderful, often contrary culture to immerse yourself in. You can't understand the Japanese without a capacity to understand their ability to have some very contrary, conflicting notions operating at the same time within themselves and their culture. In the end they are a rich, wonderful, complex people. Personally, I love them but I am not deluded about their past; I simply understand them.Going back to WWII and their behavior it is important to understand their capacity for cruelty, stubborness, and an ability to subordinate their own moral thinking of right and wrong in order to obey, serve and live up to their duty to home and Emperor. Sadly, the reality is they were serving a military elite and not simply the Emperor. The military ran things and similar to Adolph Hitler were willing to fight that war to utter destruction; the people and the soldiers would have gone down to the last life. It is no exaggeration that the body count in Japanese alone would have run into the millions. Study the history, study those last big battles and their willingness to sacrifice 30,000 to 60,000 soldiers per battle and you get a glimpse of what they would have dragged everyone through. As for the idea of demonstration bombings - nice but not practical. The war had gone on too long, too many had died, too many had suffered and it had to come to the quickest, surest end possible.
Momo asks some very important questions.First, Momo, I would educate myself and study history rather than make silly, unsupportable conjectures.Second, I would open the mind up to more than one viewpoint, conspiracy theories, and a rotten war mongering U.S. or, maybe we actually took Japanese citizens and bombed ourselves killing the Japanese citizens later of course to cover it all up. No, that war never started. It's like the moon shot, it all took place on a Hollywood lot. That was just an excuse because we're racist and wanted to kill Japs. We wanted to kill Chinese too but there was no need to - the Japs were doing that. Or was the rape of Nanking actually staged at Mann's Chinese in Bollywood? Anyway, for you momos, there's some history for ya.
on backward history books enforced by the current pro-Bush/US Diet of Japan...yes dontbeadouche, the same fucking thing can be said about history curriculums here in primary & secondary public & private schools. perhaps, one thing that is different is there isn't even a small movement here in the states like there is in japan aimed at challenging these myths. in fact, here we have sanctioned & paid holidays commemorating indigeous genocide.yes, there's plenty of crimes and violence to be shared around the globe, historically & presently. but as the sole superpower, the US takes criminality to the grand scale.and back to the main topic at hand - WMDs... if there's any country to be worried about using nukes, that would be the one with over 9900 warheads, huh, the US.
rememberthepast: the Japanese government and military at the time were certainly imperialists and did awful things. so are you saying the dropping of a-bombs that killed 200,000 innocent people was justified? and even if people can justify the first bomb, how can you possibly justify the second one?
It's interesting to see people flaming each other over wartime atrocities....starting new wars over wars past. On Aug 6, 40,000 people gather in Hiroshima to pray for peace and remember the past. That's the story. Have you ever heard of a yearly, ongoing rally for peace that draws those numbers?If we pay attention to that, carry that fire, then there's a chance that things can change.It took me a long time - maybe 5 or 6 hours - to get through the entire Peace museum, perhaps because I was visiting on Aug 6th. It takes your breath away - vivid, grotesque, surreal. There's no escaping the human cost of war, no matter how "justified" or "unjustified" various people want to argue it.There are lines we cannot afford to ever cross again; they should never have been crossed to begin with.
i think the more you read about the atomic bomb droppings, the more you'll understand that it's not just a black and white thing. there were many things going on behind close doors that the public didn't know about, that the government did not reveal (thanks for the external link momo). i myself have felt plenty confused, and frustrated. however, i definitely agree with ravi that there are lines that we just can't afford to cross again.if you have netflix, i'd strongly recommend you to get "white light/black rain" because you need to see some of the images. you need to see what the people had to suffer there after the bombs were dropped, how parents' bodies just became ashes in an instance right in front of their children's eyes. many cruel things happen in war, but i do feel that the atomic bombs did indeed take pain to a whole different level.
Gar Alperovitz has written about the decision to use the Bomb in his _The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth_.Alperovitz argues that the USA didn't use the Bomb to end WWII or prevent invasion casaulties. This argument was a deliberately cultivated lie ... er myth consciously promoted by the American government.The real reasons had more to do with using the atomic bombings as a "demonstration effect" to intimidate the Soviet Union. It was all about Shock and Awe.Bottom line: The nuking of Japan was NOT the shot that ended World War II. Rather, it was the first shot of the Cold War.