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Beyond the Mushroom Cloud:Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima

Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima

Yuki Miyamoto

Publication Year: 2011

This monograph explores the ethics and religious sensibilities of a group of the hibakusha (survivors) of 1945's atomic bombings. Unfortunately, their ethic of "not retaliation, but reconciliation" has not been widely recognized, perhaps obscured by the mushroom cloud symbol of American weaponry, victory, and scientific achievement. However, it is worth examining the habakushas' philosophy, supported by their religious sensibilities, as it offers resources to reconcile contested issues of public memories in our contemporary world, especially in the post 9-11 era. Their determination not to let anyone further suffer from nuclear weaponry, coupled with critical self-reflection, does not encourage the imputation of responsibility for dropping the bombs; rather, hibakusha often consider themselves "sinners" (as with the Catholics in Nagasaki; or bonbu unenlightened persons in the context of True Pure Land Buddhism in Hiroshima). For example, Nagai Takashi in Nagasaki's Catholic community wrote, "How noble, how splendid was that holocaust of August 9, when flames soared up from the cathedral, dispelling the darkness of war and bringing the light of peace!" He even urges that we "give thanks that Nagasaki was chosen for the sacrifice." Meanwhile, Koji Shigenobu, a True Pure Land priest, says that the atomic bombing was the result of errors on the part of the Hiroshima citizens, the Japanese people, and the whole of human kind. Based on the idea of acknowledging one's own fault, or more broadly one's sinful nature, the hibakusha's' ethic provides a step toward reconciliation, and challenges the foundation of ethics by obscuring the dichotomyies of right and the wrong, forgiver and forgiven, victim and victimizer.To this end, the methodology Miyamoto employs is moral hermeneutics, interpreting testimonies, public speeches, and films as texts, with interlocutors such as Avishai Margalit (philosopher), Sueki Fumihiko (Buddhist philosopher), Nagai Takashi (lay Catholic thinker), and Shinran (the founder of True Pure Land Buddhism).

Published by: Fordham University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Countless people provided encouragement and support in various forms throughout the writing of this manuscript; their offerings of time, thought, and other resources were gifts received gratefully. Although I am unable to mention all of them by name...

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A Note on the Text

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p. xv

In Japanese, the term hibakusha can be rendered in two different ways in writing. When the element baku is written with the Chinese character for ‘‘bomb,’’ it refers to survivors of the atomic bombings of 1945. When baku is written with the Chinese character...

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Introduction: The Ethics of Commemoration

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pp. 1-9

On the fortieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Andre´ Ryerson, former professor of French at Amherst College, summed up the descriptions of the bombing that generally characterize commemoration...

Part I: Commemoration

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pp. 11-77

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1. Toward a Community of Memory

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pp. 13-46

In his speeches, Akiba Tadatoshi, the mayor of Hiroshima, often refers to three contributions that the hibakusha have made to the world. First, even after enduring unimaginable experiences, they have demonstrated their courage by choosing...

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2. Dialogue with the Dead: the Yasukuni Shinto Shrine and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

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pp. 47-77

Since its opening in 1867, the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo has entombed and enshrined Japanese soldiers and civilians killed in wartime service, in an attempt to at once console their souls and glorify their sacrifices on behalf of the nation...

Part II: Religious Interpretations

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pp. 79-141

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3. Beyond Good and Evil: Kōji Shigenobu and the True Pure Land Understanding of the Atomic Bombing

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pp. 81-110

Ian Buruma has written that ‘‘religion was linked to the nuclear bombs from the beginning.’’1 Unprecedented in the scope of their devastation, and so excessive in their horror as to be beyond the purview of everyday language, the explosions of the atomic...

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4. Sacrificial Lambsnagai: Nagai Takashi and the Roman Catholic Interpretation of the Bombing

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pp. 111-141

In the previous chapter, we examined True Pure Land priest Kōji Shigenobu’s attempt to understand the atomic bombing by drawing upon religious resources, and thereby generating an ethics of ‘‘not retaliation, but...

Part III: Responsibility

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p. 143

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5. Women in Atomic Bomb Narratives: Hagiography, Alterity, and Non-Nomological Ethics

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pp. 145-175

The eponymous protagonist of the television drama Yumechiyo Nikki, or The Diary of Yumechiyo (hereafter Yumechiyo), is thirty-four years old and has been diagnosed with leukemia. Her illness is attributed to her exposure, while still a fetus...

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Postscript: After Too Many Mushroom Clouds

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pp. 177-182

During a presentation in a class on ‘‘atom bomb discourse’’ that I teach at DePaul University, one group of students showed a film clip from Wasabi, a 2001 French movie written by Luc Besson and directed by Gérard Krawczyk, in which a group...

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pp. 183-184

On March 11, 2011, while this book was in the final stages of preparation for publication, a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, crippling the four reactors in one of Fukushima’s two nuclear power plants...


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pp. 185-216


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pp. 217-225


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pp. 227-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249312
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823240500
Print-ISBN-10: 0823240509

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 821725644
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond the Mushroom Cloud:Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945 -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Atomic bomb victims -- Religious life -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
  • Collective memory -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
  • Memorials -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
  • Responsibility -- Social aspects -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
  • Peace movements -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
  • Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Collective memory -- Case studies.
  • Responsibility -- Social aspects -- Case studies.
  • Nuclear warfare -- Moral and ethical aspects.
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