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  • A Symbol of Peace and Peace Education:The Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima
  • Kanako Ide (bio)


There are numerous paintings expressing both the glory and horror of war. These pictures are a powerful medium in peace education. According to Peter Burke, images of war have historically shifted in Western society. Until the 1800s, paintings of battles were mainly informed by "the virtue of war" because the images of wars were created according to the notion of heroism. However, Burke points out that, after the 1800s, the horror of war has been more prominently depicted.1 David O'Brien discusses this transition by analyzing paintings of the Napoleonic period. According to O'Brien, the painting of Napoleon's failure at the Battle of Eylau did not convey the beauty of war but rather its misery.2 As the concept of war changed from hero to nation-state, battle images were significantly transformed. Specifically, since mass destruction became possible because of advances in military technology, the number of civilian victims became much higher than previously. Consequently, representations of war emphasized this escalation of suffering and misery.

While this may seem an advance to those concerned with peace education, in fact it is an illusion. Although the rhetoric of the images seems to have changed from the glorification of war to condemnation of its horrors, the focus is still upon war. Peace education, if it is to come about through these images, comes only negatively. That is, peace, far from being a set of positive traits, tempers, or activities designed to promote humanness, community, and general good feeling (what I will now call "positive peace") is merely the antipode of war, and as such it becomes an empty husk (what [End Page 12] I will now call "negative peace").3 Images promoting something beyond negative peace are sorely lacking.

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Figure 1.

The Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima City. Genbaku Dome. Copyright 2005 by Hiroshima Peace Museum. Used with permission.

In this article I attempt to rectify this state of affairs by focusing on a symbol of Hiroshima called the Genbaku Dome, a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site (see figure 1).4 On August 6, 1945, the building was 160 meters from the hypocenter of the atomic blast. The building retained its appearance because the bomb exploded right above it. At present, the building plays a major role within the Hiroshima Peace Park, which was designed for the center of Peace Memorial City by Kenzo Tange.5 Tange expressed the concept of peace by connecting the peace museum, Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims, and Genbaku Dome together in a geometric whole.6 When people stand in front of the cenotaph, they see the upper part of the Genbaku Dome in the center.

Why is the Genbaku Dome included in the concept of peace even though it is a war site? I believe that one major reason is that the building has more permanence over time. The mushroom cloud is also a major image of the atomic bomb. However, since the mushroom cloud is the momentary scene of the bombing, the image is often used to illustrate that the atomic bomb exploded at 8:15 on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima. On the other hand, the Genbaku Dome is a more lasting reflection of the atomic bomb. In that sense, the Genbaku Dome owns history because it can be any scene after the bombing. While the Genbaku Dome itself is permanent, the meaning surrounding it can change. In other words, the Genbaku Dome does not provide an image [End Page 13] of peace in itself, although it plays an important role by informing the audience of the specific location of Hiroshima. Representations of the Genbaku Dome are used as evidence that peace has been established after the experience of the atomic bomb. Therefore, the Genbaku Dome can be an image of positive peace.

Here, a question arises: What educational messages do images with the Genbaku Dome possess? I believe that images of the Genbaku Dome are tightly connected to peace education because, without education, the Genbaku Dome is merely an old damaged...


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pp. 12-23
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