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  • Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms:The Renarrativation of Hiroshima Memories
  • Tomoko Ichitani (bio)


Today, Hiroshima is acknowledged to be a mecca of peace and draws over a million visitors annually from all over the world. In spite of the fact that this city had once served as a military center with a growing concentration of military facilities during the two world wars, Hiroshima was reborn as the "Peace Memorial City" after the atomic bomb's explosion and consequent destruction of the city on 6 August 1945. Hiroshima's experience as the site of the world's first nuclear attack allowed the city to create a discourse centered on peace and anti-nuclearism. The reconstruction of Hiroshima was executed following the 1948 "Peace Memorial City Construction Law" and the city's post-1970 administrative project that aimed to realize an "International Peace and Cultural City" (Yoneyama 18). In this process, the most significant agenda was to create a commemorative space embodying Hiroshima's municipal identity as "Peace Memorial City" and it resulted in the construction of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Yoneyama 19). Situated at the delta between two tributaries of the Ota River, which is the heart of the city and close to the area of ground zero, the Peace Memorial Park accommodates a number of memorials and monuments, museums, and assembly halls. [End Page 364] This commemorative site also includes the ruin of the former Industry Promotion Hall designed by the Czech architect, Jan Letzel, now called the Atomic Bomb Dome. It is the only visible relic of that tragic day and functions as an official site of memory for the world's first atomic attack. Burying the burnt rubble of the city beneath, the park displays a peaceful landscape.

In his landmark 1967 study Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, Robert Jay Lifton examines Hiroshima's transition from the A-bomb city to the mecca of peace, and highlights the tendency to replace the "atomic bomb" with "peace." Taking Hiroshima's commemorative site as an example, he points out that the park is named "Peace Memorial Park (Heiwa Kinen Kouen)," rather than "Atomic Bomb Memorial Park" and the museum where people access Atomic bomb resources is called the "Peace Memorial Resource Museum (Heiwa Kinen Shiryoukan)" (271). Lifton concludes that this interchangeable usage of "Atomic bomb" and "peace" is due to "the psychological effort to equate the two in the sense of the latter springing from the ashes of the former" (271). While admitting the fact that this analysis is still vital today, Lisa Yoneyama suggests in Hiroshima Traces that Lifton's psychological approach results in only a limited explanation, and she explores the intersecting acts of power that tend to be lost in his reading (18). According to Yoneyama, "the idea of reconstructing the city as the central site for world peace was particularly attractive to city planners, who eagerly sought to create special incentives for the central government to provide financial aid" (19). Moreover, under the Allied occupation, the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, including Douglas MacArthur, enthusiastically supported the idea of reconstructing Hiroshima as an "international showcase for exhibiting the link between the atomic bomb and postwar peace" (Yoneyama 20). Yoneyama writes:

The textual production of Hiroshima as the A-bombed city that revived as a mecca of world peace thus helped disseminate the view that the world's peaceful order was attained and will be maintained not by diplomatic efforts or negotiations, but by sustaining a menacing military force and technological supremacy. Hiroshima's postwar design thus spatially represented the master narrative of the post-World [End Page 365] War II order in the Asian Pacific region. The bomb/peace conflation subsequently came to be naturalized, as the cold war narrative for the global order prevailed.


While considering the ideological power that transformed Hiroshima into the Peace Memorial City, the aim of this paper is to explore the cultural meaning and political implications of remembering, reinscribing, and renarrating the memories of Hiroshima. With the approach of 2005, the date marking the 60th anniversary of the detonation of the atomic bomb, various discourses and representations of Hiroshima emerged. Among those was...