2022 Winner: The Site and the Memorial: Hiroshima's Peace Complex in Cold War Japan

Project Information
The Site and the Memorial: Hiroshima's Peace Complex in Cold War Japan
HIS 194U: Cold War in East Asia
From 1945 through to 1955, Hiroshima had changed from a city destroyed by the world's first nuclear weapon in war, to a city rebuilt in the image of peace for all humanity. The Hiroshima Memorial Complex, in this paper, serves as a case study for the analysis of memorials, and their relationships to the site being memorialized. Documents from those who directed the re-construction of Hiroshima, as well as officials working for the American occupation of Japan, provided more than their individual content. Together, they reveal that there is a power to the site, and an authority of the memorial, which in turn affects the role of memory, in this case, for atomic memory. This paper argues the site includes a political, social, and cultural authority attached to memory, and that the memorial, near to it, serves as an extension on this authority. In the case of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial complex, the paper argues it was an invention, and that there is a violence to memorializing a location. Historical actors sought to capitalize on the potential of Hiroshima’s authority in an emerging Cold War to control narratives of the atomic bombings through the collective atomic experience of survivors (hibakusha), interests of historical actors, and censorship. In the reconstruction of Hiroshima, the parties involved showed not only a willingness to reconstruct the city’s image, but to reconstruct the past.
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  • Nicholas Orion Mosher (Oakes)