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Digitalisation and Visualisation of Eyewitness Accounts in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Lauren CONSTANCE, Cardiff University

The bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 was the first time nuclear weapons had been used in warfare. The impact of the bomb was devastating and continues to affect people today. As an unprecedented event in human history, the bombing continues to be memorialised, in anniversaries, commemorations and in museums. However, eyewitnesses to the Hiroshima bombing are inevitably passing away, and with them their personal insights into the past. Although researchers such as de Jong (2018) have argued that in the digital era, eyewitness video testimonies are a key feature of visits to memorial museums, this may not be the case for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This paper therefore addresses the issue of memorialisation of eyewitness testimonies in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

It addresses the various ways that the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum continues to offer visitors the experience of listening to eyewitness testimony and discusses the potential implications of these different articulations of display, on both the visitor and the hibakusha themselves.

The content discussed in this paper forms part of my overall PhD research which analyses the role of digitalisation in the display of eyewitness testimony in Japanese memorial museums.

Narrating Nuclear Geographies and Victims: The Late Fiction and Essays of Tsushima Yūko

Rachel DINITTO, University of Oregon

In the final years of her life, author Tsushima Yūko (1947-2016) dedicated herself to exposing the fatal legacy of the nuclear. Tsushima’s unrelenting critical gaze captured not only Japan’s tragic engagement with atomic bombs and nuclear power, but widened to encompass the nuclear history of the oceanic Asia-Pacific region. This presentation begins with Tsushima’s powerful essay “From Dream Songs,” published in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in the volume Now More Than Ever, I Oppose Nuclear Power. In this essay, Tsushima delineates the path of nuclear responsibility and harm—uranium mining, atomic bombs, nuclear weapons testing, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste storage—detailing this toxic legacy and the burden to future generations. Her fictional narratives bring to life the victims of the nuclear as she traverses Japan and the Pacific: the radioactive waste repository in the Marshall Islands, the Runit Dome, that adorns the cover of her Wildcat Dome; the nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan in Celebrating Half-Life, the indigenous victims of nuclear harm in the Pacific in Jakka Dofuni: A Tale of Oceanic Memory. Her late writing articulates the unconscionable linguistic and conceptual gap separating the destruction of nuclear weapons from the so-called safety of nuclear energy. Tsushima laments Japan’s unwillingness to recognize its shared victimhood with its Pacific neighbors, and excoriates the power structures that enable the Japanese government to support nuclear power and perpetuate its global economy.

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From Cities in Ruins to Ambassadors of World Peace – Discussions of the Nuclear in the Gordon W. Prange Collection

Marie-Christine DRESSEN, University of Cologne

The atomic bombings on the 6th and 9th of August 1945 turned Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ashes. While both cities were busy with reconstruction, soon another question emerged: How to incorporate the legacy of the atomic bombings into their future self-image? The city of Hiroshima implemented the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law, while the city of Nagasaki passed the Nagasaki International Culture City Construction Law. Both cities claim to be of international significance due to their role as promoters of world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Until today, they host Peace Memorial Parks, Peace Memorial and Atomic Bomb Museums together with numerous memorials.

In this paper, I will discuss the process of transition from cities in ruins to ambassadors of world peace that can be witnessed through a close look at the daily press of local newspapers and magazines in the years following the bombings. These important documents offer a glimpse into the discussions of the actors involved, along with an indication of their motives: from survivors to city officials, the national government, as well as international observers.

For this research, I used materials of the Gordon W. Prange Collection, which provides a comprehensive insight into the daily press and print media of the occupation period. Collected by the Civil Censorship Detachment, it includes several thousand print materials published in the aftermath of the bombings, important contemporary witnesses of this discursive transition of the nuclear.

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Victims on Display at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

André HERTRICH, Austrian Academy of Sciences

As members of an international research project on "Globalized Memorial Museums", my colleagues and I are analyzing memorial museums all over the world. The main purpose is to answer the question whether there is a globalized form of memorializing atrocities and whether this might be traced to what Jeffrey Alexander claimed to be an ongoing universalization of the Holocaust as a symbol of radical evil. This universalization also supposedly led to the globalization of aesthetic standards in museum designs of memorial museums worldwide, deriving from Holocaust memorials such as Yad Vashem or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as role models.

However, not all historical atrocities that have left their marks on global memorialization are Holocaust-related. Hiroshima and Nagasaki also represent the horrors of war as places, but even more as chiffres for the hundred-thousandfold killing of humans with scientific and industrial means. And as such Hiroshima and Nagasaki (to a lesser degree) became dominant symbols within global memory culture.

In my presentation, I will take a closer look at the focal points of the atomic bomb memorialization: the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Citing international trends of an increasing focus on the fate of individuals since the 2000s, I will analyze the representation of victims of the atomic bombings. As there are significant differences in terms of individualization and emotionalization between both exhibitions, I will place a specific focus on pointing out the differences between the two museums, such as the finding that photos of individual victims play a far greater role in Hiroshima. Outlining the in-situ memoryscapes of the destruction left by the atomic bomb, my eventual goal is to discern various influences on the exhibition and to ask whether elements of Holocaust musealization served as role model in aesthetics and design and how genuine "atomic" tropes and modes of display look like.

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Splitting Atomic Symbolism: Differing Words, Images, and Sounds of a Nuclear World

Christopher P. HOOD, Cardiff University

Ever since the first explosion of an atomic weapon as part of the Manhattan Project, people have sought ways to describe nuclear phenomena. While the first test was primarily an American, or ‘Western’ event, the next two explosions over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, meant that the witnesses were primarily of another culture and the impact was worldwide. Over the following decades, the weapons evolved with the potential for even greater destruction. Testing of these weapons also had their own impact directly on people and upon global culture. At the same time, the power of the atom was also harnessed for more peaceful means in the form of nuclear power. However, even here, there have been accidents and disasters.

This paper considers the ways in which different cultures refer to and use the images, sounds and other aspects of both atomic weapons and energy. The paper highlights, for example, that while ‘the mushroom cloud’ became synonymous with the threat of mutually assured destruction in the Western world, in Japan, the predominant terms were pika (the flash) or pika-don (the flash and loud explosion) experienced by the hibakusha, those in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The paper will also examine the way in which the Daigo-Fukuryūmaru accident, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have been referred to. The paper will analyse what the differences and similarities represent, how they came about, and what impact they may have had on people’s understanding of the events themselves.

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Depictions of the Nuclear in Occupation Period Manga

Katharina HÜLSMANN University of Cologne

After Japan surrendered in August 1945, it was occupied by the Allied Powers. Under the occupation, all print publications were subject to censorship carried out by the Civil Censorship Detachment. Even though censorship went against the values that the Allied Powers aimed to instill in the Japanese public, certain kinds of information were suppressed, for example any information that might ‘disturb public tranquility’ (Braw 1986: 38). As Monica Braw has pointed out in her comprehensive work, this included discussion of the atomic bomb in print media and radio.

Before and during World War II, manga (comics) and ehon (picture books) were used to propagate militaristic and colonialist values to their young audience. Well-known examples include the story of a dog soldier named Norakuro (1931–1941) and the story of a Japanese boy becoming king of a tropical island in Bōken Dankichi (1933 –1939), both serialized in the magazine shōnen kurabu. Children’s publications were of course also subject to censorship during the occupation, though only a small number was suppressed. This paper focuses on depictions of the nuclear in children’s manga that passed through the censorship process of the CCD. While there are a number of educational publications aimed at children that provide information about physics, atoms and even the atomic bombs, the nuclear also appears in narrative fiction. I will focus on two manga by the authors Shimada Keizō and Takeda Shinpei to analyze what properties the nuclear is assigned and how the ambiguous concept is used in those children’s stories. While these particular two manga were not considered objectionable and were published without changes, the influence of the authorities becomes apparent in the way that the nuclear is depicted.

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The Passive-Aggressive Atom: Can Nuclear Reactors be “Peaceful”?

Robert JACOBS, Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City University

Newspaper articles published alongside stories of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki proclaimed that the energy used to annihilate people in Japan would one day be harnessed to provide electricity for human industries and homes. In a 1953 speech to the United Nations, U.S. President Eisenhower branded such energy “atoms for peace.” Operating reactors for “war” produced nuclear weapons, operating them for “peace” produced electricity, even though the reactor designs and operation varied only slightly for each outcome. This paper argues even when used to generate electricity, nuclear reactors remain violent, even beyond the impact of industrial accidents. There are two primary reasons for this interpretation. The first is that the spent nuclear fuel from the “peaceful” use of the reactors poses health threats to living beings for hundreds of thousands of years, regardless of the initial use of the fuel. Additionally, all spent nuclear fuel contains plutonium which remains militarily viable for tens of thousands of years. Future humans can separate the plutonium and build nuclear weapons. A weapon was detonated with just such plutonium in 1962. Designating the quality of a nuclear reactor as “peaceful” places an emphasis on the intentions of a single generation for a technology in relationship to thousands of generations. The initial use of reactor fuel is not its final performance on the human stage. The half-life of the plutonium is far longer than the whole lives of the people who produced it “peacefully.”

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Representing Nuclear Energy in Japanese Postwar Educational Movies, Industrial Movies and Scientific Movies

Felix JAWINSKI, Leipzig University

Almost all educational institutions in Postwar Japan have utilized a variety of audiovisual media to enlighten visitors and participants on the advantages of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Educators, students, scientists, parents and their children or visitors of different science museums or visitor centers have been exposed to this topic over many decades. Consequently, the pro-atomic stakeholders – namely the central and regional governments and their executive institutions, the energy companies, many umbrella organizations such as The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (Denki Jigyō Rengōkai), newspapers and other pro-nuclear associations – within this very contested discursive field did apply distinct yet interdependently connected forms of audiovisual artefacts to promote their message. This paper will therefore discuss how the ‘peaceful’ use of nuclear energy was depicted and justified in Postwar Japan in audiovisual media, with a specific focus on short films in the fields of educational movies (kyōiku eiga), industrial movies (sangyō eiga) and scientific movies (kagaku eiga).

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At the Crossroads to Oblivion – Ōta Yōko’s Literature as a Counter-Narrative to National History Writing

Stephan KÖHN, University of Cologne

Today, there is no doubt about the value of all kinds of first-hand experiences of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Obtaining, archiving and disseminating all these first-hand experiences has become important in recent years, especially as there are fewer and fewer survivors still alive. However, society’s interest in eyewitness accounts of the atomic bombings and their aftermath has not always been as strong as it seems to be nowadays. On the contrary: In the first decade after the war, Hiroshima and Nagasaki did almost everything to shrug off their tragic legacy as part of a remote past and to reinvent themselves as modern cities of peace (Hiroshima) and culture (Nagasaki). Needless to say, this transformation process highly affected all kinds of literary articulations of the nuclear, as the case of eyewitness and writer Ōta Yōko probably demonstrates best. Ōta, who started to write about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as early as on August 30, 1945, became a highly controversial and unpleasant voice from the past for most of her colleagues from the literary establishment and her readers. Placing a special focus on Ōta’s “City and People in the Evening Calm” (Yūnagi no machi to hito to), published in 1955, my paper will attempt to contextualize Ōta Yōko and her writing historically, paying particular attention to the different dynamics that characterized the first decade of post-war Japanese history.

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The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power after World War Two – A Look at the Discourse of Newspaper and Magazine Articles in the Gordon W. Prange Collection

Franziska KÖNIG, Leipzig University

After Japan’s experience with the destructive use of nuclear power during World War Two, the image of the nuclear was understandably negative. In this paper, I will show how the depiction of the nuclear in public discourse changed drastically during the occupation period, highlighting the supposed peaceful uses for nuclear energy. The focus of my paper are Japanese newspaper and magazine articles published between 1945 and 1949, taken from the Gordon W. Prange Collection. The emerging discourse on the peaceful use of nuclear power will be the subject of this analysis. My focus will be the two most important sections of the discourse. The first part is the discussion about the global situation after the war, and on how the theme of “control” was a major talking point in terms of nuclear energy. This includes the international control of information, but also the control of the power itself. The second part of the discourse gives a more in-depth look into the scientific side. Articles on how the atom can be harnessed and how it functions are common, demonstrating the power it holds within. Additionally, some articles depict different examples on peaceful uses, ranging from transportation and medicine to the first nuclear reactors. Both sides of the discourse gave a positive outlook on the future, where nuclear power is used in a peaceful manner all around the globe. In the end, I will draw parallels between my findings and the well-known theme of “atoms for peace” invoked by President Eisenhower in his speech of December 1953.

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How Shifting U.S. Perceptions of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Have Influenced Americans’ Attitudes Toward the Nuclear Arms Race, 1945-2022

Peter KUZNICK, American University of Washington

Americans’ attitudes toward and understanding of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have shifted demonstrably over the years though some myths persist that still cloud American thinking about the ethics and efficacy of nuclear weapons use. Perceptions of the bombing reflect public attitudes toward the U.S. role in the world in general and the wisdom and rectitude of U.S. foreign and military policy in particular. When Americans were told that the bombings not only ended the Second World War but did so in a way that enabled the U.S. to avoid a planned invasion in which American troops would have incurred heavy casualties, Americans favored the bombing enthusiastically despite substantial concern that the world was on a glide path toward eventual atomic devastation. Eighty-five percent told Gallup pollsters that they approved the bombings. A few months later, almost 23 percent told Roper pollsters that they wished the Japanese hadn’t surrendered so quickly so that the U.S. could have dropped more bombs on them. These results reflected, in large part, widespread triumphalism in the aftermath of the “good war” and a strong belief in American exceptionalism, attitudes that would begin to be shaken initially by the publication of John Hersey’s Hiroshima and by later revulsion against the U.S. invasion of Vietnam.

From the late 1960s on, attitudes toward U.S. overseas military adventures would meet a more skeptical and sometimes outright hostile response. Growing questioning of American exceptionalism and benevolence would combine with an increasing body of scholarship, sparked by Gar Alperovitz and Marty Sherwin, challenging the triumphalist narrative about the atomic bombings and questioning the fundamental myth that allowed some to still cling uncritically to the notion that the bombings were militarily and morally justifiable. This came to a head with President Obama’s May 2016 visit to Hiroshima and his declaration that World War II “reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” It was also evident in 75th anniversary writings and public pronouncements, including bestselling books by Bill O’Reilly and Chris Wallace. But now there were more voices to challenge these assumptions and for the first time in 2016, a CBS news poll showed a plurality of Americans opposed to the atomic bombings. This paper will trace this evolving understanding and polling data and show both how it has been influenced by attitudes toward American exceptionalism and by ongoing efforts to both perpetuate the myths justifying the bombing and the concerted effort by historians and other scholars to puncture those myths and develop a deeper understanding of the bombings and of U.S. nuclear policy in general in an increasingly hostile and dangerous world with more than enough nuclear weapons to trigger nuclear winter several times over.

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Splitting the Atom: Yuka Nishioka’s Manga Rebuke of the Nuclear Weapon and Power Divide

Michele M. MASON, University of Maryland, College Park

The purported divide between nuclear weapons and nuclear power was first delineated in the U.S.-led Atoms for Peace campaign (1953-1961), which was fueled by a range of fantasies, including solving the world’s food scarcity problem, miraculous scientific interventions, and nuclear-powered spaceships. Recently, the influential nuclear lobby seeks to strengthen this conceptual partition by packaging nuclear power as “green” technology divorced from its reliance on the very same nuclear ingredients that makes atomic weapons so fearsome.

Nishioka Yuka is a rare, if overlooked, activist-artist who has historically produced engrossing youth-oriented manga that address Nagasaki’s nuclear past. In 2012, just a year after the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster, Nishioka published the visually and conceptually inventive work, Goodbye, Atomic Dragon: The Story of Atomic Weapons and Nuclear Power. Therein, penetrating critique is composed of both approachable scientific exposition and clever word play in a narrative that highlights the inextricable dangers of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Her personal reflection in an Afterword, moreover, contextualizes and delineates her motivations and investments that extend her previous commitment to peace and abolition activism and social justice. In particular, Nishioka highlights the destruction of place and people by the “atomic dragon” through her depictions of the inextricable and precarious relationship between hibakuchi (contaminated land) and hibakusha (victims of nuclear bombs/disaster). Now—ten years since the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster—my reading of Nishioka’s work highlights her deft contestation of the mythical divide of nuclear weapons and power.

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Rhetorical Perspectives on Post-Nuclear Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Within Fukushima

Hiroko OKUDA, Kanto Gakuin University

While living with the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, postwar Japan framed nuclear power in a narrative of modernizing Japan. This frame incorporated the issue of nuclear power into the country’s commitment to technological development and economic growth, even labelling it progress. The progress frame allowed to dissociate a military use for atomic weapons from an economic use for nuclear energy. Such rhetorical dissociation should not be confused with positions for or against Japanese policy measures, but rather considered as ambivalent. Thus, a consequence of the triple disaster —earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident—on 11 March 2011 could have turned the tables on postwar Japan to reflect on the myth of nuclear energy as peaceful and safe.

By taking into account postwar Japan’s over-reliance on technology that can create a false sense of security, this study focuses specifically on how Japanese countrywide and prefecture-wide news media interacted through covering a series of nuclear explosions and meltdowns in Fukushima by four national dailies, Asahi Shinbun, Mainichi Shinbun, Nihon Keizai Shinbun and Yomiuri Shinbun, and two local dailies, Fukushima Minpō and Fukushima Minyū, from 11 March to 31 March 2011. By doing so, the study will first explore an essential context for interpreting how Japan still sought to go on strategic indispensability, and then will examine to what extent it could provide the counter frame about technology gone mad and out of control with meaning that is plausible and consistent with the progress frame, and grounded on controlling nature through technology.

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Making the Invisible/s Visible. Genbaku and Genpatsu in the Context of the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels

Steffi RICHTER, Leipzig University

When the Maruki Gallery opened in 1967, it was initially home to the murals known as genbaku-zupainted by the artist couple Maruki Iri and Toshi. The first seven of the all in all 15 works in total created between 1950 and 1982 directly depicted the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. They first began touring Japan itself, when it was still under U.S. censorship, showing millions of visitors the human suffering caused by the bombs for the first time. During their journey to numerous countries around the world, which began in 1953, the Marukis not only became important activists in the international peace and anti-nuclear war movements. They also expanded and refined their own victim-perpetrator perceptions as they encountered people from former colonially occupied and enemy countries – as demonstrated by many works they created alongside the Atomic Bomb series since the 1970s.

In my paper I will look at the gallery as a place of communication about the“atomic situation” and “Hiroshima” not (simply) as a city, but as a “state of the world” (Günther Anders), where, as my hypothesis goes, the “genbaku-genpatsu dichotomy” is both substantiated and overcome.

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From John Hersey’s Hiroshima to Fukushima: The Atomic General’s Long Shadow over the Nuclear Narrative

Atsuko SHIGESAWA, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies

In her Manual For Survival, Kate Brown reveals how international agencies have discounted the effects of low-dose radiation exposure on human beings during nuclear accidents, from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 to Fukushima in 2011. The trend was already seen in 1945, when the American government recognized the effects of only a large dose of exposure to the initial radiation, lasting for up to 100 seconds, of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not of the residual radiation, which comes mostly from radioactive fallout. The Life Span Study of atomic bomb survivors in the two cities, which hardly counted the fallout, has been used to produce probable doses and risk estimates for people in the areas of nuclear incidents.

Such a narrative was also disseminated through the media. John Hersey’s Hiroshima was no exception. There are elements in the world-famous reportage that follow the American government’s stance when we carefully read it from the vantage point of 75 years later. While it has often been discussed in the framework of a heroic truth-seeking journalist versus a government concealing information, the New Yorker article never crossed the line drawn by the American government. Its publication, in fact, was very much welcomed by General Leslie R. Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project.

In this presentation, I first explore the background of the expectations Groves held for Hersey’s story. I then examine its descriptions of the effects of the atomic bomb and the possible role it has played in the nuclear narrative.

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The Responsibility for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident in Japanese Newspapers

Tobias WEISS, Heidelberg University

The Fukushima accident in 2011 brought to the fore existing fault lines in the Japanese media landscape. It is often argued that the split in editorial opinion on nuclear power policy led to polarization in the Japanese media world. In the paper, I will scrutinize how this polarization can be observed in the different framing of the responsibility for the nuclear accident in different media. One framing underlines the responsibility of TEPCO and the nuclear industry, another framing underlines the failure of the Democratic Party (DPJ), and especially Prime Minister Kan Naoto, in managing the accident. I will trace both frames from their formulation by political players (PM Kan on the one side and PM Abe among others on the other side), and examine how both frames spread and acquired different degrees of dominance in different media over time.

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Living with the Nuclear: Memory Narratives of Fukushima Farmers

Anna WIEMANN, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Memory is an essentially social phenomenon. On the individual level, fragments of remembered events turn into memory when people engage in “telling their story”. Such stories or narratives help the individual in staying oriented in time and space, and thereby also in constructing identity. Individual narratives are situated within social memory narratives which connect the individual to family and other groups or communities – and thus also to space. In this presentation, I will trace memory narratives with regard to living with the nuclear from the perspective of people whose lives are tightly connected to nature at a certain location. This analysis will be based on ethnographic interviews from 2012 and 2013 with farmers in Fukushima prefecture from the ‘Voices from Tohoku’ oral narrative archive (https://tohokukaranokoe.org/). It is guided by the question how such nuclear narratives are tied to different constructed spatialities in Fukushima prefecture.

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