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

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

YUKI MIYAMOTO
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 252
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wzv7d
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    Beyond the Mushroom Cloud: Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima
    Book Description:

    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).

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4931-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. A NOTE ON THE TEXT
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction: The Ethics of Commemoration
    (pp. 1-10)

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

    The scene is Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Japanese people are seen going about their own business, children are at play, a trolley tinkles gaily down the street, a mother bares her breast tenderly to nurse her babe, and the only hint that a war might be going on is vaguely suggested by a man in uniform going to his lookout post to scan the skies. Then...

  6. I Commemoration
    • 1 Toward a Community of Memory
      (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 to live and generating a spirit of nonretaliation. Second, they courageously speak out about and share their experiences with others, contributing, some believe, to preventing the further use of nuclear arms upon humankind. Finally, they provide a new vision of a community of memory that transcends existing boundaries (national, social, and cultural) and elaborates the hibakushas’ central message of “not retaliation, but reconciliation.”¹ Unfortunately, despite...

    • 2 Dialogue with the Dead: THE YASUKUNI SHINTO SHRINE AND HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
      (pp. 47-78)

      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. The Yasukuni shrine thus embodies and abets strong relations between memory and the continuity of the nation-state. On the other hand, commemorative practices in Hiroshima, as we saw in Chapter 1, have sought a way to establish a community not confined by the nation-state framework. But by the mid-1980s,¹ the Japanese national narrative had begun to appropriate the accounts emerging...

  7. II Religious Interpretations
    • 3 Beyond Good and Evil: KŌJI SHIGENOBU AND THE TRUE PURE LAND UNDERSTANDING OF THE ATOMIC BOMBING
      (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 bombs have often been described and interpreted in religious language. Journalist William Leonard Laurence, covering the Manhattan Project in 1945, was near the detonation site of the first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Just “twenty miles away on Compania Hill,”² he described the moment of the blast: “It was as though the earth...

    • 4 Sacrificial Lambs: NAGAI TAKASHI AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC INTERPRETATION OF THE BOMBING
      (pp. 111-142)

      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 reconciliation” through critical self-reflection. Although some Buddhist groups have contributed to antiwar and antinuclear movements, there have been relatively few concerted attempts to respond to the question of how we might understand the atomic bombings from within a particular religious framework.¹ For example, the clergy of Shinto, a religion once exploited by the fascist government of Japan, have never publicly discussed the issue of the atomic bombing and...

  8. III Responsibility
    • 5 Women in Atomic Bomb Narratives: HAGIOGRAPHY, ALTERITY, AND NON-NOMOLOGICAL ETHICS
      (pp. 145-176)

      The eponymous protagonist of the television dramaYumechiyo Nikki, orThe 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 in her mother’s womb, to the atomic bombing of 1945 in Hiroshima. With only three years to live, Yumechiyo must travel twice a year to a hospital in the city, several hours by train from her small village. Keeping her sickness a secret, she continues her life as a geisha and caretaker for other geisha. Despite its grave themes—the plight of the...

  9. Postscript: After Too Many Mushroom Clouds
    (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 fromWasabi, a 2001 French movie written by Luc Besson and directed by Gérard Krawczyk, in which a group of villains captures Yumi, the estranged daughter of the French protagonist. Not seeing what this movie had to do with the subject matter of the course, I was on the verge of intervening. Then the students paused the film. The screen showed a man pointing a gun at Yumi’s head; a dozen gangsters surrounded him and Yumi,...

  10. Afterword
    (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. This horrific accident, still unfolding as of this writing, caused irrevocable damage to the health and property of the inhabitants of the area, as well as to the natural environment.

    The social effects of this nuclear disaster have also been devastating. Parents of sufficient means in Fukushima and the surrounding region sent their children to schools beyond the contaminated zone. But these children faced...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 185-216)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 217-226)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 227-234)