Japanese Attitude Towards the Atomic Term Paper

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) Some even thought (rightly) that it was being spared for something big. However, no one in their wildest imagination was anticipating an atomic bomb attack. Hence, on the morning of the fateful day, the residents of Hiroshima were completely unprepared for an atomic bomb explosion.

Painting of Hell":

Many survivors of the atomic explosion on Hiroshima have likened the experience of the blast and its immediate aftermath to mankind's common perception of hell. A young Japanese sociologist, for example, described the scene of a nearby park after the explosion: "The most impressive thing I saw was some girls, very young girls, not only with their clothes torn off but with their skin peeled off as well...my immediate thought was that this was like the hell I had always read about." (Selden and Selden, xix) Another eye-witness, twenty-year-old Shibayama Hiroshi, recalled entering Hiroshima on foot from his suburban workplace within hours of the bombing and encountering a scene reminiscent of "a painting of hell." Apart from the scores of dead bodies he saw floating in the Kyobashi River with "faces swollen to twice their normal size," there was one sight the young man believed he would never forget. He saw a man, his face burned and his blue clothes in shreds, riding along with what looked like black wood fastened to his bicycle with coarse straw rope. As the man on the bicycle came nearer, Hiroshi saw that what he had taken for wood was a stiff, blackened corpse -- probably the remains of a loved one. The man himself seemed crazed. To Hiroshi, all the inhabitants of Hiroshima appeared deranged in the aftermath of the explosion. (Ibid, xx)

Suppressed Feelings During the American Occupation

One of the main objectives of the American occupation government in Japan was to inculcate a sense of guilt for the war in the Japanese people and to snuff out any lingering ultra-nationalist feelings among the populace. It also took steps to ensure that no hatred towards the occupying force was spread through the media. To achieve these aims, a strict Press Code was immediately enforced that forbade any reference to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that could be interpreted as direct or indirect criticism of the Americans. As a result, any comments in the press that would describe the widespread suffering of the atomic bombs' victims or even imply that Japan would have won the war but for the atomic bombs were strictly forbidden.

For the next four years, any reports and information by the Japanese journalists from the bombed cities or discussions about the effects of the bomb were strictly checked, held-up or deleted by the American authorities. Hence the Japanese people and the victims of the bombings were prevented from expressing their true feelings about the bombings in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear holocaust. For example, a book "Masako taorezu" (Masako does not collapse), written by a fifteen-year-old survivor about her terrifying experience of the Nagasaki bombing was not allowed to be published by the censors in 1947 "at least for the time being" without giving any time-frame about when it would be allowed publication. (Braw 93)

Divine Providence

In an environment which forbade open outpouring of feelings about the bombings, many Japanese people adopted the belief that the bombings were an "act of divine providence." An early Japanese book about the atomic bombings, "The Bells Toll for Nagasaki," authored in 1946 by a doctor and a resident of Nagasaki -- Takashi Nagai -- is representative of this view. The book was an eyewitness account of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, especially the destruction of the Nagasaki Medical College where Nagai was working at the time. Apart from his interest as a doctor in the 'atomic sicknesses' witnessed in the victims of the bombings, Nagai -- a Catholic -- was particularly interested in the significance of the bombing for human morality. Nagasaki was the largest Christian city in Japan at the time of the bombing and the bomb had burst above a point only 500 meters from the Urakami Catholic Cathedral. Approximately 8,500 Catholics died from direct exposure to the bomb as most of the 12,000-strong population of Nagasaki's Catholics lived in the area around the cathedral (Kamata and Salaff, 43). Nagai found this fact to be of some significance. He put forward the idea of divine will in the suffering of the people of Nagasaki and wrote that the "only holy place in all [of] Japan" was chosen as a victim for some definite purpose -- "a lamb, to be slaughtered and burned on the altar of sacrifice to expiate the sins committed by humanity in the Second World War?" (Nagai, quoted by Braw 94)

Nevertheless, the censors were not prepared to allow even such relatively harmless depiction of the bombings and Nagai's book was not allowed to be published because, according to the occupation government, it vividly described "the scenes of horror, the great death toll, the painful injuries, the death of medical personnel, and the destruction of medical equipment" and could "invite resentment against the United States." The occupation authorities only permitted the publication of the book in April 1949 on the condition that a record of Japanese military cruelty in Manila, compiled by the intelligence division of U.S. General Headquarters, is included in the book. (Kamaata and Salaff, 44)

This "stoic" Japanese view of the bombings that considered them to be acts of a mysterious "divine providence" for the atonement of sins committed by the people during the War was representative of the feelings of a large number of the Japanese people at the time. Passivity in the face of suffering was not just a characteristic of the Catholics; the Buddhists had always interpreted suffering as an inevitable part of the evil of material being. They too, chose to remain largely passive in the aftermath of the bombing. Such passivity also sat well with the American occupation authorities, as the passive theories of 'divine providence' and 'glorification of suffering' did not directly blame the U.S. For the horrible effects of the bombing.

Feelings of Guilt

Another significant psychological effect on the victims of the atomic bombings was a profound feeling of 'survival guilt' -- the guilt for having survived the terrible ordeal while so many of their family, friends, and neighbors had perished. Many of the survivors felt that they had saved their own lives without stopping to help their neighbors and they were constantly haunted by that realization.

Dr. Robert J. Lifton, an American psychiatrist who was interested in the psychological consequences borne by the citizens of Hiroshima after the 1945 atomic attack carried out extensive research on the feelings of the "hibakusha" by interviewing a number of survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. He has published his findings in his book "Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima" (1967), which captures the powerful psychological impact of the bombing on the survivors, most of whom were overwhelmed by the guilt for having survived the almost unbearable ordeal.

Many of the hibakusha were racked with feelings of what Lifton called "death guilt" -- a form of delayed guilt at letting others die, while "selfishly" remaining alive; a feeling that can come back to haunt them in different forms such as the remembered voices of those left to die while one was being rescued. An elderly widow, who was rescued by her son after the explosion, was haunted by such voices:

heard many voices calling for help...even now I wonder what has happened to those people... I felt it was a wrong thing not to help them, but we were so much occupied by running away ourselves that we left them...Even now I still hear their voices... (Quoted by Lifton 36)

Lifton found that the intensity of such guilt was, as would perhaps be expected, all the more pronounced when it involved the death of a close family member such as a child or a parent their lives. Many of the survivors also complained about the selfishness displayed by the people during the ordeal; remarks like "every man thought of himself"; and "people behaved like animals -- even in the case of parents and children, they fought with one another to get their food" were common place. (Ibid, 45) Such remarks were also partly directed towards themselves by the survivors -- triggered by their sense of guilt.

Takashi Nagai, the Catholic physician of Nagasaki and author of "The Bells Toll for Nagasaki" expressed the guilt of the survivor in a most uncompromising manner: "...those who survived the bomb were, if not merely lucky, a greater or lesser degree selfish, self-centered, guided by instinct and not civilization...and we know it, we who have survived." (Quoted by Lifton 48)

Focus of Anger

The survivors of the bombings were so physically and emotionally overwhelmed that they had little…[continue]

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