Today is Nagasaki day. I know this because an announcement has just come-over the loud speakers in the neighbourhood asking me to pray for the souls of those that died in the atomic bombing. But I knew it anyway, August 9th like August 6th for Hiroshima is a day that anyone, even those that have no interest in history, cannot possibly forget.
History has always been selectively remembered though and for the Japanese those two dates are still raw and suffered. Such a call to prayer a cynic may see at emotional manipulation: the continuing gift of victimhood to one of the most aggressive and cruel dictatorships ever.
A Japanophile meanwhile will see it as a sign of a sincere empathy with the casualties of those cruel experiments and a visceral disgust at the horror of such weapons. This is a country where most people, but not all, passionately hate the idea of war, any war not just ones involving Japan; it is still a spiritual country despite or because of it`s lack of religion and those that have died are missed while the manner of their death is genuinely upsetting. There are no crocodile tears cried on these days.
I am somewhere in the middle of those two thought: I believe the Japanese people are overly emotional sometimes and that feelings like sentimentality, fear, anger and patriotism can be, and are being, controlled by people who shouldn`t be given the power to do that.
But other countries` blustered ire at the pronoucements of the likes of Shinzo Abe and Shintaro Ishihara (the right-wing governer of Tokyo) or the myopic references in school text books about the Rape of Nanking or Comfort Women miss the point that most Japanese cannot imagine ever going to war again. They see the mushroom clouds of their collective memory and feel sick. There is a sense of peace here that constant attacks from other countries about a further need for atonement could destroy. Pride is an emotion that is particularly easy to manipulate in Asian countries and many Japanese are beginning to feel that they have said sorry enough times. They know when they see stupid politicians trying to take inconvenient history out of text books that is is time to complain, to face-up to the past. That such a debate exists is evidence enough that the past is not being buried too deep. They wonder also how a country like China for example can stand on any moral high ground when there is apparently no reference to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in any Chinese school books.
Anyway that went on a bit longer than I had planned, that`s what happens when you have a single idea from a noise outside and then your wife comes to talk to you about it and make it all sound a lot more serious and deeper than you had originally thought when you started writing.
I went to Hiroshima last year with my dad by the way. Been trying to write a travel piece on for a few months but never seem to get the time. Nice city; much nicer than you imagine it to be and considerably more honest about history than Tokyo. This photo is the A bomb dome of course. I`m sure I don`t need to tell anyone that which was sort of the point of this post at the beginning.