Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the day America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, followed by a second one on Nagasaki three days later.
There is no denying the bombs had a devastating and horrific impact. There is also no denying that they ended the Pacific war, forcing Japan's surrender. The fear at the time that many more people American and Japanese would have died in a land invasion of the Japanese main islands is addressed in this piece by military historian Victor Davis Hanson, and there's little I could presume to add to it.
But while it is necessary to remember why America decided to drop the bombs, it is perhaps more interesting to consider what many Japanese think about the bombs today. And the answer is: Not much.
Japanese blogger, Internet expert, and venture capitalist Joi Ito has a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times in which he says the bombs have little significance to Japanese born after the war:
When people ask my thoughts on the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I always feel uncomfortable. As a Japanese, I know how I'm supposed to respond: with sadness, regret and perhaps anger. But invariably I try to dodge the issue, or to reply as neutrally as possible.Joi then describes how the war's end jolted Japanese of that era out of the grip of years of "brainwashing" at the hands of their militarist leaders. In fact, he argues that the bombs served as a cultural "reset button", letting Japan make a clean break with its past.
That's because, at bottom, the bombings don't really matter to me or, for that matter, to most Japanese of my generation. My peers and I have little hatred or blame in our hearts for the Americans; the horrors of that war and its nuclear evils feel distant, even foreign. Instead, the bombs are simply the flashpoint marking the discontinuity that characterized the cultural world we grew up in.
Joi's words reminded me of a young Japanese boy I saw on the beach at Atami this weekend, shown in the photo below:
You might reasonably expect that Japanese would hate Americans for bombing their country, but it just didn't work out that way. Ironically, the devastating atomic assault was followed by lasting peace, and even friendship, between America and Japan.