“Popular Representations of the Past: The Case of Postwar Japan”

Shimazu, Naoko. “Popular Representations of the Past: The Case of Postwar Japan.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 38, no. 1, 2003, pp. 101–116. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3180699.

This reading discusses the ways Japan represented the war in literature, film, and television. The major themes explored include war responsibility, purification, the sanitized memory, women and pacifism, the atomic bomb, mass consumerism, and neo-nationalism. I focus on the section discussing the depictions and themes of the atomic bomb, as that is the focus of our project.

An often untold story is the censorship the Americans enforced on the Japanese in the time of they occupied the country after the war. A few films were made about the impacts of the atomic bombs on the people and the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. These films were watched and cleared by the Americans before being published in Japan and for this reason the content was always relatively benign. There was controversy over the originally unreleased film, Children of the Atomic Bomb. This was the first film to depict the horrible after effects that the radiation had on Japanese civilians. The film was confiscated by the U.S. and returned over twenty years later if Japan agreed to only use it for research. Once the film was back in Japanese hands, they defied and showed the film across their country, educating a large population that was previously ignorant of these impacts.

These stories of the atomic bomb were more widely consumed than the typical battle war stories, especially in literature. They especially were more receipted with younger people when considering the books high schoolers read to gain knowledge of the war. The younger crowd was also reached by manga characters who depicted the struggles of living life after the bombs hit.

Author: Spencer Crough

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