Hiroshima Tourism and the Long Shadow of Militarism in Postwar Japan

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 2:10 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham)
Ran Zwigenberg, Penn State University
On August 6, 1946, a crew of Hiroshima City employees unceremoniously scrapped a marble sign affixed to a Sino-Japanese War victory column, its replacement proclaiming the column as the “Peace Tower.” The victory column, like other war-related sites in Hiroshima, was a prominent tourist site for patriotic visitors and a regular part of pre-war Hiroshima tourism routes. Such abrupt changes of meaning happened across Hiroshima as it was transformed from a city proudly defined by its status as a military city (gunto) into a “Mecca of world peace.” The way Hiroshima presented itself to the world completely changed in 1945, when the city proclaimed an absolute break with its past identity. Such changes did not happen smoothly, as conservative and veteran groups constantly sought to challenge and roll back the erasure of Hiroshima’s military past, an effort that was met, in turn, with much opposition on the left. This paper focuses on the debates surrounding tourism promotion in Hiroshima, focusing on pre- and postwar expos and exhibitions at the Hiroshima castle, shrines for the imperial war dead, and the A-bomb’s commemorative apparatus. Debates over tourism promotion and the city image, I argue, illustrate the complexity of promoting tourism in a place like Hiroshima and the ways in which local history, regional politics, and changing notions and meanings of heritage were reflected in and influenced by tourism promotion.