Hiroshima Castle and the Long Shadow of Militarism in Postwar Japan

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In 1945 Hiroshima Castle, together with most of central Hiroshima, was incinerated and turned into a graveyard. Tens of thousands of Japanese Imperial Army soldier sperished in the castle, which served a s t he headquarters for Japan’s Western Army. The bomb destroyed not just the physical space of the castle but also the symbolism associated with the site. The castle was long used to promote Hiroshima’s identity as a military cit y. Promotion of tourism played an important role in cementing this identity. After the war, the castle’s and Hiroshima’s long engagement with the imperial military was forgotten as Hiroshima rebuilt itself as a “city of peace.” Significantly, it was now the Atomic Bomb Dome, rather than the castle which served as the city’s symbol. Yet, the castle continued to serve as a reminder of Hiroshima’s past. I argue that the reconstruction of Hiroshima Castle in 1958, as with other castles throughout Japan, was carried out as a way to demilitarize and disassociate the castle from a modern military role. This move by conservative groups to rehabilitate the castle initiated much debate. Using the castle and the tourism trade around it as a lens, this paper will examine the way local identity transformed as Japan mobilized for empire before the war and tried to exorcise the ghosts of Hiroshima’s past after the defeat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-218
Number of pages24
JournalJapan Review
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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