Hiroshima—Has Its Lesson Been Lost?
THE people of Japan were weeping as they stood around their radio sets that midday of August 15, 1945. They were listening to the voice of their emperor: “It is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.”
Barely a week had passed since the Japanese people had heard that some new type of bomb had devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now they were told that the war in the Pacific had ended—and they had lost. There were tears of sorrow but also tears of relief.
The price of the war had been high. The people were physically and emotionally spent, the country ravaged. Over three million Japanese had been killed in the war, and 15 million had been left homeless. Ninety major cities had repeatedly been bombed, with two and a half million buildings and homes destroyed. Tokyo had been reduced to heaps of ashes and rubble, its population decimated by the war. That was the tragedy of defeat—a dark moment in the history of the land of the rising sun.
Efforts to Renounce War
Amid the ruins of defeat, it is easy to see that war is futile, a waste of human lives and precious commodities. Thus, immediately following the war, Japan rewrote its constitution along democratic lines and renounced war forever. Article 9 of the new constitution reads:
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
In view of that bold and noble statement, it would appear that Japan had learned a lesson. The Japanese people do indeed have a strong aversion to war and a fear, in particular, of nuclear war. The country has adopted a three-point policy toward nuclear weapons: not to make, possess, or allow them in the country. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Japanese gather throughout the country to stage protests against nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons should never be used again—anywhere!
An Amazing Comeback—To What?
Now, 40 years after Hiroshima, the contrast of the glittering affluence of modern-day Japan is almost unbelievable. Without the burden of military spending, Japan has been able to devote its resources to rebuilding itself. Today, beautiful air-conditioned homes and skyscrapers stand where once everything was in ruins. Shiny automobiles, well-dressed people, and expensive restaurants belie the poverty and suffering of the immediate postwar years. Stores are well stocked with all kinds of luxury items, and factories are pouring out endless goods for home use and for export. Yes, Japan has become one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
But what has the material prosperity brought? Has the economic security dimmed the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in people’s minds? Has the abhorrence of war been removed along with the scars of war?
Recent polls indicate that though the Japanese people still want their government to remain non-nuclear, there is a pessimism about the future. Half of those polled fear that there could be a nuclear war. Also, an increasing number think that Japan will go nuclear within the next ten years. Why do people fear this? Well, consider the progressive developments.
Following the war, a National Police Reserve of 70,000 armed infantry soldiers was set up. Later, this force was expanded to 250,000 men, grouped into a small army, navy, and air force, and given the name jieitai, or Self Defense Forces. Still, Japan’s military budget was a mere 1 percent of its gross national product. But with tensions mounting in many parts of the world, Japan is being prodded to enlarge her defense capability and spending.
Recently, Prime Minister Nakasone declared his intent to make Japan “a big aircraft carrier.” In spite of public sentiments, plans are being made to increase defense spending by as much as 7 percent in 1985. And, according to The Daily Yomiuri, Japan has committed itself to a five-year (1986-1990) plan of systematic and continuous defense buildup—in manpower, warships, submarines, and aircraft.
Changes are seen not only in government policies but also in people’s attitude toward war. In 1970, one of the most traumatic political outbursts in Japan’s history was touched off when the postwar military security treaty—whereby the United States would provide protection in time of crisis in exchange for establishment of military bases in Japan—was renewed. Yet, when the treaty was renewed again in 1980, there was not a single major protest.
The fact is that today in Japan few people under 50 remember the war, or care to talk about it. Some see in the careful rewriting of schoolchildren’s textbooks the effort to remove altogether important facts that led to that terrible war. As waves gradually remove footprints on a sandy beach, changing world conditions affect people’s political views. Major questions in the minds of many are, Just what would Japan do in some future emergency? Would Japan go to war again if the reason appeared right? Has the lesson of Hiroshima been lost?
What course the nation as a whole will take, only time will tell. But many individuals in Japan have already made a personal decision in this regard. One such individual was in the Hiroshima prison at the very time the atom bomb exploded, but he survived that holocaust in one of the prison’s deep cells. He was not in prison because of any criminal offense. Rather, he was conscientiously opposed to participating in war. He was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Through a study of the Bible, he had accepted God’s viewpoint of wars waged by men and learned that God’s Kingdom is the only means by which true peace can be achieved. (See Isaiah 2:4; Daniel 2:44.) For preaching this message out of love for God and for neighbors, he was put in that prison.
Today, there are over 100,000 like him in Japan, busily preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) Many of them have personally gone through the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How a particular one of them allowed that extraordinary experience to move her to search for something better—and what she found—is a story that we invite you to read.
[Picture on page 7]
Modern-day Hiroshima, the lower left area of picture showing the same section of city as seen on page 4 (from the opposite direction)