Commentary August 11, 2020

Why the US-Japan Partnership Prospered Despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki

There has been little diplomatic conflict between the United States and Japan over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, but that stability could change in the future writes Japan Program Director Kiyoteru Tsutsui in an op-ed for The Hill.
A young boy prays after releasing a floating lantern onto the Motoyasu River in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan.
A young boy prays after releasing a floating lantern onto the Motoyasu River in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. Junko Kimura, Getty Images

This op-ed by Kiyoteru Tsutsui originally appeared in The Hill.



On Aug. 6, 1945, an American B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped and detonated a five-ton atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb’s 15-kiloton explosion claimed the lives of about 70,000 people instantly. While there’s some debate about the total number of individuals who ultimately died because of bomb-related injuries and radiation poisoning, the total number of fatalities likely exceeded 100,000 and potentially even 200,000.

Despite the colossal damage that the American military inflicted on Hiroshima, and subsequently on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, Japan soon would develop a warm, productive relationship with its war-time rival that has lasted to this day. According to a national survey of 1,586 Japanese citizens that we conducted this May, residents of Japan rank America as their best economic and military ally today and also in 20 years, when compared to other large, wealthy countries. Favorable views about America extend outside foreign policy into Japan’s culture, food, and products, which have been deeply ingrained into the fabric of Japanese cultural and social life. 

On the heels of one of the most devastating military defeats in human history, how has this pro-American sentiment been sustained for so long in Japan, and why has the dropping of atomic bombs, a potentially deeply divisive issue, rarely been politicized in the U.S.-Japan relations? (Continue reading the full article in The Hill.)

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