Peace Osaka (warning: serious topic ahead)
August is the month when two unfortunate and horrendous historic events, the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, are remembered. However, back in 1945 around this time, other tragedies preceded these two. Sixty major Japanese cities were targeted by B-29 bomber squadrons carrying bombs–consisting mainly of incendiary bombs meant to burn down Japanese buildings, which used large amounts of wood and paper in their construction–and most of the cities were almost completely destroyed. Approximately 100,000 people (mostly civilians) were killed by the “firebombings,” and the economy and infrastructure of the country were reduced to shambles.
I am aware that this is a volatile issue to be writing about. I will convey only one opinion, and it is one that I think (and hope) we can all agree with: peace in this world is much better than the senseless human and material destruction brought about by war.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this post: to tell you about a facility in Osaka that I have a lot of respect for, and one that I think should be visited by everyone. That facility is called Osaka International Peace Center, more commonly known as Peace Osaka. It features a number of exhibits on subjects including the firebombings of Osaka, the expansion of the Japanese Empire in Asia during World War II and its harmful effects in many countries, and other topics. There are video clips taken from the B-29s as the bombs were dropped, images of the city in ruins afterwards, articles salvaged from the ruins, and many good testimonies and explanations of historical events of the time. As Peace Osaka’s name implies, this museum offers an unbiased view of the wartime destruction with the goal that we not forget mistakes of the past. Be warned that some of the images are quite graphic and disturbing, as is generally the case with any honest portrayal of the realities of war.
I was a student of Japanese history in university and have continued my studies on my own since, and it has always pained me to study World War II because of nearly unimaginable suffering, and the racism and hatred underlying all of it. Additionally, it pains me to remember that people in many countries I have learned to love an respect were bitter enemies at the time. But I think places like Peace Osaka are incredibly important. History has made it clear that humans tend to repeat the same mistakes time and time again, but perhaps we can avoid an even more horrendous war (or stop the ones we are involved in now) by educating ourselves. Memories of World War II in particular have taken on a strong “good guy-bad guy” flavor, which is a dangerously moralistic and illogical way of looking at history and teaches us to hold onto destructive attitudes of the past. Just like the informative and heartbreaking Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and other such facilities around Japan, Peace Osaka plays a noble role by delivering a strong anti-war message.
Peace Osaka can be accessed most easily from Morinomiya Station on the Chuo subway line or Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi subway line (about 3-5 min. on foot from exit 1, or 2 min. on foot from exit 3B). It is located on the edge of Osaka Castle Park, a visit to Peace Osaka can be easily combined with a visit to the Castle, the Osaka Museum of History, and other sightseeing spots within walking distance. Hours, cost, and general museum information can be found here.