Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims is a monument, holding the names of atomic bomb victims, and was situated in 1952. The cenotaph is shaped as an ancient Japanese ceremonial clay tombs, haniwa, designed to shelter the souls of victims out of the rain.
In 1949, Tange received a commission to build Hiroshima Memorial Park, where the cenotaph is situated. Tangi’s work is characterized as a style of modernism in combining traditional styles of Japanese architecture. Hiroshima Peach Memorial Museum shows his influence in a modernist style. In his early work, Tange was influenced by Le Corbusier, a 20th Swiss born French modernist and architect.
A Meaning of an Epitaph on ‘Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims’
Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims has an epitaph, inscribed as ‘ Yasurakani nemuttute kudasai ayamachi ha kurukaesimasen kara’ in Japanese.
SAIKA Tadayoshi, a Professor of English Literature at Hiroshima University, wrote the phrase of the epitaph and provided an English translation as:
“Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”
The phrase of the epitaph had caused a controversy for long time since the monument was situated in the 1952.
In the Japanese language, the phrase’s subject is omitted. The phrase of the epitaph thus brings an ambiguity about the subject, invoking ‘we, they or who’ shall not repeat the evil?
Professor Saika showed his intention that ‘we’ refers to all humanity, not specifically the Japanese or the American, and that the ‘evil’ is the evil of war.
The point I am concerned is not what the subject is but the fact that his statement was made in 1983 although the cenotaph was situated in 1952.
It took more than 30 years for Saika publicly verbalise and clarify what he really meant about the epitaph he wrote. He himself was an atomic-bomb survivor at Hiroshima. The years of his silence brings an assumption that the impact of an atomic bomb and its resulting effects are enormous, probably more than hardly imaginable.
On the other hand, as Sakai’s public announcement shows, war had began to be discussed beyond limited relationships between we or they, between Japan and America. It took more than 30 years to transcend such binary relationships in the discussion of war.
In the same year, the City of Hiroshima installed an explanation plate about the epitaph in both Japanese and English in the cenotaph. As it took more than 30 years for Saika, war began to be discussed beyond the binary relationships and, importantly, as the city’s announcement shows, to be accepted publicly as:
Written, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Meant, “Let all the souls here rest in peace for ‘all humanity’ shall not repeat the ‘evil war’”.
In the early 1980’s, Japan received an international attention in terms of its economic success. Its position transcended the binary relationships and was placed in the world. War then began to be discussed not for the matter of Japan but for all humanity.
In 2008, the City of Hiroshima placed new explanation panels in different languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Russian before G8 Speakers’ Meeting was held in Hiroshima. In English language it explains as:
“This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”
A prayer, the phrase of the epitaph was placed to explain not for ‘we, they or who’ but “on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war.”
A large number of visitors passed through while I stood at Cenotaph for A-bomb Victims. Tour guides lead both Japanese and oversea tourist groups. They repeatedly explain a meaning of the epitaph, as same as the city’s interpretation about the epitaph above but in shortened words, to the members of their groups as:
It meant, “let all the souls here rest in peace for ‘all humanity’ shall not repeat the ‘evil war’”.
Adding and saying, it took years until the meaning of the epitaph was publicly accepted.
Their explanations kept me thinking…
We humans have an ability to learn out of a mistake and make betterment in life. A same mistake must not be repeated although it takes a long time to understand. We all know about this.
After much learning in the Second World War, Japan has been taking a course of world peace and not participating in foreign war. It currently seems to be taking an opposite course.
The Japanese government has submitted a plan to make an amendment on the Security and Defense Policy, which would lead Japan’s military support and intervention in foreign war if it were accepted. Powerful public demonstrations have been held against the government’s new policy across the country.
After my visit in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I stood on and read texts on the explanation panel, which was placed in 2008, at Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.
I felt as if I am sharing the same feelings and emotions with both Japanese and overseas visiting tourists in front of the cenotaph. A desire for peace is universal. It connects us and extends one to the other.
It does not matter because ‘we or they’ have war, because ‘we or they’ need a military support or intervention. We can transcend such limited relationships in our thinking. Humanity needs to go further.
We all have a right to embrace peace, love and friendship in life. Whatever the reasons are and whatever the situations are, I stand for peace and for all humanity. The inscribed phrase of the epitaph has strongly appealed to my heart:
“Let all the souls here rest in peace for ‘all humanity’ shall not repeat the ‘evil war’.”
In the end of this article, I share you texts, a spirit of Hiroshima. A website of the City of Hiroshima explains the meaning of the inscribed epitaph as:
“Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil,” is a prayer for all the victims, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality, who experienced the horror of the atomic bombing, and whose deaths have become a cornerstone of peace for humanity. To honor these victims, all people must pledge to work for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.
Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims is situated in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The cenotaph is aliened with Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, a Flame of Peace and Hiroshima Peace Memorial (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on a line. It just takes less than a minute to reach from the museum. You will see a large number of visitors are gathering and passing through the monument.
Thank you for reading!
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