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Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids

Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids

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Published by JapanAirRaids
citation: Karacas, Cary. "Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids." Geographical Review 100.4 (2010): 521-37.

abstract: The one public memorial built to remember the many people killed in air raids directed against the civilian population of Tokyo during the Asia-Pacific War bears traces of deeper stories related to a prior catastrophe, the effects of the U.S. occupation of Japan, war memory, political power at the municipal and national level, and the ability of citizens’ groups to create public sites of exemplary memory. This article examines key chapters of those stories by tracing the dynamics of collective memory as related to the movement to remember the air raids and build a Tokyo Peace Museum. It concludes with an analysis of the existing memorial as a space of literal memory.
citation: Karacas, Cary. "Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids." Geographical Review 100.4 (2010): 521-37.

abstract: The one public memorial built to remember the many people killed in air raids directed against the civilian population of Tokyo during the Asia-Pacific War bears traces of deeper stories related to a prior catastrophe, the effects of the U.S. occupation of Japan, war memory, political power at the municipal and national level, and the ability of citizens’ groups to create public sites of exemplary memory. This article examines key chapters of those stories by tracing the dynamics of collective memory as related to the movement to remember the air raids and build a Tokyo Peace Museum. It concludes with an analysis of the existing memorial as a space of literal memory.

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Published by: JapanAirRaids on Oct 02, 2010
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tokyo air raids

The Geographical Review
 

(
):


, October

Copyright©

by the American Geographical Society of New York
Dr. Karacas
is an assistant professor of geography at the College of Staten Island, City Univer-sity New York, Staten Island, New York
.
PLACE, PUBLIC MEMORY, AND THE TOKYO AIR RAIDS
CARY KARACAS
abstract
.
The one public memorial built to remember the many people killed in air raidsdirected against the civilian population of Tokyo during the Asia-Paci
c War bears traces of deeper stories related to a prior catastrophe, the e
ff 
ects of the U.S. occupation of Japan, warmemory, political power at the municipal and national level, and the ability of citizens’ groupsto create public sites of exemplary memory. This article examines key chapters of those sto-ries by tracing the dynamics of collective memory as related to the movement to rememberthe air raids and build a Tokyo Peace Museum. It concludes with an analysis of the existingmemorial as a space of literal memory.
Keyword: air raids, exemplary memory, memorials, public memory, Tokyo.
n March

Tokyo’s governor, Ishihara Shintarô,
1
presided over the unveilingof a memorial dedicated to civilians killed by the
rebombing of Japan’s capital inthe
nal months of the country’s Asia-Paci
c War (


). On the occasion,thousands of bereaved relatives traveled from throughout the metropolis and country to Yokoami Park, site of the newly built structure, the
rst and only public memo-rial for Tokyo’s air-raid victims, who numbered more than

,

. Yet, accordingto the very citizens’ groups that for decades had lobbied the Tokyo MetropolitanGovernment (
tmg
) to build such a memorial, the
ower-covered, granite Dwellingof Remembrance should not have been erected (Figure
). At least not in YokoamiPark, they argued, given its status as a sacred space meant to memorialize an en-tirely di
ff 
erent catastrophe, and not without an accompanying museum that re-counted and contextualized the experience of the Tokyo air raids. Although aprevious governor had committed the city to building a Tokyo Peace Museum, uponassuming o
ce Governor Ishihara erected the memorial as a stand-alone struc-ture.This article contributes to the growing body of literature on the intersections of urban space, identity, and public memory, particularly as related to the memori-alization of catastrophic loss (Sturken

,

; Young

; Johnson

; Till

; Foote, Tóth, and Árvay 

; Forest and Johnson

; Foote

; Giamo

; Nevins

; Hoskins

). As a case study built on the theoretical positionthat material manifestations of public memory in the urban landscape are a resultof mediation among a variety of interest groups and that sites such as museumsand memorials play a pivotal role in identity construction, this particular contribu-tion may be read as one answer to the call for scholars to extend studies of thespatial dynamics of memory beyond North America and Europe (Foote andAzaryahu

).Working from the premise articulated by Owen Dwyer and Derek Aldermanthat “memorials bear traces of deeper stories about how they were created, by whom,
 

the geographical review
and for what ideological purpose” (

,

), the main portion of this article con-sists of an examination of the factors that led to the construction of the controver-sial memorial. I focus on three intersecting factors: a citizens’ movement that emergedin the late

s to remember the Tokyo air raids; the political inclinations of Tokyo’sgovernors and municipal legislators; and the

s debate over war memory as re-lated to the construction of peace museums in Japan. The concluding section ap-plies Tzvetan Todorov’s ideal types of literal memory and exemplary memory as ameans of interpreting the Dwelling of Remembrance memorial in Yokoami Park(

). Though to date rarely used by researchers, these ideal types can act as animportant analytical lens through which we can better understand a critical featureof memorial sites (Nevins

; Hoskins

).
Tokyo Air Raids and Public Memory
The most damaging of the more than

air raids that Tokyo experienced duringthe Asia-Paci
c War comprised
ve large-scale
rebombing raids between Marchand May 

that collectively destroyed

percent of the capital and displaced morethan
million Tokyoites (Tôkyô-to

). Among these incendiary raids, the GreatTokyo Air Raid of 

March

commands attention for turning the city’s mostdensely populated area into a sea of 
re that killed more than

,

civilians(Daniels

). Following this catastrophic event, authorities quickly buried thevictims in dozens of mass graves, where they remained throughout the early post-war period while the
tmg
and bereaved relatives feuded over how to deal with theunidenti
able and unclaimed corpses, which constituted a majority of the dead(
tik
 

).Because the impasse continued, an American made the
nal decision. In

Lieutenant Commander William Bunce, chief of the Religions Division in the CivilInformation and Education Section of the U.S. Occupation’s General Headquar-ters, directed the
tmg
to place the air-raid victims’ remains in an existing metro-politan charnel house, Earthquake Memorial Hall (Yamamoto

; Osa

). Thisstructure, housed in Yokoami Park, held the cremated bodies of many victims of the
res that had destroyed Tokyo in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquakeof 
September

. Yokoami Park itself constituted a main site of tragedy on thatday when the tens of thousands who sought refuge in the
-hectare open space wereset upon by a
restorm. Among the

,

Tokyoites killed in

, up to

,

died at this site alone (
sk
 

).Given the tragedy associated with Yokoami Park, authorities sancti
ed it throughits conversion into the main memorial space for the

catastrophe. Centered onEarthquake Memorial Hall and an attached charnel house holding the crematedremains of 

,

unidenti
able and unclaimed victims, by the time of the

ceremony inaugurating the park and celebrating Tokyo’s reconstruction YokoamiPark hosted numerous memorials and Reconstruction Commemoration Hall, amuseum featuring exhibits related to the disaster and Tokyo’s reconstruction (Fig-ure
). Via these structures and memorials the park became the principal com-
 
tokyo air raids

memorative space where the city and nation remembered the Great Kanto Earth-quake and the many people who had perished in the disaster.Between

and

the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Division exhumed andcremated the unidenti
able and unclaimed remains of 

,

air-raid victims.Authorities then placed

large porcelain urns containing the ashes in YokoamiPark’s charnel house, which was attached to the o
cially renamed “Tokyo Metro-politan Memorial Hall.” Since

the Tokyo Memorial Association has sponsoredBuddhist services every 

March and
September for the victims of both the

and

catastrophes (
tik
 

).Except for these services and the establishment of neighborhood-based memo-rials near areas such as school yards and bridge crossings where many had died on

March

(Figure
), public remembering of the Tokyo air raids did not beginuntil the late

s. The U.S. occupation of Japan constituted the
rst signi
cant im-pediment. Similar to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, occupation-era press-censorship codes prevented all public discussion of the
rebombing untilJapan regained its sovereignty in

(Matsuura

). Strikingly di
ff 
erent from theoutpouring of public memories and creation of memorial spaces in both Hiroshimaand Nagasaki following the end of this “abnormal interlude of silence,” public re-membering of the Tokyo air raids was slow to commence (Dower

,

).
Fig.

The Dwelling of Remembrance memorial in Yokoami Park, Sumida Ward, Tokyo.(Photograph by the author, August

)

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