Hiroshima has metamorphosed from a land of total devastation to a mecca of world peace since the atomic explosion it experienced 73 years ago. The dramatic change of Hiroshimaʼs physical state has been well documented; however, shifts in citizensʼ outlooks — that is, what the city and its people have aspired to become in the path of reconstruction and development — is still understudied. This empirical study investigates the shifting self-identity of Hiroshima as conveyed by its successive mayors in their Peace Declarations at the cityʼs annual Peace Ceremony from 1947 to 2018.
Using quantitative and qualitative hybrid analytics, this study examines how each mayorʼs Peace Declarations have portrayed a vision for the identity of Hiroshima and in what ways this identity has changed over the years against the backdrop of socio-political events involving Hiroshima. The domestic and international trajectories of its projected identity are examined by comparing the original Japanese versions of the annual address and their English translations.
The empirical results reveal that a set of core concepts are shared among all mayorsʼ original declarations: 1) the human toll of the atomic-bomb attack, 2) the call for abolition of all wars and nuclear weapons to attain lasting world peace, and 3) relief for the hibakusha . Distinct differences are also found from mayor to mayor in terms of Hiroshimaʼs international role in attaining world peace. This empirical study further reveals that emphasis on the hibakusha ʼs involvement in constructing Hiroshimaʼs post-war identity is markedly attenuated in the English translations. As a result the English version of the Peace Declarations have established a simpler narrative of Hiroshimaʼs path to a “City of Peace”, targeting the international audience.