Hiroshima/ Identity struggle of Japanese: to uphold or move on from traditions?

The tabula rasa condition of Hiroshima after the war opened up a brand new chapter in Hiroshima’s architecture. Although architects and planners were excited to start over and remove themselves from a troubled past, there was a constant debate over the use of traditional and modernist style when it comes to design. As Japanese traditional architecture was a symbol of nationalism, there was an identity struggle as to whether one should move away from the pre-war nationalistic architecture or uphold their traditions. The memorial peace park planning, a significant step pushing Hiroshima towards a symbol of peace, was an epicentre of identity struggle.

Before and during the war, most of the architecture projects were saturated with propaganda and imperialist undertones. Traditional Japanese architecture served as a cultural nationalism for the Japanese. Right after the war, the ideology to “start over” was focused, and the shift towards a new image of Hiroshima was taken into place. Immediate mentality to distinct postwar architecture from its wartime precedent was established.The painful past that reminded people of the war tried to be forgotten, thus came the immediate rise of modernist style. A disrupt in balance occurred when the US occupation ended in 1952. Anti-nuclear and anti-U.S movements, that was often associated with nationalism were challenging the portrayal of Hiroshima as the city of world peace. This led to some changes made to the planning of the memorial peace park. Japan’s cultural identity and traditional values became a growing interest once again. The style was no longer detained within modernism or traditional Japanese, a hybrid of both was implemeted instead. Postwar Japanese and critics named it the “Japanese style modernism architecture”, and the focus was “ to reinvent nationalistically tinged notions of tradition and construct a new model for Japanese architecture that would be culturally authentic and contemporary” .

The Memorial Peace Museum was an example of Japanese style modernism architecture, there was a resemblance between the pilotis structure and a traditional wooden storehouse with a raised floor


1Journal: HYUNJUNG, C (2012) Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Making of Japanese Postwar Architecture. Journal of Architectural Education. 66 (1). p.72-83.

2. Ibid., 13–14.

3 Comments on “Hiroshima/ Identity struggle of Japanese: to uphold or move on from traditions?

  1. During the post-war time of Japan, as you have said, there was certainly a struggle for the future of Japan. I remembered in the biography of Kisho Kurokawa, he mentioned that the Japanese architects at that time were only equipped with traditional knowledge and thus narrow-minded while the government were only interested in following the footsteps of the western countries. The struggle later stimulated the formation of metabolist movement in Japan.

  2. Identity struggle comes when there are changes to a place, whether it is physical, sociopolitical, etc. In Hiroshima’s case, change was incite because of the tabula rasa condition brought on by the war. It is interesting to look at how the event of war can stimulate the formations of different movements in Japanese architecture.

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