The dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is remembered as a point of Western victory in World War II, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor is remembered as "the day that went down in infamy". Hiroshima Diary, written by Dr. Michihiko Hachiya, is a journal that records many experiences of the Japanese in Hiroshima on the day of and the days immediately following the bombing. The diary is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving, as Hachiya tried to record the personal experiences of those he came into contact with, as well as the medical complications that arose from radiation sickness in the aftermath of the bomb. After reading the selection, I found myself almost ashamed, because, as an American, I grew up believing that the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were ultimately retaliations-in-kind for the grave offense at Pearl Harbor. This non-Western account made me believe for the first time that, in some respects, the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan during August, 1945 was more deplorable than the Japanese offensive at Pearl Harbor. "Hiroshima Diary" revealed to me that I am a product of American culture, and in doing so, opened my eyes to civilian Japanese sentiment in 1945, and the perspective of those in the midst of the horrors at Hiroshima.
One of the most obvious misconceptions I had held as an American involved the horrific aftermath of the bomb on the streets of Hiroshima. Several specific incidents from the diary absolutely shocked me. I had always assumed that people close to the hypocenter just "disintegrated", or were immediately killed in the blast. The stories about those who "had been burned and were holding their arms out to prevent the painful friction of raw surfaces rubbing together" (Atwan/McQuade 35) totally contradicted all of my assumptions of quick, painless death or internal radiation problems in the distant future periods after the bomb.