Kamikaze sculpture and memorial set to be built in Hiroshima

A 30-year-old beachfront plot that was left crumbling after Hiroshima bombing is to be transformed into a new tourist attraction for Japan

One of the most famous hilltop sites in Hiroshima is set to be turned into a natural oasis for lovers of an ancient arts form known as kamikaze.

Officials plan to convert a barren beachfront lot into a new small “ghost forest” where kamikaze sculptors will be allowed to set up workshop to remove, then build up, the giant platforms they’ve designed.

The cult art form, which dates back to the 17th century, is actually a Japanese tradition, but it has come under the increasing spotlight in recent years after Hiroshima’s governor, Tomihisa Taue, noticed parallels between kamikaze sculpture with that of the skeletons of those killed in the second world war atomic bomb.

“I am convinced that our hilltop lot should become a place where creation and destruction can take place side by side,” Taue, who calls himself an “anticancer”, told a news conference in Tokyo last week.

“It is no coincidence that kamikaze have become a popular theme in art, history and literature.”

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Taue began rethinking the site, which is scattered with rusting poles, pillars and timber, after the website of the Louvre in Paris invited him to look at their exhibition on the artwork, highlighting its similarities to Hiroshima’s site.

But, in a country where kamikaze devotees leave their own memorials and pray on their own “ghost” graves, some expressed skepticism that the “re-bowing place” will help heal the psychic wounds inflicted by the atomic bombing.

“What’s to stop the mass of kamikaze sculptors from trying to knock down the chimneys of Hiroshima,” wrote one Twitter user.

Hiroshima, a city of just over a million people, became one of the few places hit by the 1945 atomic bomb, which was dropped by US fighter pilot Joe Curtis on 14 August, 1945.

Hours after the initial blast sent an enormous mushroom cloud spinning skywards, an infantryman pulled back a bomb shelter door, exposing some 300,000 people to death from radiation.

People in Hiroshima weren’t the only ones burned alive or killed instantly by the blast. Another 155,000 died in the following 20 months in death camps and after the release of the second bomb.

Last month a Japanese newspaper commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing by disclosing that the air force had worked out how to disarm the weapons.

Gokano Kobayashi, the author of the Yomiuri Shimbun article and a 62-year-old geologist, said the atomic bomb mission had been “like blowing up a massive turtle”.

The tiny “ghost forest” in Hiroshima is both a reminder of the destruction brought by the bombing and an explicit tribute to the young men who died to preserve their culture.

Among more than 50 kamikaze sculptors on display around the world is another of Hiroshima’s most famous names, Maya Lin, the woman who designed the memorial, known as the TAPEO House.

The extensive blueprint at the site of the bombing of the Manhattan Project shows the names of 12,000 Japanese Americans killed in the battle for Iwo Jima by the US military at the dawn of the second world war. Lin also created the bronze “silent” surfer statue in Newport Beach in California, inscribed: “Miles to go before I sleep.”

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