Hiroshima has long been a shrine to victims of the world's first atomic attack, 49 years ago today. But now, the city is painfully coming to grips with its role in Japan's war effort.
For the first time, the city's Peace Memorial Museum has moved to address the issue of Japan's wartime aggression. This year, it added a new wing with exhibits that challenge - if cautiously - the city's traditional view of itself as a blameless victim.On display since June are photographs of Korean and Chinese laborers enslaved by Japan during the war, and the shipyards and factories of Hiroshima that helped drive the Imperial Army's war machine.
"The city decided on the new wing because it helps us understand the events which led up to the bombing," said Shinji Asakawa of the mayor's office.
Conflicting feelings about Hiroshima commemorations are part of a larger argument over Japan's war role. The country has long averted its eyes from its wartime past.
Rather than fading with time, the controversy has only sharpened in recent months.
In May, Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano was forced to resign after labeling the Rape of Nanking "a Chinese hoax." Historians say an estimated 100,000 Chinese civilians were massacred by Japanese troops after the capture of the then-capital of China in December 1937.
Across Asia, former forced laborers and women conscripted as sex slaves to the Imperial Army are still fighting for reparations from Japan. And Japanese activists have fought for years to try to win use of school textbooks including full and accurate descriptions of Japanese atrocities.
Hiroshima's original museum dedicated to the atomic bombing opened in 1955, 10 years after the Aug. 6, 1945, attack. The exhibits are graphic and wrenching: melted coins, stone steps bearing the shadow of a vaporized human being, schoolchildren's torn uniforms.
But one element was always missing: context on the years and months preceding the attack, which killed about 140,000 people in the blast, firestorm and by radiation.
In the late 1930s, in a climate colored by right-wing nationalism, Japan embarked on a ruthless conquest of Asia, still bitterly remembered by its neighbors.