The Nagasaki Peace Discourse

City Hall and the Quest for a Nuclear Free World

Geoffrey C. Gunn

  • Published: 2019
  • Pages: 160 pp.
  • 5 illustrations & 1 map
  • Series: Asia Briefings
  • Series number: 2
Available from NIAS Press worldwide
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7964-274-8, £10 ()

About the book

• Examines political dynamics on nuclear issues locally and nationally.
• Explains the Nagasaki discourse on peace as embodied in the city’s annual memorial declaration.
• Focuses on the contested role of local politicians, atomic bomb victims and peace activists in seeking a nuclear-free world.
• Published as a handy pocketbook, perfect for reading on the move.

Some 20,000 or more people were killed instantly in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945; an additional 40,000 or more died from radiation and related illnesses in the coming days and weeks. Many others were exposed to radiation effects. Remembrance, the struggle for recognition on the part of the victims or hibakusha, and the even greater struggle waged by City Hall in Nagasaki to bring to world attention the threat of nuclear weapons, are at the heart of this book. This we term the Nagasaki peace discourse. Yet, other narratives vie with the ‘idealist’ view. ‘Realists’ welcome the nuclear umbrella provided by the US–Japan Treaty system and have eagerly embraced civilian nuclear power under the ‘atoms-forpeace’ slogan. On their part, Japanese nationalists perceive Japan’s ‘peace constitution’ as ripe for revision, looking ahead to a legal Self Defense Force and, for some, a ‘normal’ and even a nuclear-armed Japan. In the light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011, however, City Hall in Nagasaki cannot ignore the risks of civilian nuclear power or the nation’s mounting stockpile of plutonium. With Nagasaki prefecture host to the second largest US naval base in Japan, as became apparent with the 2017–18 Korean missile crisis, neither can the city insulate itself from international politics. Seventy and more years on from the atomic bombings, Hiroshima and, in subtly different ways, Nagasaki, have a sombre message to convey. This is encapsulated in no better way than in the popular civil society slogan, ‘No! More! Hibakusha!’


About the author

author image not supplied

Geoffrey Gunn is an emeritus professor at Nagasaki University. He is a widely written scholar in Asian history, most notably on the independence struggles in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. His works on Southeast Asia include Political Struggles in Laos, 1930–1954, Rebellion in Laos, and Rice Wars in Colonial Vietnam.

Go to author page


by John Grant
From journal: Bookish Asia
An excellent first choice read on Nagasaki, and certainly a good follow-up update read to some of older works.

As a short, readable work, it’s a good introduction which gives a nice overview and – being fresh off the printing press – includes the latest developments in the Nagasaki story. It is also an excellent introduction to the literature on Nagasaki; the book is peppered with generous suggestions for further reading.

John Grant, Bookish Asia

Read the full review here.