Rhapsody in August (1991)




Director:    Akira Kurosawa.

Starring:    Richard Gere (Japanese-American nephew), Sachiko Murase (Kane), Hidetaka Yoshioka.

In Japanese with English subtitles. 

memories in Nagasaki of the atomic bomb and its aftermath




A grandmother, who came from a family of more than ten children, lives in Nagasaki.  One of her older brothers, who has lived in Hawaii since 1920, is very old and wants to see his younger sister before he dies.  The brother in Hawaii married an American girl and his family there looks mostly like white Americans.  But grandmother does not even remember her older brother and does not want to travel to Hawaii.  Instead, her son and daughter travel to Hawaii to say hello to their uncle.  The two siblings leave their children at grandmother's house in Nagasaki, while they are in Hawaii. 

Grandmother is delighted to have the grandchildren with her all to herself.  But the children also want to travel to Hawaii for summer vacation and try desperately to get their grandmother to agree to go. 

While the grandchildren are at home with grandmother, they start talking about family and, more specifically, about their now deceased grandfather.  Some 45 years earlier their grandfather had died in the atomic bomb explosion while teaching school in Nagasaki.  In speaking of his death, the children decide to make a trip into Nagasaki center to visit some of the sites associated with the dropping of the atomic bomb.  At the school where there grandfather died, they see a monument to the dead children of Nagasaki, consisting simply of the twisted remains of a children's jungle gym set that has been transformed by the atomic blast.  They also visit a site where there are many monuments send by other countries in memoriam of those who died; monuments from the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, Cuba and many other countries.   There is none, however, from the United States and they ask and answer the question of why not. 

In all the reminiscences of the past, Grandmother decides to travel to Hawaii after all.  She has one of the grandchildren write to her brother that she will come after the annual memorial service for the victims of the bomb blast on August 9.  The grandchildren's parents are worried that in mentioning the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki that their family has insulted their Hawaiian relatives for reminding them of the event. 

Grandmother's nephew Clark (played by Richard Gere) now decides to come to Nagasaki to see his aunt.  The parents and children in Nagasaki are worried about meeting Clark for fear that he will scold them for mentioning the bombing of Nagasaki by the Americans.   

So, will Clark, be upset with his Japanese family?  Or will he have different reactions to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki? 

The movie is pretty good.  It is interesting to see how the Japanese react to the memories of the atomic blast at Nagasaki.  Japan has changed a great deal since the days of the belief in the divinity of their emperor and the glorification of the cruel bushido warrior code, but they are still very different from Americans in their approaches to life and that is shown in the film. 

I can't speak for all Americans, but most of them don't spend a lot of time fretting over the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.  Some, of course, feel it was a shame.  But no matter what choice America made, the result would have been the deaths of thousands and thousands of more Japanese from aerial bombings.   

What was curious to me about the film was that it did not deal with the possibility of any guilt feelings on the part of the Japanese for being part of such a brutal and rapacious country that tried to conquer Asia for themselves?  It made me wonder if the Japanese ever do much fretting over their actions in World War II.  (For, frankly, in some ways, such as the treatment of prisoners of war, the Japanese were more brutal than even the German Nazis.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

Historical Background:


see Above and Beyond (1952)


1945 (August 9)  --  the U.S. B-29 Superfortress Bock's Car, flown by Major Charles W. Sweeney, carried the nuclear bomb code-named "Fat Man" to the primary target of Kokura.  By the time the plane reached Kokura, the city was completely obscured by clouds.

So they flew on to Nagasaki.

At 11:02, the atomic bomb was dropped over the city's industrial valley. It exploded 1,540 feet above the ground, nearly 2 miles northwest of the  planned hypocenter.  Being off-target saved a major portion of the city from the blast as the explosion was confined to the Urakami Valley.

About 70,000 of Nagasaki's 240,000 residents were killed instantly with another 60,000 were injured. The total number killed was 80,000, including those who died from radiation poisoning.

Following the end of the war, Nagasaki was occupied by 27,000 troops.


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