HomePop CultureOppenheimer opens in Japan. Here's what filmgoers there say

Oppenheimer opens in Japan. Here’s what filmgoers there say

Eight months after its global debut, Oppenheimer, the Academy Award Winning biopic and blockbuster about the father of the atomic bomb, hit Japanese theaters recently, amidst discussions about the effects of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Oppenheimer’s role in the events.

The film was released in Japan, by Bitter’s End, a Tokyo-based indie film distributor. In a statement released back in December, Bitter’s End said that the decision to put Oppenheimer in theaters was made after “much discussion and consideration” due to “subject matter it deals with is of great importance and special significance to us Japanese.”.

According to Reuters, some of the posters featured trigger warnings addressing moviegoers about the depiction of nuclear tests, which could invoke imagery of the damage caused by the bombs.

The film itself does not explicitly depict the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which over 200,000 civilians died. Rather, it focuses on the life story and personal conflicts of J. Robert Oppenheimer himself.

Hiroshima Genbaku Dome
A living monument to the destruction of atomic bomb remains today in Hiroshima. By oilstreet via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Most of the criticisms surround Oppenheimer were surrounding the lack of a Japanese perspective on Oppenheimer’s work, and the fact that the atomic bombings were not explicitly shown.

Takashi Hiroaka, the former mayor of Hiroshima, criticized Oppenheimer by saying “The horror of nuclear weapons was not sufficiently depicted”, in an interview with ABC. “The film was made in a way to validate the conclusion that the atomic bomb was used to save the lives of Americans.”.

One Hiroshima resident, named Kawai, had mixed things to say about the film after seeing it on its opening day. “Of course this is an amazing film which deserves to win the Academy Awards”, said Kawai, “But the film also depicts the atomic bomb in a way that seems to praise it, and as a person with roots in Hiroshima, I found it difficult to watch.”.

Takashi Yamazaki, the director of Godzilla: Minus One, another film dealing with World War II’s nuclear fallout, was of a different opinion. In an online conversation with Oppenheimer’s director, Christopher Nolan, on March 15, Yamazaki said that “I feel there needs to [be] an answer from Japan to Oppenheimer. Someday, I would like to make that movie.”, with Nolan agreeing.

“During the whole movie, I was waiting and waiting for the Hiroshima bombing scene to come on, but it never did,”, said Toshiyuki Mimaki, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization. Mimaki himself has been fascinated with Oppenheimer’s life story and his role in the Manhattan Project.

Another survivor, Teruko Yahata, was also eager to see the film. In an interview with Reuters, Yahata hoped that Oppenheimer would reinvigorate the discussion surrounding nuclear weapons, saying “I think it’s important for the Oppenheimer film to be screened in Japan, so we can learn from it and not lose that awareness that we need to preserve a future for our loved ones.”.

After opening in 343 theaters, Oppenheimer has grossed over 379.3 yen ($2,5 million) in it’s first three days, making it the Japan’s highest grossing foreign film so far in 2024.

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  1. Thank you Sacha for your insightful article. I appreciate reading the viewpoints of people living in Japan.As a 2nd gen Hibakusha & author that speaks to students about my mom’s experience in Hiroshima as well as my health issues due to her radiation exposure, I still believe-that by NOT showing the hell that atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki unleashed on innocent civilians like my family, or what the people in Los Alamos (especially since they filmed the movie there) suffered/continue to suffer and pass on to future generations,was IRRESPONSIBLE.By taking the humanity out of it, there is a greater risk of repeating the same horrific action. The threat of using nuclear weapons continues to be in the news,which frightens and angers me.


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