On Oct. 22, Dr. Jonathan Thorndike of the Belmont University Honors Program delivered a lecture in the MTSU Honors College series on “The City.” Thorndike’s presentation was titled “Kyoto: Saved by the Americans but ‘Destroyed’ by the Japanese.” Thorndike discussed Kyoto history and architecture and how the US targeted the ancient capital as a potential target city for the atomic bomb at the end of the Second World War. However, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had visited Kyoto and was a student of traditional Japanese culture. He argued that Kyoto should be spared from bombing because of its architectural significance. Thus, Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities today that still has many pre-war buildings including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Kyoto is a place of famous temples, shrines, festivals and gardens coexisting uneasily in the same city that boasts of post-modern buildings like the JR train station and the corporate headquarters of Nintendo, Kyocera and Rohm Semiconductors. In that sense, people say that Kyoto was saved by the Americans but “destroyed” by the Japanese economic miracle.
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