/ osaka

My old neighborhood in flames

Speaking of World War II-era American bombs in Osaka, I’ve been sitting on an image for a while that completely stops my mind every time I see it. I was doing some research for work a little over a year ago when I came across this particular photo online. I’m not sure why, but I kept a copy of it as a file sitting on my desktop for a long while.

The photo is a top-down shot of a B-29 bomber dropping bombs on Osaka in June of 1945. The area below is almost instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent much time in Osaka. See the backwards “C” of water surrounding a “U”? Those are the moats of Osaka castle. (In the photo, north is down and south is up.)

Here is the photo:
Boeing B-29 over Osaka, Japan

And here is where my thoughts end up looping when I see this photo: that plane is an American plane, and the land below… that was my neighborhood in Osaka from 2010 to 2013. You can see the exact spot I lived, the train station I entered almost every day, where the skyscrapers and shopping centers would someday stand, where our favorite takoyaki place would someday exist, where the radio station where I would tell stories about Texas would later be built. Under the fuselage of the B-29 is the location of the ward office where my wife and I filed for our marriage with a sleepy beauraucrat, many many years later.

It boggles my mind, this photo, a violent collision of my worlds back before even my parents were born.


Would you like to see where I lived? It was here:

If you want to see a huge rendering of this photo, Wikipedia has you covered. In the Wikipedia article on the bombing of Osaka, of particular note (to me) is the section “Last air raid – August 14, 1945”. This raid was also known as the Kyobashi Station Bomb Raid. The article also shows a photo of the station almost a year after the bombing.

Kyobashi station is a major station in Osaka, being a gateway for connecting to Kyoto and offering easy access to other significant areas of the city. When we lived in that area, Kyobashi station was just a couple of minutes on foot from our apartment and I used that station daily, shopped there, drank coffee there, and what have you.

Just outside of the station exit nearest to our aparment was a humble memorial shrine, a gray stone Buddha, dedicated to the victims of the August 14th bombing, which apparently took place during rush hour just as a couple of commuter trains had arrived. The engraved stone at that shrine describes the scene at the station on the day of the bombing as “hell on earth.” I only had the heart to read that engraving once, but those words are forever etched in my mind.